I was asked to give a presentation at a Relief Society meeting about Family Home Evening to give some tips and tricks for making it meaningful and easy with young kids. I thought I would share with you here what I shared with the sisters in my ward in case anyone from my ward didn’t get a chance to come to our activity, or if it would be helpful for other friends. I know that I shared the experience in the first paragraph in this post too, but it was applicable here so I hope you’ll forgive the repeat. The rest of the content should be new 🙂
Before this most recent General Conference I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a mother and I wrote down a few questions that I was hoping to have answered during the conference. This is one of the questions I wrote – “How can I best use my time with the many demands placed thereon? Freelance work, housekeeping, motherhood, callings, education, blogging, reading, socializing children etc. How can I keep from being completely overwhelmed and truly accomplish things? Or do I need to simply embrace the chaos?” In the second talk of the conference Sister Linda S. Reeves shared this experience –
Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”
A friend recently cautioned, “When you ask the sisters to read the scriptures and pray more, it stresses them out. They already feel like they have too much to do.”
Brothers and sisters, because I know from my own experiences, and those of my husband, I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes. Then, if pornography or other challenges do strike our families, we can petition the Lord for help and expect great guidance from the Spirit, knowing that we have done what our Father has asked us to do.
Nothing could have been more applicable to my situation than that was. I felt so much comfort that I only needed to really worry about those three simple things in order to be doing what is most important as a mother. Family prayer, family scripture study and family home evening. Of course, family home evening can sometimes be a bigger struggle than it might sound so I was asked to share some resources with you on how to make it easier. So, first of all –
K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Smarty!
Family Home Evening was not instituted to stress you out. The point is to gather your family together and spend time together learning and loving one another. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be! Watch a Mormon Message together on YouTube, play a game, even just sit in the same room and let your kids do homework together. Find what works for your family!
I want to walk you through really quickly a “typical” FHE in the Hansen household –
We gather the kids together. Pull up a hymn on hymns.lds.org and sing along with it. Pray. Quick lesson picked from A Year of FHE. Another song. Prayer. Oreos. Bedtime.
Oreos are the most important part of our family home evening, the boys don’t recognize it’s FHE without Oreos. That’s it. Sometimes I’ll put together my own lesson or we might do something else, but we have short attention spans. The only part of that whole equation that requires much effort (beyond wrangling the kids of course) is picking a lesson from A Year of FHE, but then I usually just print it out and read it.
I think the most important part of doing a lesson is picking something that really applies to your family’s current situation. If you have a child struggling with obedience or tattling or something like that, then FHE is a great time to teach those principles. But my mom warned me, don’t always pick just the things your kids are struggling with, or else they’ll just feel picked on and not want to come. Lessons about the season (i.e. Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day) are great, or if you can include something that goes along with the month’s theme for primary it’s a good reinforcement.
So here are some of the resources that I really like for putting together a family home evening:
Church Website – The church has put together an awesome page that has links to the gospel art book, the Family Home Evening Resource book, videos, music and teaching helps. It’s a great place to go to get started
Mormon Messages– When you want a super easy lesson I definitely recommend just picking a Mormon Message and playing that for your kids and calling it good. They’ll hold their attention well and have fantastic messages. Easy, peasy. Done.
A Year of FHE – This is my *favorite* FHE resource. This lady put together FHE lessons and posted them to her blog every week for 3 years. They are fantastic. She has lessons on a lot of different topics. Most weeks I will open up her blog and then scroll through the topics on the right side of the screen, pick one, print it and teach that. She also has hymns selected to go with her lessons as well as a scripture. The lessons are so well written out that you can generally just read what she’s written, show some pictures (if you want) and then bear your testimony where she indicates. I can’t say enough about how much I love her website.
Chocolate on My Cranium – If your kids really do well with visuals I highly recommend this website for her flannel board stories. She took all of the flannel board stories from the Friend and colored them in so that you can just print them out, cut out the pieces and tell an interactive story. If you live nearby, my sweet sister-in-law put together a binder with all of these lessons printed out and ironed all of the characters onto felt so that we had easy FHE lessons for a year. It was one of the best Christmas presents anyone has ever given me. We’ve gone through all of those lessons now though so if anyone would like to borrow any of the lessons feel free to come by and borrow them!
Sugardoodle – We all love Sugardoodle. They have so many cute ideas! They’re getting ready to re-do their website in the next month, so I don’t know if this will remain how to get to their FHE lessons, but for now if you go to their home page, click on the “Other” tab there’s an option for “Family Home Evening Index”, and there are a ton of great FHE ideas there.
My FHEs – Of course I have to throw in my shameless plug for my own website. I’ve put together a few different FHEs when I had something that I really wanted to teach my kids but couldn’t find *quite* the right lesson out on the web. I’ve been trying to post them to my website so that other people can use them too. I have lessons about being a missionary, a general conference preparation lesson (we do this one twice a year just before conference), saying sorry, and even an Angry Birds lesson about teaching kids how to control their emotions (that one gets requested often). I’ve tried to follow the “A Year of FHE” format and include an opening and closing hymn that goes with the lesson, an easy to follow lesson outline and a predefined spot to bear your testimony. There aren’t a lot of them, but I love to see people use them!
My one piece of advice if you use the lessons that people post on their blogs is to just leave them a comment to say thank you for their time. I know, at least that the lessons I put together, it usually takes me the better part of a day to complete them and it means a lot to me when someone will comment even a simple, “great lesson, thanks!”
I promise that if you make Family Home Evening a part of your family’s weekly routine you will see the blessings in your family. It will help draw you closer together and strengthen you and your kids against the difficult trials that might come against you.