Next Steps… A Follow Up to The Open Letter

The last two weeks have been pretty crazy.  The Open Letter to Parents post blew up and had over 25,000 unique hits in just a few days.  The number of emails, calls, texts and personal conversations about the post have been absolutely incredible. Beyond the sheer number of people who have responded, retweeted and posted I find myself more impressed, and truthfully scared, at the number of people who this has struck such a deep chord with.  Now as WE move forward together in reclaiming our youth and our families lives, I offer some red flags that might pop up in your youth and family’s schedules.  These red flags are some that we struggle with and some that I hear from youth and parents that they struggle with on a regular basis.  Maybe they are less red flags and more check points for moving towards a more balanced life.

I also post this intentionally on the first day of Lent.  Lent is a time of self reflection and a time where many in faith communities strive for something different in their lives.  I encourage you to pick up these check points in your family during this Holy season.

Check Point 1- Technology

Do you and your family have a technology policy?  Technology often brings connection, ease and productivity to our lives, it can also, when used too often or inappropriately, drain us of creativity, happiness and togetherness.  We have an addiction to Tech, it is time to break the addiction. Try these:

  • No phones at the table or anywhere near it during meals, table time is sacred time.
  • Tech Shut down at 7pm.  Hold that time as sacred as well as the meal.
  • No Tech in your students bedroom.  They have too much homework as it is.  I bet what would take 3 hours is probably taking 4-5 because of the technology that buzzes every couple of minutes, making a consistent train of thought very difficult.
  • How do parents model Tech restraint?  Are you picking your phone up every time it buzzes?  If you have an iPhone try the Do Not Disturb feature.  I have recently set mine from 7pm to 7am and it has made a world of difference.

Check Point 2- Meals

Recent youth and religion studies say that in order for a family to be in appropriate and meaningful relationship and communication they should be sharing a meal together, at the table, without distraction at least 4 of 7 nights a week.  Here are some ways to make that happen:

  • Have a standard eating time.  This is like making an appointment on your family’s schedule.  No one can schedule studying, practices, work or meetings during this time, make it Holy.
  • Talk.  I know it is painful sometimes and like pulling teeth other times but it is important.
  • Have a practice. It might be praying for your meal, reading a piece of scripture, written prayer or something thoughtful.  My family uses an awesome book called A Grateful Heart for our time.  Use it as a tool to talk
  • Tell and listen to and about each other’s day.
  • If possible, cook and clean up together.  It is not just mom and dad’s job, plus there is a sacredness to these acts.

Check Point 3- Rest

Does your family regularly rest together?  I mean on a weekly basis, not just that vacation that you take once a year where everyone is on the phones the whole time. Do you make it a practice to take sabbath together?  This is one of the most difficult ones for families. You have to make it a priority in order to make it happen.  Again, schedule it out like an appointment.  Nothing can be booked onto of it. It could be on Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons or whenever makes sense with your family.

  • Plan ahead and get it on everyone’s calendars
  • No phones or devices allowed
  • Be creative- watch a movie together, play board games, plant a garden, go on a hike, take a day trip, sit on the back porch,  play together.
  • Do this same practice with vacation times.  Make vacations sacred.  Sometimes vacations are just another form of being apart, we just pay to be apart at the beach or the mountains.  Drop technology or at least have limits on it during vacations.  I heard a youth the other day say that they love going on out of the country mission trips because they had an excuse to not be constantly connected on their cell phones, yep, that is a real youth. Your kids might not say it but they need that too.

So, I am only giving three practices here. It would be very easy to give my top 10 but that would be completely overwhelming and would just be frustrating to families.  So, this Lent, adopt and practice these.  They are by no means complete but they are a good start to regaining balance in our families lives.  I would love to hear on here how these work out for you and your family. It is not going to be easy, but the best things usually are not, do not be afraid to fight for your family.


2 comments On Next Steps… A Follow Up to The Open Letter

  • Hi. As I was reading thru your check points I thought of another point to add to “Check Point 2 – Meals”. End meal time together. If someone is done, it wont kill them to sit and continue to engage with the family. Sit down together…wait to start eating together…end/get up from the table together…and clean up together.

    Too often I have a meal with a family and as soon as the teenager is done (usually pretty quick) they are gone…back to their room playing on the tablet or _____. Sometimes it is the Dads who are guilty of this. And so many times it is Dads and teenagers getting up, walking away, and leaving Mom to clear the table and clean up (after she of course was the one to set the table and cook the meal).

    Thanks for the good read.
    Fellow youth/student minister

  • I love this and completely agree with Jarrod on ending the meal together!

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Stephen Ingram is an Author, Speaker, Consultant & Student Ministry Expert. His books include Organic Student Ministry, ExtraOrdinary Time & Hollow Faith.

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