Beyond a Monthly Visit

My visiting teaching companion and I have made an extra effort to get to know the four sisters we’ve been assigned to visit each month. Of the four, only one is fully active. To cultivate friendships with each of them, we visit these sisters at least once a month, remember their birthdays with a card or small gift, and occasionally phone them.

In addition, every three months or so we plan an activity for the six of us to participate in together. One evening we rented a movie and popped popcorn. Another time we went to a local ice cream store for a sundae. We even planned an afternoon luncheon for all of us.

Each of these special activities has helped us develop closer friendships, for we often sit and chat afterward about our families, hobbies, and sometimes our own challenges. Establishing these special friendships with each of them has blessed us all and, for the less-active sisters, may one day serve as a stepping-stone when they are ready to become more involved in church.Maria Jones, West Jordan, Utah

Managing Our Wish List

Our large family often suffered from the “we need” syndrome: we need new carpeting, a new lawn mower, a horse, bicycles. My husband and I talked to our children about the differences between needs and wants and pointed out that our family had few unmet needs. We discussed budgeting, our limited income, and the heavy demands on our resources. But these explanations did little to stop the children from longing for new things.

As parents, we made most of the financial decisions based on family needs as we understood them. There were times, however, when we wanted some input from the children, but since they didn’t prioritize their requests, we didn’t know what was most important to them. And there were simply too many wants to address them all.

To deal with this problem, we decided to have a special family council on prioritizing and budgeting for our “want list.” The children were asked beforehand to think of all the things they would like us to purchase. Their eyes lit up. What a great assignment! Soon they were busy with long lists of things they wanted. There were a few puzzled questions such as, “We’ll never be able to afford a horse. Should I list it anyway if I really want one?”

“Yes,” we told them. “We’ll entertain any and all ideas.”

It was with much excitement that our family met together. We again explained our budgetary limitations. We also explained that the purpose of the family council was to define the spending priorities of the family as a whole. Children and parents had equal voting power, and no one could pressure another to vote for his or her cause. We also told them that there was no commitment from the parents that the top item would be purchased. There were some items we just could not afford, even if everyone agreed upon them. However, the list would serve as a guideline, and we would consult it in our budgetary planning.

We then made a wish list of everything we wanted, from a new car to curtains for the kitchen. After all the suggestions were recorded, we reviewed them and then told our children to vote for their top ten choices. After all the votes were counted, the cutting began. We looked at the pared-down list and voted again. We repeated the process, and as the list became smaller, we allowed fewer votes per person. The children struggled with their choices as they became more limited.

Finally we narrowed the list down to a few top-priority items. Both the new car and the horse had disappeared from the list, but what remained was a list of items that we as a family most wanted, ranked in order of importance. This family council has been so successful that we repeat it at the beginning of each new year. And while we have never been able to purchase all the items on the list, sometimes we have been able to buy the top one or two. When that happens, everyone in the family feels like their wishes have been met.

Good things have resulted from including our children in our financial planning. The children have recovered from the “we need” syndrome. When we hear those words now, my husband or I simply reply, “But that isn’t our first choice, is it?” And as parents, we can make better financial decisions, knowing that the children are supporting us as we work together on our number-one priority.Lorraine Jeffery, Seabrook, Texas

Family Home Evening: Visual Aids That Teach Twice

Nothing is as adorable to parents as the sight of their young children teaching a family home evening lesson. Helping them prepare for their occasional lessons however, can be a struggle. I must admit that I have switched assignments more than once because it was easier to prepare a lesson myself than take time from a busy day to help one of the children prepare. But I knew my family was missing out by my doing this.

One day as I was cleaning the house, I found a wonderful, simple solution right before my eyes. There on the floor was a cute little handout one of my children had brought home from Primary. Suddenly these handouts, which I’d never known quite what to do with, seemed like gold. They could serve as springboards for lessons prepared by my children for family home evenings! I gathered some from the refrigerator door, others from my desk, and still more out of a drawer. Then I started a file for each of my children to be kept with our family home evening supplies. As the children bring home pictures or handouts from Primary, I gather them up and add them to the files.

Now when one of my young children has the lesson assignment for family home evening, I get out the appropriate file and let him or her leaf through it for ideas. Sometimes choosing a lesson is hard for them because each handout brings back a special memory. But at last they happily choose just the right one for their lesson. Later, as they teach us a principle that they were once taught by a caring teacher, I give thanks for that instructor and for the inspiration that has helped us include our youngest children in preparing family home evening lessons.Linda Jones Brandolino, Ojai, California

[photos] Photography by Maren Mecham

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Harston