Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Challenges of FHE When There are Just the Two of You by Kelsey

Today's "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House" post is by Kelsey from Empowering LDS Women. I've really enjoyed getting to know her and hope that you do to!

When Heather generously invited me to contribute to this series I was flattered, and then attempted to kindly decline. Rude right? But I was concerned that if I wrote about my family’s FHE experiences, it would either be a) hypocritical and fudging the truth, or b) honest and a serious, righteous disappointment. However Heather persevered and insisted that my perspective was important, and probably not that uncommon. So, here is my unconventional and very candid contribution to “This is What FHE Looks Like at My House.”

Frankly, an average FHE at my house looks like my husband and me saying “oh, hey.... it’s Monday... quick, what can we do and call it FHE?” No, truly, that’s how it goes most of the time. Here’s our challenge: we’ve been married three years, no children, both in school and working, and so for three years now we’ve been trying to get past the feeling that FHE is a “glorified date night” and actually a valuable commandment we need to follow. Because it really does feel like a glorified date night! And maybe in our case, that is what it is. I welcome any insights, because like I said, we’re definitely a work in progress.

Heather composed some lovely questions that, given my lack of FHE diligence and unconventional family situation, I will attempt to answer but will probably have to tweak a bit.

First, structure. Do we have a structure? Not really. How I admire the darling families that use an FHE chart and delegate different tasks to various family members. It’s effective and adorable at the same time. Not really sure about how to apply it in our situation though, it would probably be something like:

Jordan: lesson (aka short discussion of a spiritual experience, scriptures, or spiritual insight one of us had)
Kelsey: song (yea right, we definitely do not sing songs with just the two of us. That would be a lie too... But we probably should! It just feels weird with only two, relatively untalented voices)
Kelsey: activity (go on a bike ride, watch a TV show, visit with friends, make a treat together)
Jordan: treat (aka eat the ice cream in the freezer, or the treat we made for the “activity”)

And changing the assignments around wouldn’t be very eventful. So on the structure front, I think the only thing that we’ve really tried and found effective is to get together with another couple (friends or from the ward) and one couple is responsible for the lesson and/or activity, and the other couple is in charge of a treat. This has worked really well for us the different times we’ve tried it, and probably provided some of the more effective FHE evenings we’ve ever had. It also does wonders for keeping in touch with friends and fellowshipping in the ward. We are generally really busy on the weekends with work, homework, and callings, so Monday night FHE can be a great time for us to spend quality time with friends or people we’d like to become friends with.

Second, an example of lesson plans that has worked well for us. Some have worked better than others, some are more fun than others, and some are probably bordering on really not being an FHE. I thought I’d include a list here and you can also tell me your thoughts about whether it’s a good idea or not :)--
  • Watch a show together. We really don’t watch a lot of TV, so taking a break from homework, popping some popcorn, and watching a show together can actually be really relaxing and is an activity we have looked forward to. In terms of an activity, I think we both enjoy it and enjoy spending some low-key time together. In terms of a spiritual message, it’s not really so effective. And this is where I’m a little out of the loop-- does every FHE need a spiritual component? Or is it okay to just have a fun/relaxing activity sometimes? My instinct is yes, but I welcome your insights.
  • Go on a bike ride together. We both have great bikes and love to be outside, so this has been a fun activity especially in the spring or summer. Probably one of our favorites.
  • Have an FHE picnic. For our wedding we got a really beautiful picnic basket that we love to use when the weather is good. We’ve used it in our backyard, at various parks, up in the mountains, etc. It’s fun to use a “picnic” as an excuse to explore the area and find a new, beautiful place we haven’t seen before.
  • Have some friends over. I already talked about this one a bit, but basically what we do is split the activity/lesson and dessert, and then get together with friends. This is probably one of the most conventional FHEs we’ve attempted, and we’re always happy with the result. It’s probably not the best for nights when we have a lot of homework though, because we’re big talkers and it tends to take 1-2 hours or so. Below is a picture from when we went rock climbing with some friends for an activity (we’re on the left). That was a really fun one!

  • Select an activity/lesson from FHE for Newlyweds. We received this gift from a friends for our wedding, and when we take the time to use it is always a great resource. Activities include talking about what we get each other if we each received a thousand dollars just to do something nice, talking about past family traditions and which ones we’d like to have in the future, and talking about our favorite experiences and the qualities in our spouse that we admire, etc. Things like that. It’s great for learning more about each other and planning for the future.
  • Get really creative: Sometimes, when we are really ambitious, we plan something more creative. For example, one time we went to the local library and looked at children’s books together. I had been hired to illustrate a book, and we thought it would be helpful to look at different styles of illustration and pick the ones we liked the best. It was really fun and we even talked about different stories from our childhood that we enjoyed the most, and which ones would be fun to buy and have in our library for our future children.
Ultimately, has FHE at my house helped me to grow in my testimony, and grow closer to my family? I feel that when we take the time to plan something, even if it is unstructured and a little last minute, that yes, that is true. We can always use a little more time together, learning about each other and the gospel. And we can definitely always use a break from homework. Almost undoubtedly because of this truth, we have both felt the Spirit prompting and nudging us to make FHE a bigger priority in our lives. I feel like the reason there is two-fold: first, we need to start the tradition and habit of having FHE now so that when we have children it comes naturally, and second, we can benefit as a family from FHE even now, when we are so small. The challenge in our case is actually planning something, and coming up with something that is a viable “FHE.” As you may have noticed, the activities I listed really are more or less the same as date nights. So I guess my questions are:

How can a couple plan and implement effective FHE activities and lessons?
How do you cater an institution that is typically exemplified in big families to work for a small family?
How do you make this work in your family?

Don't forget that on Monday I will be hosting a blog hop in which you can share your own post on "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House". Everyone who participates in the blog hop will be eligible to win one of these great prizes.


  1. Kelsey, you have some wonderful ideas. Growing closer as a family (no matter the size) is what family home evening's all about. Advance planning and anticipation just help it feel more special. Doing the small things really do make a difference.

    My visiting teaching companion once shared a FHE plan that I thought was brilliant. At the time she and her husband were childless students. They spent Monday evenings planning FHE lessons for their future children. They'd pick a topic, find some stories and scriptures, maybe even make some visual aids, and then file it away. I'm planning on adapting that format - preparing spiritual thoughts to share with our grandchildren - when we reach the "empty nest" stage.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Nice post! We didn't have kids (well, a kid) until we were married for 4 years -- and my husband was nearly always in school. I remember always loving FHE because it was a night we actually got to hang out together. Yes, we did usually just pull out the Ensign and read something, but it was nice to be together anyway! Can't remember if we sang or not!

  3. Becky, what a WONDERFUL idea your VT had! I think that is brilliant.

    I was also go to add that some of my favorite FHEs that my husband and I had before we had kids were when we invited other families (in our ward or who were related to us) to OUR house for FHE. We had this teeny tiny apartment and it was always a bit of squish but lots of fun. Some of the FHE traditions we have now came from those joined FHE's because we got to see how other "more established" families did FHE. And I think it was fun for them too, or they could have just been humoring us!

    Anyway this was great Kelsey!

  4. Becky, thanks for the great idea. We will definitely try that out! It would be fun, spiritual, and productive. Sounds perfect.

    Emily, sounds like you can relate to our situation, which is nice to hear. I always admire your insights and comments! :)

    Heather, happy to pitch in, of course!

  5. My hubby and I never have to wonder what we will do for FHE. Our goal is to get through the Conference edition of the Ensign before the next semi-annual General Conference. (We only do one talk a week so, we've never made it.) However, we never have to worry about finding worthwhile content and it keeps us focused on the latest counsel from the Lord via our church leaders.

    Usually, we start with one verse of a hymn and an opening prayer. Then, snuggle on the couch and read a talk out-loud. We take turns, alternating with each verse. Note: This keeps us awake and focused. :)

    With the October 2010 issue, we went high-tech and watched a DVD instead. We can still read along in our Ensign(s) only now the voice we hear is that of the actual speaker. We always end our Family Home Evening with family prayer...and a smooch. :)

  6. I think FHE for a couple is harder, at least for me and my husband. There are no parents to tell you what to do and no one besides yourselves you feel responsible for!

    With no children, I love being able to spend time with my husband. It's crazy enough as it is, I can only imagine the limited time we will have together when God sends children our way!

    It is always good to hear from other people in our situation. It makes me feel not alone. Thank you so much for your insight.

  7. what a great article Kelsey. I agree that there are probably many people that can relate to this situation. I know this is what it was like for us for the 6 years before we had kids. I wish we'd been better about it to get in the habit. I always assumed it would be easier with kids. The truth is, now that we have Allie I just keep thinking it will be easier in a few years when she's older. This week was the first time that she and I actually sat down and I did a lesson with her. (We made it more of a renewed goal after General Conference)

    I feel like if I'd done a better job as a couple of getting in the habit and coming up with something creative-- even if it wasn't the stereotypical sit-down-all-together-and-have-a-wonderfully-prepared-and-thoughtful-spiritual-lesson-followed-by-a-uniting-activity-and-delicious-treat-accompanied-by-flawless-singing -- it would be easier for me to come up with practical ideas to do with a 14 month old. The truth is that it's not too late to get in the habit and do my best, but it's going to take much more of an effort.

    Family Home Evening is about spending time together as a family, no matter who that is composed of at the time. For us right now, it's without a dad, and it's about 90 seconds long, doing something out of the Church's nursery manual.

    You and Jordan are great examples of realistic FHE as a young couple - it's trying that makes all the difference, in my opinion. Spending that quality time together doing whatever you want that helps you get in the habit. Although it's not always easy to alternate assignments, I think at least alternating who is responsible for the spiritual thought/lesson was worth doing, to allow both of you the chance to prepare something that was on your mind.

  8. When my husband and I were first married and going to school, for awhile we would get home from a busy day, eat dinner, and then say, "hey, let's do family night" and then do a quick lesson or something, call it good and then get back to studying. But after a lesson at church one Sunday, we decided to make ALL evening be family home evening, not just 30 minutes or so. It made it SO much more meaningful and we truly looked forward to it! We made it a point to finish any homework before family night, and then the rest of the evening was devoted to having some type of lesson and then doing something together (like popping some popcorn and watching a movie!). We loved it!

  9. I loved reading your post! It reminded me of when we were first married 14 years ago (oh my gosh - am I really that old?). We were in much the same stage as you are now - thinking that FHE would be easier once we had children to focus the lessons on and kind of staring at each other wondering what to do. I, too, thought we would be much better at it once we had kids.

    Trouble is - it took us 10 YEARS to have kids. Yup. And in all that time, without knowing it, we were getting ourselves into a habit of brushing off FHE. Now we have 4-year-old twin boys. And you guessed it - FHE really IS even harder. Because we are busier. More tired and frazzled. And it is usually a battle of wills to get them to sit still for FHE at all.

    So all I can say is - no matter how hard or weird it seems now - JUST DO IT! Every Monday. Get into the habit and build a testimony now of how important FHE is so that you will have that to rely on in the days ahead.

    I love the idea about using the time now to plan what you will do with your kids one day. And Conference talks are always a great idea. Honestly, some of the best talks my husband and I have are over our own personal scriptures study - comparing notes and discussing things that are still vague to us.

    And please - sing the hymns! :) There is a reason why EVERY formal church meeting involves music - it invites the Spirit so quickly. It doesn't matter weather you "can sing" or not. Sit somewhere quietly with your husband and sing "I am a Child of God" and you will be amazed at how quickly and powerfully you feel the Spirit.

    Well, I guess I had a lot to say about that! Haha! Keep up the good work and know that you're not alone in how you feel about FHE now - but for sure you will gain a testimony of it the more you keep at it! Good luck! :)

  10. Love the feedback, thanks friends! Lol my family is in town and I just shared with them how awkward I feel singing with just the two of us (I should just get over it! Like you said, JBSquared, I'm sure it would bring the Spirit). ANyway my sister and mom shared how they overheard my grandparents reading the hymns out loud for their FHE.... except apparently that was even more awkward than singing! ie: (monotone voice) Soldiers in the army there's a bright crown in store... happy are we, happy are we... :) Becca, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of that especially ;).

    Anyway I really appreciate the great, insightful thoughts and encouragement! We'll definitely be sticking with it, and trying to implement some of these great ideas.

  11. I'm also a newlywed, and my husband is in the army...as well as a convert. Even though he has been a member for 2 and half years, he is not entirely familiar with FHE. We just got married and last Monday I had him to teach the lesson for the very first time ever. And he did a great job for someone who has never taught a lesson!!! Oh he used the gospel doctrine book (great book for people who are converts!)
    Oh and I'm deaf...and it was just my husband and me singing the hymns last Monday. Don't worry about what you sound like- music is the closest thing besides prayer to bring the spirit!!!
    If you still feel awkward, get a Hymn cd and sing with it. :)