Mayor Darwin Hindman’s recent proclamation that tonight is Family Night places Columbia among a small but growing number of cities that are taking back at least one night per year from extracurricular activities, television and even homework.
Hindman’s proclamation urges Columbia residents to set tonight aside to engage in family activities that foster unity and strength without separating them from one another.
The idea, Hindman said, came from Helen Penfield, a resident of Columbia and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Penfield said her church has encouraged its members to hold family nights for years.
“I thought it sounded like a great idea,” Hindman said. “The purpose of the proclamation is to plant the seed in other people’s minds that this is a good idea.”
Penfield said she hopes the proclamation will lead all families, regardless of their faith, to hold family nights.
“We’ve found that gathering on a regular basis once a week has helped us solidify the family,” Penfield said. “It gives families an opportunity to express love and to communicate.”
Hindman and Penfield are not the only community leaders who’ve recently used proclamations to call attention to the diminishing amount of family time. Leaders across the nation have rallied for similar proclamations in response to complaints from parents fed up with their family’s packed schedules. Ridgewood, N.J., and Huntsville, Texas, were among the first cities to adopt the idea.
Psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld has co-written several books on parenting and is the founder of National Family Night. Rosenfeld practices in New York City and Greenwich, Conn., and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“I think it’s wonderful that Columbia is doing this,” Rosenfeld said. “They’re definitely on the forefront of something great.”
Rosenfeld said one reason today’s families have such packed schedules is that many parents fear falling behind in the competition for their children to gain admission to top-tier schools or push themselves to work more and earn higher salaries.
“People are terribly afraid to cut back,” Rosenfeld said. “They’re afraid their kid will lose out on the competition.”
While remaining competitive is important, both Rosenfeld and Penfield urge families to value time together.
“The foundation of community is family, and we’ve been eroding ours by telling people to rush,” Rosenfeld said.
Penfield also hopes parents will use this time to teach values that reduce the likelihood their children will engage in risky behavior.
Rosenfeld hopes Family Nights catch on nationally so parents and children can take a much needed break from a seemingly endless stream of activities, appointments and practice sessions.
“You hear all the great fanfare about Tiger Woods, but there are 40 million Tiger Woods wannabes who don’t make it,” Rosenfeld said.
For more information about family nights, visit www.nationalfamilynight.org.