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4th of July: A Chance to Make Family Time Matter!

Independence Day is the perfect time to strengthen family ties and renew broken relationships. Growing up in Detroit, summer holidays were made much more special when cousins, aunts, uncles and brothers and sisters came together for food and fun. My fondest childhood memories included my Dad firing up the grill while Mom mixed up a batch of special barbecue sauce and homemade ice cream.

Decades later, fewer children share those memories; and America’s families are obviously in trouble. But according to Family Time Matters ® (FTM) founder Sarah Braswell, holidays can be the perfect vehicle for turning families around and making a positive impact on young minds. Sarah says, "A national initiative to change the mindset of parents, actively engage educators and municipal governments and restore health to America’s homes, FTM offers practical suggestions to help strengthen families, schools and communities." Some of Ms. Braswell's suggestions include making holidays like 4th of July more memorable. Here's how to plan an unforgettable Independence Day celebration with your family:

Build Communication through Social Media
Take advantage of social media to set up a Facebook page to announce upcoming Independence Day celebrations to family near and far. Invite relatives to join your group page and post questions and answers to keep up with events as they change. Set a time and place for your holiday family gathering and keep everyone in the loop as notices are added.

Get Everyone Involved
Design a menu around the holiday theme and ask all the family to get involved. Typical backyard barbecue fare includes several meats for grilling, side dishes, condiments, and desserts. Divide and conquer what could be tedious chores by asking family members to take charge of preparing holiday fare. If Aunt Sally bakes the best mac ‘n cheese, then solicit her help. But don’t forget to include everyone in the preparation and festivities. A family gathering can quickly turn into a fiasco if Cousin Mary is excluded. Give everyone a “To Do” list and follow up to make sure everything is done.

Feature a Family Cook Off
Instead of the usual picnic, why not feature a Cook Off to see who makes the best barbecue and sides? Winners can be featured on your social media page and awarded prizes and bragging rights for the best dishes. Don’t forget to include the kids! They will not only get a chance to learn new and old recipes, but also play an active role in making 4th of July festivities special. Easy desserts like cookies, fruit cups, and frozen banana pops are simple enough for tiny hands to manage, while adults and teens can tackle the main course.

Prepare Well in Advance
Young and old can also contribute to holiday preparations by making decorations, banners and streamers. Little hands can make Independence Day tabletop decorations from paper cups and plates with a patriotic theme. Decorations can be made well in advance of the festivities. Older children can help make red, white and blue place mats, signs or banners welcoming and directing family to the outing.

Put a Spotlight on Family Talent
The 4th of July is a time to shine! Even teens can get involved by planning a talent show to spotlight dancing, singing or poetry skills. Craft a makeshift stage from wooden pallets, string Christmas tree lights across a clothesline, set up some plastic garden chairs or blankets for seating; and the backyard is transformed into the perfect theater!

Don’t Forget to Give Thanks
You might choose to end the evening in a blaze of glory watching fireworks and singing patriotic songs; but don’t forget the old fashioned spirituals our nation was founded upon. Entirely appropriate is a prayer of thanksgiving to God for an awesome opportunity to celebrate America’s liberty and love of family!

For more information on how your city government, school, church, or family can participate in the Family Time Matters ® campaign to strengthen the American home, email:

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