One regret that I often I hear from parents is that their children seem too distant. That they are either pulling away, or that there is not enough quality time. It seems impossible form those thick bonds.
Have you ever driven in Europe (or anywhere that you have to drive on the other side of the road)? It can be the most peculiar feeling. Something that you are SO used to doing, pushing a gas pedal and turning a steering wheel, becomes brand new. Each move is awkward, and somewhat terrifying.
I think it is this way with raising (especially) teenagers. Just when you think, "I got this," the rules change. You find yourself in a familiar sphere, but on foreign soil... and, perhaps, in the wrong lane.
The thing about riding in the parent lane, the rules can switch on the fly.
That's why I recommend giving yourself (the parent) about as many rules as the children have. If you set some boundaries for yourself, and let your children know about them, you can free up some time to connect.
The areas of opportunity are the table, the living room, the car, and the face.
- Make dinner a daily date. Prepare for your dinners. Make them the grand event with each person owning a piece. According to a recent study, 40 percent of families eat 3 or less times per week. It is encouraging that, according to a 2003 Gallup survey, 47% of families eat 4-6 nights together. That's pretty encouraging, in light of various other social indicators regarding families. But - get this down as systematically as possible, and let your children know of the goal. Our children can be useful Daytimers due to their amazing capacity for memory. (http://www.conagrabrands.com/news-room/news-national-survey-reveals-nearly-half-of-american-families-eat-dinner-together-fewer-than-three-times-a-week-or-not-at-all-1008335) (http://www.gallup.com/poll/10336/empty-seats-fewer-families-eat-together.aspx)
- Turn off the TV, the smarty-phone, and turn on the Bible. I have already written about the concept of being intentional about our TV time (American average is 5 hours a night). If you are prone to a TV addiction, you will need to get rid of it. And DON"T go out to eat at a sports-themed restaurant. Nothing like going out to eat and everyone staring at different big screens. If you have some snuggle up and watch TV time, schedule it. Don't let it supersede your "wind-down" Bible time. I believe every home is our first church. Yep, I think all those churches that are actually named "First Church" should rename themselves to "second church" (and the ones already named "Second Church" can snicker...). Put your phone up in a "time-out" box from (say) 6:30PM - 9:30PM and don't sound the buzzer until you are done with family worship time. Let your children know about this restriction. Let them remind you. Note: I will write later about a Devotions starter plan.
- Stop driving so much. This is a tough one due to so many variables. However, driving takes us away from our home in ways that can often divide and conquer us. Many years ago, I met a family who put in place this rule: One extra curricular activity per child. We are beginning to really resent our mini-van lives. People have children enrolled in so many activities which are meant to inspire, but tend to drag us into some form of mire. According to this principle, if your child is an actor, she should not be a soccer star at the same time. We are giving ourselves ADD (Attention Driving Disorder). Make a commitment as parents too. Dad, if you are on the church board which meets weekly, no prison ministry on Friday nights, etc. Get home for the sacred time, the together time. Consider your home as a sanctified place which has been covered by the blood of the Lamb of God (Almighty Elohim). I can tell you from experience that the easiest way to facilitate a distant nature in a child is to give more and more opportunities to withdraw. If all the fun stuff happens elsewhere, why wouldn't the cubs wander... and wander often? (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/5-childrens-extracurricular-activities/)
- Seek each other's face. Huh? The concept of seeking God's face means striving to be with Him rather than to merely be touched by Him. I really don't think that we are being as open with our lives (as parents) as we want our children to be with us. It's the same way we develop a real relationship with our Heavenly Father. We seek His face, His presence, nit just His effect. Instead of only looking for gifts and protection, we will truly grow if we spend time in the presence of the Almighty. That is what we should strive for with children - to be in their presence (and they - in ours), not just give them presents. If we make time to sit together and talk, joke, read, ponder, make mistakes in front of each other, etc. we ( I believe) will carry it on throughout the ages. A great way to do this is to take 15 minutes at the end of each evening to wind down and worship. Simply read the actual Bible together and praise our King. Take a moment to lift our concerns before our Maker. Open up discussion time after prayer or before reading. You will tweek as you grow.
Why shouldn't we set a few ground rules like this and make sure that they know that we are supposed to be accountable? Why not show our children how integrity is developed? Make rules for ourselves as well as them. Don't model yourself as a dictator who is "above" the mere rules he has established for His kingdom. Write up a few simple rules like this, and stick to them. Again, if you need help remembering, they will help you.
Thank you for reading. Keep seeking for true communion with God and man.
If you have not read my lively children's book (with a message for all), please consider buying The Singing Stone on Amazon or simply reading it for free by clicking the below link.