Family Gatherings

Who's in Charge?

Large family holiday gatherings can be tough for lots of reasons. Over-stimulated, over-sugared,  over-excited and under-slept kids are simply going to struggle. But there may also be some relational dynamics that complicate things when you all get together. See if you relate to this pattern:

  1. You feel anxious around the watchful, possibly critical eye of parents or other relatives.
  2. You work harder to keep kids in line and are tougher on them than usual.
  3. Your kids (who are already extra stressed) sense your angst and act up more.
  4. Gramma or Grampa (or others) intervene to keep youngsters in line, with good intentions but unhelpful strategies.
  5. You feel embarrassed, undermined, and maybe frustrated or resentful.
  6. Kids watch the power struggle between the adults and are left feeling more stressed and insecure than ever.
  7. Repeat.

Is the holiday stew smelling rotten yet? If so, this post is for you.

Questions to Put the THANKS Back in Thanksgiving

“So, kids, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?” you ask.

“My family, my house, my friends, my dog and Jesus.” (Same answers as last year….)

If you think your kids might be open to some deeper thinking this year, we’ve provided a handful of conversation starters about gratitude. We invite you try any or all of them and put a little bigger dose of gratitude in your Thanksgiving season:  

God

  • 1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
  • What is something specific about God or a verse from the Bible that you are thankful for?

Creation

  • Romans 1:20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities…
  • What is your favorite part of God’s creation and what does it tell you about God?

Possessions

  • 1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
  • Nearly 1/2 of the people in the world today live on less than $2.50 a day. $2.50 a day per person is barely enough for a one or two room house and simple food like rice and beans. Many of those people don’t have a home or enough to eat.
  • We are blessed with many things. What food or object around the house is very special or meaningful for you that you are thankful for? Why is it special, or how does it bless you?
  • James 1:7  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
  • Is there something in our home that might seem like a “good gift” but could actually be harmful to us? (i.e. excessive luxuries, things that make us arrogant toward others, things we get really distracted by, etc.)

Our Bodies

  • Psalm 139:13,14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful…
  • What is something about the way your body works, or a physical ability you have, that you are thankful for? Has God used that ability to bless others?

Our Family

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Encourage and build up one another…
  • What is something about our family that you really love and are thankful for?

Challenges

  • Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
  • What have you experienced recently (or this year) that was challenging or difficult that really helped you to grow? How would you complete this sentence: I’m glad I went through ___________ because ____________________.

Blessing Others

  • Ephesians 2:10
  • What is one way you bless others that you are thankful for? (i.e. I’m a good listener, I share toys well, I’m not afraid to talk to new people, etc). Parents can help kids identify these relational gifts with questions: “I noticed you _____________. What gift do you think you were using then? How were you blessed when you blessed that person?  That’s something to be thankful for!!”

Teaching gratitude in a day when kids expect a fast, fun, and easy life can be a considerable challenge. So be intentional. Keep the conversation alive throughout the holiday season and beyond. Research shows your kids will be happier. And they’ll thank you for it!


Sign up below to receive a weekly dose of encouragement straight to your inbox:

To Unlock Your Child’s Heart, Just Ask for the Key!

If you are reading this, you probably want your kids to know how much you love them. And you probably tell them often that you do. But effectively communicating love is not always so simple. How can we be sure that what we mean as love is received as love? It can take insight, determination and creativity to communicate love messages in ways children can’t miss them.

Beat Boredom This Summer With These 4 Tips

Empowering your kids’ God-given creativity


R
esearch has shown that being bored is not such a bad thing for kids.  Boredom can foster creativity and patience.  Yet, when a parent hears that tired phrase, “I’m bored!” again and again, we may feel the need to fix the boredom problem, and keep our kids happy and busy. Does this work?  Possibly. But, only if you are trying to fix the problem in the short term. Once the activity or event is over, the familiar whine resurfaces. How do we beat boredom once and for all with kids, while at the same time teach them some important life skills? Read the story below about my interaction with a seven-year-old family friend, and consider these four tips to beat boredom in your own family.

Josie looked at me (the “fun guy” at the table) as she announced with conviction, “I’m bored!”

We were at an outdoor restaurant, and she had finished eating before the rest of us.

Finding Sanity During Family Car Trips

5 Tips for Peace in the Back Seat


“Are we there yet?” “I have to go to the bathroom!” “I want a Happy Meal NOW!” “No, I want Taco Bell!!”

Ahh, the bliss of car-trip vacations. Whether our children are toddlers or teens, the stress of riding in the car together for extended periods can taint the whole vacation. Wouldn’t it be great if we could time-warp ourselves to our destinations? It’s appealing, but obviously not reality. The real-life temptation is simply to equip each child with a glowing device full of their favorite movies or games, and communicate the message… when it’s hard to get along, we just turn to screens to solve the problem. So let’s look at it differently, because a helpful insight for car rides or any other difficult parenting situation is: Every challenge holds a golden opportunity!

The challenge of car rides together is a great opportunity for connection, teamwork, and creative problem-solving.

Here are some practical, simple ideas:

4 Sure-Fire Tips for Parents to Survive the Summer

Tips to Survive Summer

It’s summer again, and you know what that means: a totally different rhythm to schedules and family time, with lots of time for connection… and conflict.

There are long, glorious days ahead: sunshine, free time and the slower pace of summer means that you can create lasting family memories. It also means more time for tempers to flare–yours and your kids’–when expectations for a great memory-worthy summer don’t happen the way we imagined. We don’t want you to feel like you are just biding your time until school returns. You can make the most of your family time this summer, and make it the best summer yet with grace and connection.

We thought we’d help you kick off your summer by re-sharing one of our favorite summer posts — 4 tips to help you retain your parenting sanity this summer.

What to Do When Relatives Criticize Your Parenting

What to do When Relatives Criticize Your Parenting

Do you ever feel like your family is under the microscope at holiday gatherings?

Your lively kids – in unfamiliar places, without their usual toys – often reflect the stress all around them, which can mean they get loud, obnoxious, and argumentative. The icy stares or sidelong glances from relatives — especially your parents — can communicate, “That is soooo disrespectful, and clearly needs some firm discipline.”

You may even get some direct comments like, “Aren’t you going to deal with that?” or, “You really shouldn’t tolerate that disrespect!”

You know that you are learning more graceful, wisdom-building ways to parent and you want to stay the course, but you don’t know how to respond without sounding disrespectful to your parents. You may even second guess yourself and get harsh or firm in unnatural ways with your kids, just to avoid the criticism.

So what can you do?

Does Your Family Pray BIG Prayers?

Growing a Culture of Prayer (1)

As parents, and as Christians, many of us place great value on teaching our children to value prayer. But sometimes figuring out how to grow a culture of prayer can be difficult — especially if maintaining a strong prayer life is a challenge for us.

Here are six ideas we’ve used in our family to help move toward a culture of prayer as a family.

The Best Vacation Ever

Tom was worried about taking his family on a short mission trip to a South Dakota Indian reservation. He told me, “We’re really interested in this trip. We think it would be good for us and for our kids. But we’re a bit scared that our stressed family dynamics will be exposed in that setting. Our last family vacation was one drama after the other.”

A Prescription for Connection [video]

A pediatrician friend of ours once had parents bring in their child and request a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) so they could get a prescription. But our wise friend took a look beneath the surface to what was really going on. Hear the rest of the story in this short video clip.

Apply It Now:

  • Whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 hours, make a plan right now to spend some focused time with each child.
  • If you’re not sure how to connect with your kids, considering making your first parent-child “date” a discussion of ways you could connect!