One of the cool things about Connected Families is the people on our staff. We all understand that parenting takes a lot of work, a lot of intentional planning, and that the outcome is worth it. We, too, have been in the trenches, trying to learn how to bring peace and connection at home. When you receive coaching, sign up for an online course, or read a Connected Families book, front and center are people just like you who have faced difficult parenting questions and have done our best to grow a family that is stronger. We believe in a forgiving God who comes alongside us as parents, just as we desire to come alongside our children, nurturing what is best for them and in them.
Stacy Bellward is the Connected Families online course moderator, and she is currently moderating the Sibling Conflict Online Course. She took the time to share how she implemented her learning from the course while on a recent mission trip.
In her own words:
When I took my girls on a full fledged mission trip for the first time, I did not regret a second of it…but that does not mean it was all smooth. The thing was, I got to use SO MUCH of what Connected Families has taught me.
I chose a mission trip to support an existing initiative and provide something wanted or needed. In our case, we supported a small church and provided a Vacation Bible School to all their kids – something they did not have the resources to do. Ultimately, I wanted a place for my tween girls (10 and 12 years old) to have a place to serve and a reason for us to have deep, preparatory conversations around mission and service, and the vision and greater purpose for our lives.
This trip hit the mark.
Dad stayed home to work and fund the trip, so it was just us girls. We faced an obstacle right off the bat. We were camping, and that meant that the three of us had to take on a new role of setting up the tent, something that typically dad had done.
With advice from the new Sibling Conflict course in my ears, I realized this would be an opportunity to help the girls learn and accomplish a task together and gain confidence in their abilities. So, I asked my husband to teach the girls how to set the tent up. (I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with this great idea!)
But, I quickly had to implement all the calming skills I learned when things started getting ugly.
First, my husband
strongly opposed my idea hesitated at the thought of letting the girls handle the tent. He knew that parts of the tent were fragile and one of my daughters is a little rough with everything – it is just a fact. He finally agreed to teach the girls to set up the tent.
But then, when I told the girls my idea–that they would be responsible to learn how to set up the tent, and they would set it up once we got to the mission trip location (I told them I would be there to help if needed) – they lost it. Fighting started between them when one felt she was doing all the work and the other was abandoning and not supporting the project–some of the same baggage we have dealt with before. The conflict got intense – this was not a situation they could work out by themselves. I stepped in and together we went through the Peace Process.
Our parenting process?
We spent a lot of time on the “rock of understanding each other” (see image), and we talked about how hurt from the past can rear its ugly head and cause lack of trust and that is why we NEED the Peace Process. After talking it through, the girls came up with a plan – Dad would teach the girls separately how to set up the tent (this way they both would be competent and feel the weight of the success/failure) and then they would set it up again together as a dry run for the trip.
We got across the river!! (see image) We celebrated with feet high fives and smiles – we had come a long way in that hour of reconciliation. Then, the next 2 hours in 90 degrees and high humidity, my husband taught both girls how to set up that tent. What a trooper!
Here is the kicker. On the first day of the mission trip, we got to our campsite and the first job was to set up the tent. Well, on the way out of the bag the elastic in the pole snapped and broke. Sometimes, dads just know.
I’m telling you….I kept my cool. It was tense – we were hours from any town and 7 hours from home. I spent the next 1.5 hours fixing the pole. Call me McGyver.
With a duct-taped pole, together the girls got that tent up in 15 minutes. It was beautiful. They were so proud of themselves and I was so proud of them. We celebrated with lots of high fives. I told them. “We stayed calm and kind to each other under pressure, we fixed the pole, you guys set up the tent and we did an awesome job together!”
The mission trip was 100% successful. My girls showed up strong. We deepened our connection to each other and God through service and getting outside of ourselves.
Our next tenting trip came 12 hours after arriving home – we were off to our church family camp. The girls put up the (new) tent with Daddy. My oldest, the one who conveniently gets distracted around tasks like these, declared herself “an expert tent setter upper” and stuck to the task from start to finish. What a confidence booster for her and reminder to me that people who feel capable often want to complete a task.
Being intentional about parenting is work – there is no denying it. I have spent time digesting the new Sibling Conflict Course, and slowly integrating it into our daily vocabulary and skirmishes. That meant that I was ready when I needed to be. I took time to pick and prepare for our mission trip. Working through the setting-up-a-tent education process and the conflict around it was hard. All of us wanted to quit, and it would have been easy for me to say that I would just put up the tent myself. We stuck with it, and in the end are reaping GREAT rewards!
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