One of your goals as a Christian parent should be to have a strong enough relationship with your kids that they aren’t afraid to ask you for advice. You should also work towards a relationship that contains enough mutual respect that they seriously consider any godly wisdom you share with them. There are no quick ways to create that bond with your kids. It takes investing time and energy in your relationship with each of your kids. There are, however, some fun things you can do to strengthen those family bonds.
Ever wonder why some groups have initiation ceremonies, secret handshakes and the like? It’s because those help bond people together who might otherwise struggle to even get along. Participating in those bonding rituals makes those who participate in them feel a closeness and a level of trust that might otherwise be difficult to establish.
Your family doesn’t have to have a secret handshake to feel like you are close and can trust one another. Families often develop traditions that serve a similar purpose. While there are no perfect traditions, try to find ones that encourage family members to share their thoughts and feelings in meaningful ways and show support for one another’s struggles and victories.
Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. Think of natural points of stress or celebration in the lives of your kids or family. For example, the first day of school and the last day of school are great for starting this kind of tradition. Every year, after the first day of school, I picked up our daughter and took her for high tea. While we were enjoying our snack, I encouraged her to share her thoughts and feelings about the first day of school. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun and we bonded over the good and bad things that happened during the day.
Sometimes the traditions will change over the years. Our last day of school tradition of dinner at a Japanese restaurant, shifted to a walk to Bruster’s for ice cream when her friends’ families started that tradition. She got to see friends, but we still had time for bonding and conversation while walking to and from the ice cream shop.
Holidays are another natural time for creating traditions that bond your family. Many families use various holidays to reflect on the highs and lows of the previous year, share dreams for the coming year or talk about the things for which they are grateful.
While hopefully God may come up in your conversations, these traditions are not time for sermons. Let the conversation flow freely. Laugh or mourn. Comfort and celebrate. Mention God when it feels natural. Remember, the goal is to make your kids feel as if you are willing to make time for them and listen actively to whatever they want to tell you. You are setting the stage for future spiritual conversations over the decades to come.
Let your kids help plan new traditions. They are more likely to get excited about participating in something they helped create. Remember to keep it simple. Any parent who started the elf visiting at Christmas craziness can tell you that complicated traditions can become exhausting and some kids insist on keeping them well into adulthood! Have fun with it, but don’t miss out on having multiple chances a year to remind your kids you will always be there to listen whenever they want to talk.