Years ago, most people lived their entire lives within a few miles of where they were born. If they did move, often one or more members of their extended family would travel with them. Parents had the support of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others in raising their children. The important role wasn’t back up child care, but reinforcing family values.
At times, your children are going to internally or externally question something you teach them. They may hear from peers or on social media that others are allowed to do things their Christian parents won’t allow. They might want a second opinion from someone they love and respect. When tensions rise at home, a loving older relative can often smooth the waters. Yet for many of us most or all of our extended family live miles and even states away.
Parents are suffering from the lack of extended family support and yet Christian parents have a great source of substitute extended family right at their fingertips. We often call congregations our church family, but have you ever taken the term seriously? We have with our child (and my parents even go to church with us).
My friends in my ladies small group Bible study have been Aunties since our daughter could talk. Their own children who were quite a bit older than our daughter served as babysitters and mentors on various topics. One of our elder’s wives became the assigned mentor to our daughter when she entered the youth group (every teen had one). Over time she and her husband became a set of substitute grandparents for my husband’s parents, who were in very poor health. And although they never received official titles, others at church have played the role of older siblings, cousins and even an occasional cranky aunt or uncle!
All of these people played a vital role in helping us raise our daughter and pointing her towards God. If she ever doubted what we taught her or its importance, we had plenty of backup. She knows without a doubt those people love her and she dearly loves them. She tries to schedule her college break travel so she can see them if at all possible.
In fact, one of our favorite “God is alive and active” stories happened when our daughter was studying abroad. She woke up homesick and missing us and her church family. As she and her friends wandered about looking for a cafe before heading back to the country where they were living, they finally chose one and went in. As she entered the room, she looked up and saw three of her favorite families from her home church! They were in the country for a trip and they too had wandered around looking for a cafe. As our daughter burst into happy tears, they all marveled at how God worked to give her the extended family she needed that day.
Give yourself and your children the gift of extended Christian family where you live. I can almost promise you, if you ask them. there are plenty of people who would love to fill those roles for you. You will have the parenting support you need and your children will have a lot more people in their lives that love God and love them dearly. It’s a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.
P.S. Want a fun way to “adopt” these new extended family members? Put together a goodie bag or have them over for a meal. Include a card your children have designed welcoming them to your family. Make a special effort to include them at family celebrations and to celebrate their special days with cards and calls.