10 Parenting Hacks to Make Life Easier with Little Kids

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org

“I don’t know what to do with all this time on my hands,” said no parent ever.

Once you become a parent, finding time to do the things you want and need to do is similar to catching Harry Potter’s golden snitch—nearly impossible, but incredibly rewarding when you do (a special shout out to all the Muggle readers who caught the Quidditch reference). It’s an odd thing, time—it feels like your kid eats it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and their afternoon snack.

You’ve probably got a list of things you do to help you have some semblance of being in control of your life and schedule, but here are some of my favorite parenting life hacks:

1. In lieu of birthday gifts, ask for free babysitting from family and friends. You don’t need another Amazon gift card (though, those are always nice). What you really need is a chance to eat your meal in the way it was meant to be consumed—hot and without little bites taken from it. For your birthday, ask your friends and family for the gift of time to watch your kids so you can have some much needed “me time.”

2. Zippers and more zippers. No one has time for buttons and snaps, especially when you have multiple kids and wiggly ones at that. When my daughter was a newborn, I found zippers super helpful and efficient when I needed to get her dressed quickly in the middle of the night.

3. Consolidate and minimize. Having a lot of clothing options for your younger kids means more to you than it does to them. Take an honest inventory of what they really need and wear and get rid of all the rest (check out some documentaries on minimalism for purge inspiration). You’ll have to find something else to do with all that time you used to spend doing laundry.

4. Online grocery shopping with curbside pickup. I was not a believer in this at first. I felt lazy and a contributor to the demise of brick and mortar establishments. But man, is it helpful and quick to do your grocery shopping online! I tried it for the first time a few months ago and I’m a believer. I’m the type to go to multiple grocery stores to find the best deals, so this has helped me avoid my hubby’s “But you’re spending more gas this way” lecture advice.

5. Stop folding baby/toddler clothes. Guess who doesn’t care about the wrinkles in their onesies? The kid you’re holding who just learned how to control their own neck. I stopped folding and hanging up my daughter’s clothes, and instead keep things organized(ish) in a hamper.

6. Do as much prep the night before. With kids, there will always be a cause for tardiness, even for the promptest of folks. Do as much as you can the night before—prep the diaper bag, lay out clothes, and prepare lunches, not only for your kids, but for yourself, too.

7. Commit to a bedtime routine. It may seem too rigid and might cause the older generations to roll their eyes, but getting your kids used to a bedtime routine puts time back in your day. When you use a routine to signal bedtime, they go to sleep a lot faster.

8. Get kid-sized cleaning supplies and make cleaning up a fun activity. For now, at least, one of my daughter’s favorite things to do is help me clean the kitchen. Her grandparents bought her a miniature cleaning set—which includes a toddler-sized broom, dustpan, mop, and more—that she uses whenever I start to clean. Pro Tip: Place painter’s tape in the shape of a square on the floor and ask your kids to sweep debris into the square. This turns sweeping into a game and reduces how much time you spend doing it.

9. Shop consignment sales for kids clothes. I’ve recently joined the world of consignment shopping for my daughter’s clothes. At consignment sales, consignors sell their kids’ gently used clothes at a fraction of their original cost during certain seasons, usually March for summer clothes, August for winter clothes. It’s nice to get the bulk of your clothes shopping for your children out of the way while being mindful of your budget.

10. Sign up for a food subscription box. At the end of the day, sometimes you don’t have enough brain capacity to figure out new dinner recipes. Sign up for a food subscription box to take the thinking out of this task and potentially cut down on food waste (and not to mention eyerolls from your family when Taco Tuesday becomes Taco Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). Most of these subscriptions offer the first box for free.

Need More? : 23 Parenting Hacks for Parents of Little Kids

Special Needs

As we dive deeper into helping parents with children with special needs, we’ll be sharing ideas and resources on this page.  Check back in the coming weeks as we populate the page.

Raising Strong Sons

Click the red circle to listen to the clip below or click here to listen in SoundClouud.

Click here to go to Dr. Meg Meeker’s Podcast

Even Toddlers Can Memorize Scripture

** The following article was copied from www.familylife.com.

If toddlers can memorize favorite songs and stories, why not help them learn the Word of God?

One night our son Isaac, age 2½, decided that he wanted to be continually thrown into the air. He would run over to me and say, “Do one more.” In his world this means I should scoop him up and throw him up into the air. After catching him and putting him back on the ground, he would run “flying” around the room.

As we were playing, my wife and I decided that Isaac should recite one Bible verse each time before I would throw him into the air. It was unorthodox, but he engaged and we were able to go through seven or eight verses that he had been working on over the past several weeks.

So have you ever thought about helping your toddler memorize Bible verses?  Don’t be afraid to start working with them at a young age. Toddlers are a lot smarter than what we give them credit. They can master their favorite songs, repeat stories from their books, and understand the entirety of the word “No.” Why not help them learn the Word of God?

Memorizing Scripture is an important step to gluing the Word of God to a child’s heart. In the Bible, Israelite parents were instructed to teach the commands of God to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7). The same principle applies to us today.

Like planting a seed in good soil, teaching a child the Word of God at an early age will help prepare a firm rooting with plenty of nutrients for life. It can be done.

My wife and I decided to start teaching our son memory verses around his second birthday. It was difficult at first, but the moment I heard Isaac recite his first full Bible verse made me the proudest dad on the planet.

We started with Romans 12: 9-10. Admittedly, it was a little haphazard at first. Isaac would goof around or act like he wasn’t paying any attention. But finally after a few weeks he remembered the verses in their entirety.

Here are a few tips I learned from our early stages of teaching our toddler to memorize Bible verses. Feel free to try them out for yourself or add your own unique style. The key is just to be intentional and let your toddler take it from there.

1. It takes two.  Technically, a child can learn a Bible verse with the help of only one parent, but it goes so much better when both Mom and Dad are actively engaged in the learning process. Understandingly, Mom may have a more active role because she may have more time with the kids, but this doesn’t excuse Dad from the process.

Be intentional. Your toddler needs to see both parents modeling a discipline of Scripture memory. Both parents don’t need to be present when practicing, but it is helpful to create a memorization plan that the family can work on together.

2. Don’t dumb it down. The Bible is full of words that are difficult for toddlers to grasp (they are even difficult for adults). After all, it wasn’t written as a children’s fairy tale. The words are rich and teach  us what it means to follow Christ. This is not an easy process, but I believe it would be an injustice to our kids to water it down. Remember, they are much smarter than what we realize.

For example, look at Romans 12:9, “Abhor what is evil.” Abhor is a funny word. Maybe it is only funny to me because my wife teases me for how I pronounce it. The meaning of it is also hard. I guarantee abhor was not the first word on your mind this morning. It means “to regard with extreme repugnance or aversion.” A toddler feels that way about taking a nap. Teach your kids the hard words. If you don’t know what it means, take the opportunity to learn for yourself while teaching them. Our families don’t need a watered down Bible, they need the full Truth.

3. Repetition is important. A major way people learn is by repeating an action over and over and over and over. Repetition doesn’t mean boring, however.

Memorizing Scripture can be done in creative ways. It works better for some families to practice at a specific time every day. Another option is to make note cards of each verse and put them on your table. At every meal you can work on it as a family. Or you could make a memory verse part of the bedtime routine. Kids thrive on structure; why not add a verse in with brushing teeth, goodnight hugs, and prayers? The more we practice, the easier it will become.

4. Repetition is important.  A major way people learn is by repeating an action over and over and over and over … you get the idea. Okay, point made, moving on …

5. Use your arms and legs. Add motions to the verse you are trying to memorize. Kids love motions and if your child is anything like mine, he is constantly moving anyway. So why not use this to your advantage? Make up silly hand, arm, leg, head, or body motions to help describe what you are learning.

And do the motions with them. Toddlers are copy cats. This is a great way to get the whole family involved as you dance around on the living room floor reciting the verse.

6. Mark it on your wall. Most kids, and adults for that matter, are visual learners. Finding a creative way to put the verse in an everyday spot is a big help. Here are some creative ideas: Frame a verse and put it on your wall. Or write it in chalk on décor in your house. Write it on the mirror with a dry erase marker. Scripture templates are available online for you to print and display in your house. My wife, Emily, created a subway art canvas of Romans 12 on Shutterfly to hang on our living room wall. This has been a great reminder for our family.

7. Join the fun. Who said memorizing Bible verses has to be boring? I think kids grow up thinking the Bible is boring because of the attitudes they see from their parents.

The key is making it fun.  And it’s not fun unless the whole family is involved.  It’s up to us, Dad and Mom, to make the Bible come alive to our children.

An Unexpected Gift: Raising a Child With a Learning Disability

** The following article was copied from www.familylife.com.

As parents, we never want to see our children struggle in school or in life. When we send our children to school we have hopes and dreams for them that we don’t often verbalize. We want them to “fit in”, get good grades, behave, pay attention, have good friends, and enjoy school. Our expectations grow as our children pass through elementary, middle and high school. But what happens when your child begins to struggle academically, socially, or behaviorally at school or in the home?

Last November, our family went through the process of determining what was going on with our youngest son, Matthew. He began grade 2 with enthusiasm and energy, but that quickly faded as October rolled around and the work became more demanding. We began to notice that he had a tummy ache every morning and that he was complaining of headaches. His reading and math skills were not progressing. His teacher and I became concerned and we began talking regularly. Referrals for Learning Assistance and Speech and Language Assessments were sent out, but Matthew was not considered “low enough” to enter our school’s Learning Assistance program. Yet, Matthew continued to struggle in class.

The symptoms persisted: can’t follow directions, has a hard time focusing in class, works slowly, reads slowly, is easily distracted, and on and on. We knew something was wrong but we couldn’t put the pieces together. We had a giant jigsaw puzzle dumped on the floor with no box top to follow. We just didn’t know what we were looking at. How could we help him if we didn’t know what was wrong?

As a mom and dad, we were aching for Matthew. We felt helpless because we didn’t know where to start. Being trained as an elementary school teacher, I felt frustrated that we would have to go outside the school system to have Matthew assessed. What I was not prepared for was how God turned this whole situation into a beautiful gift.

At first, both Ken and I struggled with a million questions. Would Matthew succeed in school? What does all of this mean for his future? How can we help him? Did we do something to cause this problem? How is he going to feel? Why does it have to be Matthew that struggles? However, after extensive testing through an educational psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, and an audiologist, a wonderful picture of our son began to develop.

It was as if we were unwrapping an incredibly precious and rare gift. Each testing day brought new insights into how Matthew learns, how he takes in and processes information, and how his amazing brain is able to compensate for weaknesses in one area by developing other areas. Through much dialogue with the professionals involved and his teachers at school, we were able to bring to the school some concrete ideas that when implemented would make a world of difference for Matthew, and probably other children in the class. As a teacher, I have always looked for different ways to engage students in the learning process. I recognized that each child brings to the classroom differing learning styles, but through this process, I was blown away by the incredible detail God designs into each of our children.

Our children are a wonderful gift from the Lord, and it is in His infinite wisdom that he creates our children uniquely. I will never read Proverbs 22:6 the same way again. “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Every child can succeed if he/she is trained with their unique style in mind. They can succeed in school, in relationships, in their spiritual life and in their family life.

10 Ways to Support Your Child Who Is Struggling in School…

  1. Remember: God has specially chosen you as your child’s most important teacher.
    You are their first and most important advocate in the school system they are in. You are capable of communicating vital information with those who will teach and interact with your child. You know your child the best.
  2. Build a great relationship with your child.
    Take the time to talk to your child regularly about what is happening in school. When you have an open line of communication, concerns, struggles and stress can be identified early. When an area of concern becomes known, you have a natural forum to begin to process it with your child. A great relationship takes BOTH quality and quantity time.
  3. Become a student of your child.
    Take a front row seat in the life of your child and learn about their personality, their learning style, how they deal with stress, their strengths, and their preferences.
  4. Build good communication with your child’s teacher.
    Do not wait to bring concerns to the teacher. Early intervention into learning issues is to your child’s advantage. There are many amazing teachers in the system, who are more than willing to partner with you in helping your child succeed. Excellent communication between home and the school can alleviate a lot of your child’s stress.
  5. Listen to your instincts.
    If you feel your child is struggling, gently but firmly pursue assistance for your child. (Remember, honey catches more flies than vinegar.)
  6. Make sure your child understands and knows their strengths.
    You continue to help your child build confidence and the ability to take risks when they are encouraged and supported in something they are good at. Consider things like team or individual sports, music, art, etc.
  7. Build a network of people around you who can provide information, strategies, and support for you and your child.
    It is amazing the connections you will make once you start asking questions and talking about your concerns. Many professional services are covered by extended health plans.
  8. Pray, pray, and pray some more.
    Pray that God will give you the necessary insight and wisdom to help your child succeed. Believe me, some days prayer was the only way I could hold it together. Pray that God will bring the right people into your child’s life.
  9. Communicate regularly with your spouse.
    It is critical that you are both on the same page when it comes to your child’s development. You both need to know what is working, and what is not.
  10. Learn from your child.
    Learn to see life from their perspective. Matthew has taught us how to look at the simplest of things and to be able to admire the color, the shape, or an interesting detail.

There were so many blessings wrapped up in this unexpected gift that God gave us. The first was the recognition of Matthew as a unique individual. Through the reports we got, the individuals involved in testing and assisting Matthew, and his teachers, we were given specific and vital clues to tap into the way that Matthew learned and processed information. Now that we are using strategies that match Matthew’s strengths, he is flourishing. He has found new wings and is once again taking risks in learning and in social situations.

The second gift is that Matthew’s stress level has come way down. The first day he went back to school after the results of the testing came in, he did not want to go. He was worried, he was feeling stupid and he was frustrated. I explained that what was happening to him was not his fault – he was not dumb. I expressed to him his strengths and explained that there was part of his brain that needed to catch up to the rest of him. I told him that his teachers knew what the problem was and that they wanted to help him. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Mom that’s perfect; I don’t have to worry any more.” (My eyes were not dry either.) He walked out the door and I have not heard another word about him wanting to miss school.

Lastly, God has brought so many people into our lives with whom we’ve been able to share our journey and suggest some good resources to. Matthew’s teachers have been absolutely amazing as well. I have called one of them Matthew’s personal angel for the past year. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God places people into the lives of our children at critical moments.

It has been a year of both challenge and blessing and I don’t believe our journey is over yet. We will keep unwrapping this precious gift that God has given to us. Some days it seems like Matthew has to work harder than any of our other children to accomplish normal school work, and other days his imagination and creativity just shine. I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for him in the future. I’m sure I will be amazed at how God is able to use all of this for His glory.

3 Easy Ways to Impact a Middle Schooler’s Identity and Faith

** The following article was copied from www.justaphase.com.

11, 12, 13. These are the awkward years. You remember right? Greasy hair, frizzy hair, don’t care. Weight gain and weight loss. You feel like an adult but everyone treats you like a kid.

Life for a middle schooler is rough. Forget trying to figure out who you are in Christ. Preteens are hanging onto the struggle bus for dear life.

Of course you now know that middle school drama, like everything else, won’t matter in a few short years. With the right approach you can help preteens focus on things that really count.

What is a Middle Schooler, Anyway?

The next time you take in an all-star performance from a middle schooler—complete with tears, of course—consider this: behind those emotions is a brain hard at work analyzing, processing and planning the next move.

What we’re talking about is a duality of sorts—the middle schooler you see and the middle schooler you don’t see.

The Middle Schooler You See 

    • He’s growing like a weed and eating all of your groceries.
    • She’s happy one moment and crying the next.
    • He’s embarrassed easily and often by you.
    • She knows everything.
    • He lies and argues more than ever before.
    • She wants to be with her friends. Always with her friends.

The Middle Schooler You Don’t See

    • He loves to learn and be challenged.
    • She wants to know if you care.
    • He needs to talk about his feelings, even when his face says otherwise.
    • She wrestles with decisions big and small.
    • He’s starting to view the world through the eyes of others.
    • She longs for non-parental adult influence.

When it comes to helping these complex creatures understand who they are in Christ, you have to remember the middle schooler you don’t see. The engineer inside needs to know that God can do anything. That He can overcome impossible odds to rebuild what is broken, bring stability, restore peace, resolve doubt, give hope, and redeem everyone—including themselves.

Read More: A Dynamic View of God: Helping Kids Connect with God at Every Phase

Impact Their Identity and Faith

Make some big assumptions.

You wanna shock a preteen? Treat him like he’s made in the image of God. Tell him he’s smart enough, strong enough and important enough to take on a new responsibility or make a big decision. Give him a chance to prove you right.

Because of how God created us, we all have the potential to lead, believe, imagine, love, care, relate, trust, reason and improve. When middle schools understand they are made in the image of God, they begin to look at the world and themselves in a whole new way.

Connect the dots.

Engineers use both physics and design to solve problems. A middle schooler’s brain works the same way. They’re looking at more than a decade of learning to try and find ways that everything fits together.

This is your chance to show them how the overarching narrative of scripture connects not only from Genesis to Revelation but to their very own life as well.

Read More about the Brain of Middler Schoolers: Important Mental Changes That Happen at Every Phase

Encourage questions.

The time has come for you to make a big decision. Will you be shocked by hard questions, touchy subjects and doubt? Or will you make room for the process that a middle schooler must go through?

Middle schoolers are smart. They may notice, for instance, that a loving and all-powerful God allows good people to die. They will wrestle with doctrine and faith and cultural norms. This is okay and normal.

You won’t always have the answers but you can affirm their journey. Help middle schoolers anchor themselves to what is constant by sharing stories about your faith and pointing them back to Jesus.

You know who they are in Christ—a child of God, alive, free and set apart—but, really, the goal is for each middle schooler to understand and embrace this truth for himself. Help middle schoolers reach this truth by making some big assumptions, connecting the dots and encouraging questions.

Children Need a Crisis of Faith

** The following article was copied from desiringgod.org.

My wife and I have five children. Our oldest two have exited childhood and are adventuring into the uncharted territory of their young adulthood. Our younger three are navigating the tricky waters of adolescence. As parents, we have the sacred, marvelous, daunting, and sometimes painful privilege of sharing in all these unique life-journeys.

As a rule, I am slow to offer parenting advice. We are still too much in the thick of it to be qualified experts. Most of the time we’re looking to receive, not dispense, counsel.

And one wonderful new source of counsel we’ve discovered is our (now) adult children. Their experiences of childhood and adolescence, and the good and not-so-good ways we parented them, are still fresh. But there’s sufficient distance for them to maturely reflect on their experiences and enough trust between us (thank you, God!) for them to share with us honestly. It’s precious and humbling when your child matures into your counselor.

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS FOR CHILDREN

Recently, my wife was sharing with one of our adult children some of the spiritual wrestlings and questions of their younger siblings. Our adult child replied, “That’s where it all begins.”

This was the wise reply of one whose wisdom was hard won. They spoke from experience, having endured difficult and sometimes dark seasons of profound spiritual struggles during their own adolescence. And they discovered in these seasons what nearly all saints discover sooner or later: the Light of the world shines brightest in the darkness — in our own darkness (John 1:5). Coming to really see, savor, treasure, and trust Jesus Christ almost always begins in a crisis.

And this has unnerving implications for Christian parents: if our children are going to see the Light, they very likely must endure darkness. Which means we will endure it with them, and experience a powerlessness over the outcome we find hard to bear.

As parents, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to protect our children from the forces of evil and sin in the world, which we should. And we try hard to point them to the gospel so they escape the horrible slavery of their own sin, which we should. We comfort, reassure, and counsel; we admonish, reprove, and rebuke, which we should.

But all the efforts we pour into protecting and teaching our children can make us susceptible to the deception, even if we know better, that if we do our job right, our children will sail from young childhood into adulthood on untroubled seas, arriving with a robust faith in Christ. We forget that this wasn’t even Christ’s own experience in “parenting” his disciples. It was on the troubled sea, not on tranquil waters, where the disciples began to grasp what faith really means (Luke 8:22–25).

Our children may have to ride on a violent sea, one we fear will swallow them, before they really learn to fear and trust Christ. As parents, then, we must prayerfully prepare for when those sea billows roll, because it will be a scary ride for us too.

FAITHFULLY PARENTING

While I’m reluctant to give parenting advice, my wife and I have ridden enough waves with our children to share some lessons, not as an expert on parenting through a child’s faith crisis, but as a fellow sojourner sharing from my experience — my own faith crises, as well as my children’s.

1. EXPECT YOUR CHILD TO EXPERIENCE A FAITH CRISIS.

Actually, do more than expect it; pray for it. By “faith crisis,” I don’t mean the loss of faith — a period of apostasy — though for some that may be what a crisis looks like. What I mean is whatever event(s) God knows is needed to call forth real faith in our child — a season or set of circumstances when they are faced with a crisis that forces them to exercise their own faith and experience for themselves that God exists and is the rewarder of those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Praying for our child’s faith crisis sounds strange, I know. But if we want our child’s deepest joy, we will pray for the testing of their faith (James 1:2–4).

2. EXPECT YOUR CHILD’S CRISIS WILL BE DIFFERENT FROM YOURS.

God has taught you to walk by faith, and not by sight, in particular ways. But it’s likely that he will deal differently with your child. They may struggle in ways and over issues and questions you haven’t. The unfamiliar may seem frightening. But it’s not unfamiliar to God.

3. EXPECT TO FEEL SOMEWHAT HELPLESS.

There comes a point when God decides to use means quite apart from us to teach our children to trust him. He doesn’t typically inform us in advance when he begins. We just rather suddenly find ourselves on the periphery of our child’s struggles, not allowed the same access or influence we used to have (or thought we had). We’re unsure where this car is going, and it’s not in our power to steer it. We must resist panicking or the urge to try to seize the wheel, both of which only tend to make things worse. Such a moment often becomes a faith crisis for us too, where we must learn to trust God with our children in whole new ways.

4. SEEK TO BE A SAFE PLACE IN A CRISIS.

During one point of crisis, one of my children confided that they didn’t feel safe discussing with me certain theological questions they were wrestling through. Their dad was a ministry co-founder and bi-vocational pastor at our church. It felt like there was only one acceptable place to land.

Since then, I have tried to share with all my children more of my own faith journey, crises and all, that brought me to where I now am. And I’m seeking to be more explicit with my children that, while I hold my theological convictions sincerely, I do not expect them to uncritically adopt them from me, or necessarily arrive quickly in adolescence where it’s taken me years, and plenty of testing, to reach.

We can’t always control whether we are perceived as a safe place to our children, but as much as possible, we must seek to be a safe place for them to discuss hard questions and to be in process without judgment. It’s not easy for an invested parent. But we must strive to be (especially) quick to hear and slow to speak.

5. DO NOT MISTAKE A CHAPTER FOR THE STORY.

We must try to keep our child’s faith crisis in perspective — no matter how long. We are not God. We do not have foreknowledge. We must not assume we know how the story will end. Most biblical characters had life chapters that looked like their train was going off the rails at some point.

6. AIM FOR FAITHFULNESS.

We are not the authors of our children’s story. Neither are they. God is the Author. God does not call us to determine the outcome of our children’s faith. He calls us to “dwell in the land [of parenting] and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3). Our aim is to follow Jesus faithfully, speak what he gives us to say faithfully, and to love the children God gives us as well as we can, come what may.

7. PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.

Part of faithfulness is not to cease praying for our children to be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3) and filled with the knowledge of God’s will with all spiritual wisdom and insight (Colossians 1:9).

8. TRUST GOD.

This is the beginning and the end of parenting our children, whether on stormy waves or still waters. We want our children to reach maturity in Christ. “For this [we] toil, struggling with all [God’s] energy that he powerfully works within [us]” (Colossians 1:29). But we do not trust ultimately in our toil; we trust ultimately in God’s power. And when our children endure various crises of faith, we “wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS

So much more can and should be said. I’m very aware that our children’s faith crises, and what has precipitated them, and how long they last, are as varied as people and experiences vary. I know as parents these can be frightening moments because, for some, a crisis results in the rejection rather than the realization of faith. But even then, it’s not the end of the story.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the heart of faith, the one for whom God is the strength of their heart (Psalm 73:26). He is the author and perfecter of our faith — and our children’s faith (Hebrews 12:2). As the great cloud of biblical and historical witnesses remind us (Hebrews 12:1), often, when a crisis hits, that’s where it all begins.

Us Four and No More

The following article was copied from www.d6family.com.

My husband and I both work full time in ministry. We are the proud parents of two teenagers. Often, as a family, we are pulled in different directions. Sports, jobs, theatre practice, music lessons, church events, and so on. We get caught up in all we have to do; all of the people that need us. When we start to feel busy or overwhelmed as a family, one of us will say “OK, us four, no more.” That means it is time to hit pause and spend time together as a family—just the four of us and no one else.

You can improve the quality of your family time by doing things together as a family every chance you get. The activities can be big or small, planned or spontaneous. It’s just about spending time together. If you are looking for ideas to create quality family time, here are a few activities you can try with your family.

Have a family devotional
Game night
Build a snowman
Pack a picnic
Go on a family bike ride
Fly a kite
Make a bird feeder
Watch old home movies
Hang out around the fire-pit
Read a book together
Pull out sleeping bags and have an indoor campout
Roast marshmallows in your fireplace and make s’mores
Throw ball in the back yard
Have a Nerf battle
Go ice skating
Shoot some hoops
Have a dance party
Pitch a tent in your back yard
Make a fort in your living room
Draw a family portrait
Paint a picture to hang in your home
Play hide and seek
Make homemade ice cream
Have an outdoor movie night
Go to Goodwill and pick out an outfit for each other to wear
Make play dough creations
Go on a hike
Play four square
Do a puzzle
Try Geocaching
Make a time capsule
Watch the sunset
Have a craft night
Look at family photo albums together
Make your own pizza night
Go swimming
Have a lip sync battle
Write letters to each other
Plant a garden
Make a meal for someone who is sick
Play charades
Play Frisbee together
Create sidewalk chalk masterpieces
Go stargazing
Make a craft from Pinterest together
Go bowling

Remember, these family time activities do not have to be complicated. Your children just want to spend time with you and make fun memories as a family.

How to Invite Others to Invest in the Lives of Your Kids

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.

“Mom, did you know that one time Ms. Sandra had a real live moose in her house?”

 “Hey mom, Miss Amy and Mr. Adam told me we are going to make snow globes when they come over next! Real snow globes!”  

“Mom, isn’t it so funny when Miss Jenilee always shouts ‘Holla!’ when she is excited? What does that even mean?”

These are some of the conversations I have with my children about their friendships with adults outside of our family. They are fun little stories and tid-bits that reflect real relationship and investment into their lives.

We are one of the few families in our area that is blessed to have extended family living nearby. It is a rarity in Washington DC where most people are transplants. Our kids have aunties and uncles and teenage cousins that treat them like royalty and slip them candy whenever we aren’t looking. But we also have this rich community of non-family members that have made connections with our kids. My husband and I often comment at the depth of our gratitude for the adults that have taken an interest in our kids. It is a great source of encouragement, as a parent, to have other people come to know and love our children and speak life into them. We value the investment and look for opportunities to cultivate it.

We have Mr. Adam and Ms. Amy, a sweet married couple excited to start a family of their own. In the meantime, they pour all sorts of love onto our kids, taking them on adventures to the zoo and the park and out to pizza. We had Ms. Sandra who moved to DC on temporary assignment with her husband and was missing her grandkids so badly that she adopted ours as her own. Many of the Bible stories that our kids know come from the skits she created with them or the pop-up art projects they did together. The younger staff and volunteers that we work with at our church ask our kids to jump in and serve alongside them on Sundays, invite themselves over to play Legos or Barbies, and show up at their school performances. They are like big sisters and brothers, and their biggest fans.

A couple of years ago, we hosted Chap Clark, co-author of the book Sticky Faith, to speak to parents at our church. As a long-time researcher of youth and family ministry, Chap shared that for years, youth ministers have used the 5:1 ratio as a goal in youth ministry—one adult for every five kids. But, he proposed, what if we flipped that and aimed to have five adults for every one child? He explained that 40-50% of church-going young people are stepping away from their faith because they haven’t had the opportunity to see an authentic faith lived out in the life of adults they trust and admire.

So, Chap encouraged parents to invite adults with shared values to invest in the lives of their kids. I am often asked by other parents how to do this. Parents are eager to encourage these relationships but don’t know how to begin. Here are my best recommendations for how to get started.

Make an invitation already! Just start somewhere! Invite a college student to dinner. Share with that grandma from church that your daughter has been wanting to learn to sew, and ask if she might come over and teach her a few things. When you plan your son’s birthday party, ask a couple of teens or singles if they would come and help run games. Ask a newly married couple to take your kids to the movies, offering to cover the cost of tickets. Just start somewhere and see what happens!

Recognize it is not luck. My husband and I often hear that we are “lucky” to have these folks in our lives. We would never disregard that all of our rich relationships are a gift. But we were purposeful in allowing these friends to have space in our lives. It takes effort and intentionality to invite others into the life of your family. Make a plan and take intentional steps to help your kids make a connection.

Say yes when others take a step to engage. You might not realize it, but you may have passed up opportunities for relationship without intending to. When someone offers to babysit so you can get a night out, don’t hesitate to take them up on the offer.  If someone expresses an interest in something that interests your child, consider that a clue to an area in which they could connect. Remember that some people might have an interest in connecting with your family and might be dropping hints because they don’t know where to begin either.

Embrace the awkward. Yes, it will feel a bit funny at first. You are likely at different life stages than this person you are inviting in, so hunt a little for ways to connect. I sometimes feel lame inviting a young person over for movie night because surely they have better things to do on a Friday night. It can also be awkward or embarrassing to allow someone into your home and see the dirty dishes and the laundry piling up. Commit to pushing through the awkward stage to get to the fruit of real relationship.

Realize that relationship is a two way street. Parents have this bad habit of feeling sheepish if anyone extends help in our parenting journey. But, remember, you have something to share too. Family life offers a great comfort to someone who is single or an empty nester. Invite someone to share in your home-cooked meal. Be available to lend a listening ear about a job change or hurdles in a young marriage. Remember that you have something to give as well.

Be an investor yourself. Just because you are a parent yourself does not mean you are off the hook to be an influencer in the life of young people outside of your family. I attend plenty of musicals and sporting events to be a “super fan” for some young people in my life. Though it can feel like my hands are full with my own kids, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to make a connection with a young person who might share my interest in playing water sports, making silly videos, or decorating cookies.

Taking steps to invite healthy influencers into the lives of your children will ensure support and investment you trust. You will give them an opportunity to see an authentic faith lived out in the lives of someone they admire. And, as a bonus, you will show your kids that you believe they are worth knowing.

Building a Healthy Family System Seminar – Managing Conflict and Anger

“Great evening!  Thanks to everyone. Pat Nolan was knowledgable and approachable; we left with “at least one thing” (and so much more).  Mr. Sasser was helpful and fun.  Attendees were honest and open. Snacks were perfect.  Great night!  Much appreciated!”

 

On Sunday, April 8th Pat Nolan encouraged a group of parents in the area of managing conflict and anger in your home.  Below are several resources on this topic.

Seminar Notes – Building a Healthy Family System ~ on Anger

Audio of the Seminar

Parent Network Podcast Episode 11 with Pat Nolan – follow up to the seminar