Tuesday, 29 September 2015

On Growing Great Teens...Staying Connected

I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past week about the little teensy steps along my own parenting journey, that have resulted in having great teens.  I said last week, that we need to begin with the end in mind.  That was certainly the first step for me, but it was only the first.  There have been a lot of steps and seasons and years, since then.  Once we've decided what kind of people we want our children to be, how do we get them to the goal?

The second thing that we have been determined about is staying connected.  This will look different in every season of parenting your children.  When our children we teeny we began the day with snuggles in our bed.  Our parenting style was (and is!) to have everyone sleeping in their own bed so having the kids come in to us first thing in the morning was a really special way to begin the day.  Our days ended with tucking our kids into their beds and praying with them.  Dh seems to remember bedtime stories.  I remember being so desperate to not be needed by little people who needed me for everything that I got them into bed in the most efficient way possible.  In any case, between the tantrums and the correction and the boundaries and the discipline there were cuddles and kisses and "I love you's" and laughter and playing together.

Every family will stay connected in ways that make sense to them and their family culture and their personalities.  I have been saying to my kids, since they were the tiniest little things, that they are never allowed to be so big or so grown up that they can't kiss and hug their mum.  A good-bye kiss is mandatory in our house, whenever someone is headed out the door.

We talk a lot in our house.  When I was taking my kids to and from school (up until this year) we would have a little check in conversation in the car.  I would ask them what the best thing in their day was, something that wasn't so great and who they hung out with at recess and lunch time.  Our trip to and from school is only a handful of minutes, but it's enough time to get the highlights.  I don't do that daily school trip anymore, but those check-in conversations still happen when I get home.  And now they ask me about my day and want to hear my highlights.  I often come back to those check-in conversations after we've gotten home too.  They are often where the rubber of our faith hits the road and we can wrestle together with things that we struggle with and think about what God might want from us, or how he would have us respond.

We eat dinner around the table together every night.  When our children were small it meant double-time shovelling for me:  one bite for me, one for the child I was feeding, in alternating forkfuls as quick as I could.  Those meals felt frantic to me, but we ate together around the table.  It really began when Miss Sunshine was about 12 months old.  I would give her dinner and then we'd eat.  But she was never satisfied that she'd just eaten and we would have to fight to keep our meals out of her mouth.  We decided eating together would work better.  These days we don't always have everyone at home, and Friday nights are a complete disaster with people headed in all directions, often before I even get home.  But whoever is here at dinner time sits down to a meal at the table.  Together.

There are a ton of other things that we do as a family:  we take a holiday every year - usually camping, we watch movies together, we go out and do stuff together.  This past month, for example, we have headed out to Warburton for afternoon tea and had a walk along the river.  We trekked down to Sorrento for afternoon tea and walked along the beach there and had fish and chips with the seagulls for dinner.  We hang out with other families and our extended family.  Sometimes we do jigsaw puzzles.  We go and stay with my parents for a few days at a time.  If Dh needs to go up to country areas for work he plans it so we can all go together during school holidays.  We still sit together in church, although we wouldn't mind a bit if the kids sat with friends.  Still...they choose to sit with us.  I've taught the kids to bake and cook meals and they are required to do things that contribute to our household running smoothly.  My kids are almost always seated on the other side of the bench while I'm cooking, just to watch and chat, and have been since they were tall enough to see over the bench.  And now I do the same to them when they're cooking.

All of those things that we do, the conversations we have, the things we do, the memories we create, help us stay connected.  We have always done things together over the weekends.  We deliberately choose to live a quiet, unhurried life without too many commitments and I think this has helped us too.

You don't have to do big expensive things to stay connected.  Just make the most of all the small moments and try and find those small moments in the rhythm of your family's daily life.


Natalie McNamara said...

I do a lot of talking and sometimes just sitting m=with my teens but lately I have noticed that she is spending more time away from me than ever before. Breaking my heart.

Malinda Brown said...

Too true, it really is the small and simple things you do that make family moments special. #TeamIBOT

Joolz said...

We ALWAYS eat at the table! Unless say, there are only 2 of us girls (when they are home) and we are eating pizza or Mac n Cheese. Even as empty nesters, my huz and I always set the table and eat together. If we didn't do that, we wouldn't talk!

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I sympathize with Natalie above--there are some days that between practices and meetings and time spent with friends, Will and Jack can be gone from the house until almost bedtime. I don't like that at all, though I'm happy they're active and have great friends to spend time with. And fortunately it doesn't happen every day, just often enough that I'm really happy when they're home. One of the things I do is always say "yes" when they want to have friends over here. Sometimes I'd rather not, but I want them to feel like their friends are always welcome.