I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I’m ready to get back into a schedule even though I’ve had a ball spending time with friends and my family. But I also hate that the girls are going back to school and it will be weeks between visits. It’s even harder when all of our times together haven’t been fun and games, but some of them have been times of working through the difficult stuff in order to develop healthy, loving relationships.
Summer can take a toll on our relationships with our kids and their relationships with each other. Use the next few days before you. . .
- Say good-bye to your college kid
- Teach your middle-schooler how to open their locker or
- Pack your first-grader’s first lunch
to be intentional in nurturing your relationship with your child. (You can also teach and model how they can do the same with each other.)
Here are five things Gene and I have done to nurture relationships with each of our girls, even when they weren’t so loveable.
- Love—We have done our best to speak love to each of our girls in a way they could hear it. For each girl it’s different. For Katie, it’s Gene helping her figure out a way to make a sculpture idea come to life. For Kelsey, it’s me teaching her to make apple butter. For Kerry, it’s early morning coffee with Dad and Mom when she’s home for the weekend.
- Forgiveness—Forgiveness means we don’t hold the other person’s offenses against them. This doesn’t mean we let them take advantage of us or others, we enable their bad choices, or they don’t have to face their consequences. It does mean we never say, “I told you so.” And even the offender gets to go out for ice cream with the family.
- Acceptance—Acceptance is accepting and celebrating who our girls are, where they are in life, and what they are doing. Find something positive in your child’s life to celebrate. Quit harping on them or trying to manipulate them in order to “make improvements” in them. Instead enjoy them. Aren’t you glad God didn’t wait until you were perfect to be in relationship with you? I’m still in process and I’m thrilled God went to so much trouble to be in relationship with me and make me a useable mess.*
- Make the Call—Initiate relationship and communication. I’m terrible about making phone calls. Yet, when I’m missing the girls, Gene’s first words to me are “call them.” Most of us, including our kids, have jumped on the crazy ride of today’s culture. We are all on the move and hypnotized by anything with a screen. In order to get our kids’ attention we need to interject our real self into their lives. Call. Invite them over. Go see them. Meet for coffee. Be face-to-face and voice-to-voice. Then be the person who blesses them over and over. Be the person they want to be with.
- Persevere—None of these ideas are a magic pill—take once and all will be well. Meaningful, loving, healthy relationships take perseverance. It may take months or even years for you to see results. But parenting isn’t about getting our serotonin fix. It’s about showing our kids the love we have for them and the love God has for all of us. It’s about showing God the Father to our kids—being the earthly version of their heavenly Father. God does all of these things for us. It’s the least we can do for our kids and we’ll be blessed in the process.
No matter the state of your relationship with your kids, now is the perfect time to be intentional. Before the school year gets crazy, start being the parent your child needs and wants.
Keep being that parent.
How will you be intentionally nurture your relationship with your child before it’s time for back to school?
*Useable mess—a term coined by my dear friend, Crystal Rings.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.