Family Time And Relationships - October 2010

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Family Time and Relationships
with Rev. Andrew Manickam O.F.M. Cap.

A story of a family

“My wife, Cathy, and I stared at each other in disbelief as our oldest daughter, Christy, told us she was running away. When she started packing her suitcase, we knew she was serious. Cathy and I weren't sure if we should laugh or cry — after all, Christy was only 6.
Our daughter told us she was moving to Julia's house across the street because her mommy and daddy were nicer. My wife called Julia's mother to tell her what was taking place and that Christy was on her way over. Then, we stood on our sidewalk and watched our little girl carry her suitcase and favorite doll across the street where Julia's mother waited outside the door to greet her.

A few hours later, Julia's mom reminded Christy it was Monday night and that our family always went to the Baskin Robbin’s for ice cream after dinner. It was a tradition my three girls looked forward to — including Christy. To our delight, she called and asked if she could go. It was a joyous reunion!

The weekly ice cream run was part of our family identity — part of what made us who we were. Even the neighbors knew our routine and sometimes shouted to-go orders as we pulled out of our driveway. Our three daughters are now grown, but when our family gets together, we still make trips to the Baskin Robbins. It's one of those simple traditions that have kept our family bonds strong. “

Padre’s View

Not surprisingly, a strong family identity also helps children develop a strong and healthy self-identity. Knowing what makes their family unique — traditions, values, ways of relating to one another — gives children a clear starting point for discovering their own place in the world. Studies even show that kids who identify with their family's values tend to be less promiscuous and face less risk of drug and alcohol abuse.
Perhaps you're wondering, How can we build a strong family identity? Here are three principles to get you started.

1)Your presence matters. Children regard your presence as a sign of care and connectedness. Families who eat meals together, play together and build traditions together thrive. Does your family eat together at least four times a week? If so, there is a greater chance your kids will perform better in school and be less likely to exhibit negative behavior.

Although it may seem trite, a family that plays together, stays together. I'm not talking about just cheering on your kids at soccer games or dance recitals but actually playing together. One family I know has a pingpong tournament each week. The winner doesn't have to do the dishes for a week. Our family had a Fun Day once a month. One of the girls picked an activity, and the rest of the family participated.
2)Celebrate everything. Don't miss a single chance to celebrate your family. You can celebrate rites of passage and other events such as graduation from kindergarten , winning in a tournament, getting good grades in faith education classes.

On birthdays, go out to dinner then play a game called Affirmation Bombardment, in which each family member shares three words of encouragement for the birthday person.

3)Talk about faith. Spiritual topics don't always come naturally for families. Discussions about God, however, can help build family identity. They also help kids have strong convictions as they get older.

Maybe you have some anxiety about starting a faith conversation with your children. Remember, your talk doesn't have to be forced or lengthy; it can be simple, short and spontaneous. Let the discussion be as natural as possible. Getting preachy with your children can be just as unhelpful as avoiding the topic of faith.

One way to create opportunities to share your faith with your kids is to pray with them every day and do a weekly family devotional, like the rosary, a prayer to the guardian angel. When your children are exposed to God's truth in small amounts, it can, as a friend of mine says, "help them develop a sweet tooth for Jesus."

Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-25).

This truth applies to families. At some point, storms will come to every family. But when you proactively build a strong family identity on the rock of Christ, your family can withstand whatever winds and rains come your way. A strong family identity will give your kids a solid foundation to cling to during those difficult times.

Talking together about mutual interests and accomplishments brings the family together.
Kids are cute, funny, angelic (especially when they're sleeping) and provide a steady stream of quotables for their baby books. But somewhere between potty training and the SPM exam or college graduation, communication breaks down.
Maybe that’s why moms stop writing the things they say as they get older
It could be that the phrases they utter are no longer novel. But it might also be that they're no longer heartwarming.

Something to Talk About
Family hobbies can help maintain the communication that flows between parent and child, even when they hit puberty. A friend of mine with grown children tells of their shared interests in watching movies together and hill climbing. She describes their hobbies as "a thread of continuity throughout the changes."
Opportunities for open communication will arise from:
• Shared Accomplishments — finishing a 1,000 page novel or completing a garden decorating project can be an emotional high that acts like relational glue.
• Shared Memories — Engaging in activities that have been part of your routine for years has the potential to bring back good memories and feelings from days that were less complicated.
• Stories — There's nothing better than going to school with a experience to share.
When family activities are built around mutual interests and mutual accomplishments, they create opportunities for affirming, positive, relationship-building conversations that build bonds of trust.

Family Identity Matters
Kids need to belong. If they don't feel like important members of your family, they'll look for other ways to play that role. The most obvious alternative to family membership is the peer group, the extreme example being gangs.
On the website, ex-gang members serving long prison sentences tell their stories in an attempt to discourage a new generation of teens from making the same mistakes. Among the top reasons they say kids join is "Some find a feeling of caring and attention in a gang. It becomes almost a family to them."
A 15-year-old boy looking for advice writes, "I would like to ask a prisoner why he/she joined a gang besides respect or love. I was wondering if there are other reasons why people today are joining. I was thinking about joining because I feel like a misfit in my family. I am the only one in my family that makes bad grades, smokes, drinks etc. No one else in my family has done them. (

The Impact of Everyday Interactions
Ordinary moments may become the biggest treasured memory for a child
Do you ever wonder what memories your children will treasure when they become adults? Down the road, you may be surprised by what they recall.
Picture this scene: It is your daughter's 10th birthday. You want to make her party extra special. After all, she has told you every day for the past month that she is finally in the double digits and "no longer a child." You have plotted a surprise birthday party for weeks. You've invited her friends, bought snacks, hung pink and purple streamers, blown up balloons, spent hours meticulously decorating the cake and hired Ronald Mc Donald . The guests arrive, and the party is a huge success.
Years later, as the two of you swap your favorite memories, your daughter mentions her 10th birthday. You assume she will rave about the beautiful cake and Ronald McDonald, but instead she recalls how much fun it was to ride in the car with you to pick up yong tau foo for breakfast. Not only were yong tau foo a special treat, but the one-on-one time she had with you was also priceless. You sit dumbfounded and wonder what other simple memories she holds dear that you do not even remember.
Everyday interactions may be more meaningful than many parents realize. Most children find just as much, or even more, joy in the little things as they do in life's big events. Eating a special breakfast of chocolate-chip pancakes, and singing silly songs in the car could be the highlights of your children's younger years.
Busyness can make it difficult for parents to savor life's ordinary moments. But it is precisely those moments that your children will treasure forever

Build Relationship With Your Child
Part 3 with Rev. Fr. Andrew Manickam O.F.M Cap.

A close parent-child bond doesn't just happen.
When our children go out on their own, having landed their first job and signed a lease for their first apartment, we hope that we have trained them to: respect authority, think for themselves, drive a car, hold a job, make dinner, pay bills and carry on mutually respectful and loving relationships. And that's the short list.
Parenting is a big job; serving as a child's personal ATM or behavior umpire isn't enough. We need a relationship where we can tell Johnny it's wrong to hit Susie but then find out why he struck her. We need a relationship with enough emotional strength to share hopes, dreams and convictions and be heard when we do so. We need a relationship that makes it easy for them to come to us with questions and concerns. We need a relationship where there's not just respect, but also love.
This kind of parent-child bond doesn't just happen; it takes wisdom and intentional effort. Here are some tips I hope will encourage you in one of the greatest pursuits of your lifetime — building a relationship with your child.

1) Pray, pray, pray
A 1996 story in Parenting magazine reported that 65 percent of parents pray with their children before bed and at mealtimes. Make prayer part of your child’s lifestyle. Talking to their heavenly Father can come as naturally to your children as eating or sleeping.
Explain to your children why it’s important to pray. As Rick Osborne writes in his book Teaching Your Child How to Pray, a good reason to give preschoolers is: “God loves you and wants you to pray and trust Him so that He can show you His love and help you have a great life.” Kids need to know they can pray to God anytime, because He’s always there for them.
Share family prayer requests with your kids. A great way to train children to think of others is through prayer. Of course, certain requests may need to be screened (financial troubles, dying relatives, etc.). But praying for your brother-in-law who’s looking for a job or the safety of your niece who’s going off to college can teach your children to remember others when they talk to God.
Make it easy. Preschoolers have an amazing ability to memorize. Many children learn the “Lord’s Prayer” in Sunday school. And they quickly pick up table graces at mealtime.
Be sure your children know prayer is simply talking to God about what’s on their minds. They don’t have to use special words or try to sound like a grown-up. God desires simple and honest prayers from the heart. Encourage your kids to share their successes with God: “I just got a new doll.” Kids can also come to the Lord when things don’t go well: “Help my skinned knee to get better fast.”
Keeping a prayer journal can be a fun way to track God’s working in your child’s life. Write down in a small notebook what your child prays about.
Check back every once in a while to see how God answers your child’s prayers. This will show your kids that God is active in their lives and could help teach them patience. Because, as you know, sometimes God says yes, sometimes He answers no and other times you have to wait on His timing.

2) Get into their space.
From infancy through about age 8, kids spend a lot of time on the floor. We should be down there, too — playing games, pretending with dolls, building block forts. Fight the feeling that you're acting stupid; crawl through those embarrassed feelings and meet your kids.
Be careful not to transition into buddies, however. It's good to enter their world, but you're still the parent. You may need to set time limits on this kind of play, and if whining ensues, a time-out might be necessary.
Getting into the world of older kids is different. Watch their TV shows or movies. At first your kids may wonder if you're spying on them, but explain you just want to hang out.
You may need to resist the strong impulse to get up and do something else. Even if you're not fascinated by Facebook or Twitter ask questions about the friends they chat with online or blogs that they like to start conversation with your kids.

3) Keep it real.
As hard as it may be, recounting our missteps can help kids who are 12 and older learn from our errors. They also get to see we're not perfect.
One day I shared with my nephew Isaac some history about my friendships. I told him about my best friend in primary school and how we drifted apart in secondary school, and about my two best friends in college and how we've lost touch. The point? Friends come and go, but don't let a friendship die because of bitterness or lack of attention.
Such personal information can be embarrassing to tweens or teenagers. If your kids feel awkward, try talking in the car, where the conversation isn't face to face.

4) Enjoy family time.
A simple way to connect with your kids is eating together as a family. This is easy to do when they're little, but as kids get older, sports and other activities compete with the family mealtime.
It is a commitment to share dinner together, even if it's only 15 minutes.
The difficulty is keeping kids on track. But you need to be alert.
There are other kinds of shared time, of course, such as going to a football game. But don't assume you've connected with your kids just because you were at the same event. Shared time involves asking questions ("What did you think about that referee's call?") and exchanging ideas ("I remember coming here with Grandpa").

5) Do projects together.
We all have things we want to do — alone. Even if we're not thrilled about cleaning the garden, we'd rather do it by ourselves than supervise a team of rowdy kids.
Planning to paint a room in your house is an opportunity to teach and connect with your kids. It is transforming painting from a chore into a wonderful memory.
You'll need to think and pray about the right level of involvement for your children based on their ages and experience. Count on this: The project may take longer, and your children will not do things like you would. If you can accept these facts, you'll discover an endearing, enjoyable time.

6) Be silly.
This isn't just for small ones. Older kids like it when you act silly, too — even though you might hear, "Oh, Dad, stop it" or "This person is not my mother."
Embarrassing children in public is not a good idea, but having fun in private keeps things light and makes you approachable. So go ahead, do the goofy dance, make funny faces, sing silly songs. The means to build strong, durable bonds with your kids is within you. Just ask God to show you the way, and start connecting with your kids today.
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