Author Archive : Carey Nieuwhof

Why Your Kids Need Someone Else to Talk To

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

By Carey Nieuwhof

I remember the day I turned thirteen. I was thinking of my red three speed bike with the banana seat, sissy bar and raised handlebars. I loved it, but I knew it was a kids’ bike and soon I’d have to ride a ten speed like every other teenager. I wish I could say I was excited about becoming a teenager, but the emotions were really mixed.

For one thing, ‘teenager’ wasn’t a great word back in the late seventies. At least from the perspective of a thirteen-year old, most adults seemed to either fear them or loathe them.

Secondly, I was the oldest child in my family of four kids and the only son. So I didn’t really have anyone to look up to in my family who could show me what being a teenager was like. I knew some teens for sure, but I knew they were into things that I probably didn’t want to get into. In the moment, going back a year to being twelve or even eleven seemed like a better option than turning thirteen.

I don’t remember having anyone to talk to about any of this. I could talk to my dad, for sure, but how do you have a conversation like that? I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling, let alone did I know how to articulate it. And while there were lots of adults around me, I didn’t really understand that I might be able to talk to them about life.

Ever been there as a kid?

Fast forward a few decades. I’m a father now with two sons who are four and seven years past their thirteenth birthdays.  I remember when they turned thirteen, I tried to initiate a conversation with them, just in case they felt like I did. Let’s just say the conversation was super friendly and super short. They either didn’t struggle with it, or, maybe, they didn’t feel like talking to their dad about it.

All of which reminds me of the importance of a wider circle.

I’m so thankful my kids are growing up realizing that there are other adults they can talk to that actually want to invest in them. They each have a small circle of a half dozen or so adults or young adults they have meaningful relationships with. Some have been mentors to them, others have been small group leaders or church staff.  Others are family members, friends and neighbors. They don’t need to be alone, and they’re not alone. I know they’ve had many conversations with their wider circles–some of which I’ll never know about. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Do your kids have a wider circle of influence? Maybe it’s a small group leader at church, or a teacher who’s taken a special interest in them, or an uncle or an aunt they feel comfortable with. Whoever it is, it’s just important that someone is there. And as an adult, you can help foster those relationships.

Oh, and by the way, I still ride a bike.  And while it’s not red, it’s a ten speed road bike that I like even a little more than my beloved banana seat bike. Growing up wasn’t so bad after all.

Who have you got in your children’s life that can provide that wider circle of influence? What are you doing to encourage those relationships?

Why Family Vacations Need to be a Non-Negotiable

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

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It’s funny what your kids remember.

I was doing some reminiscing with my 18 and 22 year old sons recently. We were talking about the good times we had when they were younger.

I was remembering the. . .

dinner conversations
parties
house full of friends
water fights
movie nights
bike rides and driveway hockey after school
. . .and so much more.

You know what both of them identified as some of their fondest memories growing up?

None of the above.

Both of them said of all the things we did as a family, our family vacations meant the most to them.

Family vacations were a part of our family rhythm even before we had kids. And they were a part of the rhythm whether we had money or not.

When our kids were small, we had very little extra money and we certainly couldn’t afford to fly anywhere.

But that never stopped us.

A couple times we drove for 8 hours and stayed with friends in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

We went camping many times. (Which, after it rained all night and poured into our tent, is where I came to believe God gave us technology and housing as a gift.)

We did a house swap with a pastor 12 hours away. (We won. His house was 30 minutes from the ocean and the beach.)

We drove all the way to Florida. . .twice. (It’s a Canadian tradition).

We found a really cool, inexpensive place an hour from home and spent a week there for about 18 summers in a row.

As the kids got older, we did some more adventurous things. I took each of my sons individually on a trip to the West Coast (we live near Toronto). Jordan and I drove through the California, Nevada and Arizona desert together and realized there really are places with no gas stations, no restaurants and no Starbucks for hundreds of miles. Sam and I downhill biked in the Rocky Mountains (my quads have never been so sore—I could barely walk for days).

In the endless car rides, nights under the stars, favorite-song-on-repeat forever, audio books on CD (Pecos Bill narrated by Robin Williams???—oh my goodness), arguments about which restaurants to go to and what time we were allowed to get up because we squeezed all of us into a hotel room. . .something magical happened.

Now I realize there will be some of you who say, “We can’t possibly afford the time or money for a vacation this year. ” We were that family more than a few times.

What did we do about the lack of time and money for a vacation? We went anyway.

It wasn’t part of some big plan. I know that at the time, given the craziness of life, we simply felt we needed a break.

We just had no idea that all this time together would have such a cumulative impact.

But looking back, I now see the value of spending time together over time. And strangely, at 18 and 22, so do my kids.

So this year, why don’t you take a little vacation?

Don’t worry about. . .

how simple it is
that it’s not exotic
that you can’t really find the money to fly anywhere

Borrow someone’s house and give them yours for the week. Go camping nearby. Go to the lake for the weekend. It really doesn’t matter.

But when you get away, something powerful happens in families. You’ll build a bond that’s deeper than you realize.

This summer, we’re going on another family vacation.

And you know what? I can’t wait. Surprisingly, neither can my kids.

What have been your favorite family vacations?

6 Ways to Take Charge of Your Bad Day

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

 

Happy Toast

I had a bad day recently.
Chances are you have too.

Mine blindsided me, and it threw me off so much I got almost nothing accomplished that I wanted to accomplish.
I don’t like days like that. (Does anybody?)
But they’re inevitable in life….and in parenting.

One of your children spills orange juice spills on a proposal that you had been working on all night long.
It’s your turn to carpool, but the car won’t start. And you have 6 kids in the car.
The dentist calls wondering why you missed your appointment that started 30 minutes ago.You forgot.
You open an unexpected bill.
Dinner burns. Again.
The kids fight over whose turn it is to clean the dishes, who gets the computer next, who was mean first. . .

It happens.
When I have a bad day, it often costs me more than I care to admit:

I sometimes say things I regret.
I occasionally take my frustrations out on people around me.
My co-workers sometimes suffer if I allowed my mood to travel to the office.

Way too many parents allow bad days to undermine their family again and again.

So how do you deal with a bad day?

Here are six strategies I’ve learned to use that can help:

1. Ask yourself: “What would an emotionally intelligent parent do?” Emotional intelligence is all about developing a self-awareness of how your attitudes and actions impact others, and leveraging it to benefit others.  As Daniel Goleman points out in his classic book, Emotional Intelligence, emotionally intelligent people rarely let their state of mind bring others down. They’ve developed behaviors that compensate for their emotional state so they don’t drag other people down with them. Your bad day doesn’t have to turn into your family’s bad day.

So quite literally, on my worst day, I ask myself, “What would an emotionally intelligent parent do?” I imagine what they would do, then I do everything I can to do it. Try it. It works.

2. Don’t act on your emotions. Emotionally intelligent people don’t act on their negative emotions. Ever been around an angry person? Not fun, is it? So when you’re having a bad day, don’t act on your emotions. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t let your kids ‘have it’.

3. Don’t make any significant decisions. The worst time to make decisions is when you’re upset or feeling down. Your emotions will lead you to decide things you’ll regret. So just decide not to decide anything that day.

4. Divert to accomplish a short term win. Chances are you can accomplish something positive, even if you don’t feel like it. Even do something mundane like clean out your inbox. Or straighten your house. While your head may not be in the right space to slay any big dragons, divert yourself to something manageable so you can find at least one or two short term wins. You still need to earn your keep on a bad day.

5. Confide and pray. You should tell somebody about your bad day. Just tell the right person. Don’t trot your frustrations out on your Facebook page (one day your kids will read how frustrated you were with them). Chances are you are going to want to tell the wrong person. Instead, talk to a close friend or your spouse (appropriately). And pray. My prayer on bad days sometimes is as simple as “God, this is your family as much as it is mine. Get me through this. Help me to see my part in all this.”  That’s a decent prayer on a bad day.

6. Get a great night’s sleep. Don’t dismiss this. Sleep is so important. Go to bed early. Shoot for 8 hours. You will feel so much better in the morning. Watch what happens to your emotions when you sleep for eight hours. They get healthier. You’ll be much better positioned to deal with lingering issues when you’re well rested. And chances are your funk will disappear.

Naturally, if your bad day becomes a bad week and bad season, you may have something else going on.  Get some help and tackle it that way.

But for a normal “bad day,” these strategies help me (and my wife and kids) a lot.

What helps you get through a bad day? What doesn’t? Leave a comment!

5 Ways People Pleasing Can Undercut Your Parenting

Monday, January 27th, 2014

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Ever been called a people pleaser?

If you think you have no people pleasing tendencies, just remember how you felt the last time someone criticized you.

Not fun, is it?

Even those of us who don’t think we’re people pleasers feel the pressure to want to please people some of the time.

Here’s why this matters. We bring everything we are directly into our parenting. . .so it’s important for us to be well aware of our people pleasing tendencies.

People pleasing can undermine your parenting in significant ways. In fact, unchecked, it can be detrimental to your kids—despite your best intentions.

It starts with the best of intentions.

In life, you end up becoming a people pleaser because you:

can’t stand the thought of letting people down, so you tell them what they want to hear.

lack the self-confidence to do what you think you need to do, so you don’t do it.

desperately want to make everyone happy, so you try.

And once the pattern is established, it very naturally repeats itself at home.

  • Your son cries for an hour before he goes to bed…so how can you not hold him? (I have tons of personal experience on this one…well, on all the examples in this list…)
  • Your daughter doesn’t like vegetables, so it’s easier to make another meal.
  • Your son gives you a puppy face when he’s on the timeout chair, and you melt and let him off, unable to stand the thought of disappointing him.
  • Your daughter tells you you’re the “worst parent in the world” for not letting her sleep over, and you back down.
  • You really want your kids to have what they want, so you blow the budget on their birthday even when you can’t afford it.

Who doesn’t feel pressure in situations like that?

The intentions are noble. You want to help your kids.

But are you?

5 Ways People Pleasing Undermines Your Parenting

If you’re on the impossible quest to please your kids, there are at least five ways your people-pleasing will harm your kids (and yourself):

1. You will Forget that You’re the Parent.

Sometimes it’s so hard to remember that we are the parent, not a friend. As my friend Jeff Brodie, a long time student pastor, has often told me, he’s never met a 15 year old who’s looking for a 45 year old best friend.

You’re the parent. That means there are seasons where your approval rating will drop to historic lows with your kids, but unlike a politician, you can’t be unelected. You’re in this for life. The right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing.

2. You will forget your kids really don’t have a grasp on what’s good for them.

If you had asked me what I wanted to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner when I was 5, and I would have told you ice cream.

What we want and what we need are two different things.

Do I even need to say what could happen if you try to please your 14 year old by giving into all her demands? Didn’t think so. (See point #1.)

3. It will cause conflict with your spouse.

If you’re trying to please your kids, it will almost always come at the expense of your relationship with your spouse. Especially if your spouse is happy to be the parent.

One of the best gifts you can give your kids is a healthy marriage with parents who operate on the same page. When one parent goes rogue and starts to side with the kids in an effort to please them, good things rarely happen.

4. It becomes harder to hear the voice of God. 

When you’re trying to please the ever so-fickle voice of your children, it will become more difficult to hear the voice of God. You will start to delete clear teaching in favor of what they’ll like.

Worse, your child might even begin to think that God only ever wants what they want.

5. Nobody’s actually that happy.

You and I have heard it a thousand times: the person who tries to please everyone ultimately pleases no one.

Here’s why that’s true: When you try to please several constantly shifting voices, you can’t follow a course that is clear, or hone in on a noble or even singular purpose.

Eventually, you look back on your child-raising years wishing you had more of a background. And your kids might just end up wishing their mom and dad had more backbone and guided them in the direction they should have gone.

Well, those are five good reasons.  But here’s one more. At least it’s true of me when I’ve gone too far into people pleasing mode: you end up not liking who you’ve become. You look in the mirror and ultimately wonder what you’ve done, no matter how compelling the logic might have seemed in the moment.

So what should you do?

It’s not that hard. Do what you believe to be right. Be a parent.

And the biggest surprise?

After some tense seasons growing up, your kids might eventually tell you—at some point in their twenties or thirties—that they’re deeply grateful for the way you steered them in the right direction.

Imagine that.

That might even ultimately make you, and them, happy.

What are you learning about any people pleasing tendencies you have?

 

Dear Discouraged Parent : Read this Before you Implode

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

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Dear Discouraged  Parent,

You’re not alone. Parenting is difficult at times. In fact, if you’re really working at parenting, there’s rarely a season that isn’t filled with challenges.

After seeing too many parents struggle with discouragement, I felt like I needed to write this note.

Here’s the bottom line: I feel you.

None of us really feel like the most successful parent on earth. I don’t. You don’t.

Even though I have so much to be thankful for about my family, I still spend too many days wondering whether I’m missing something or not making enough progress.

There’s so much weight on your shoulders. You know what I mean:

  • Knowing you’re actually responsible for another human being
  • Navigating big challenges on less sleep than a human ever really should
  • Watching your kids go through relational challenges and not being able to fix them
  • Working so hard on one character issue only to see another one emerge instead
  • Losing your temper when you swore you’d never do it again
  • Being so focused on parenting well that your marriage suffers
  • Feeling like you’re always under a microscope
  • Not being where you thought you would be at this point in your family life
  • Uncertainty. Constant uncertainty.
  • Knowing your family isn’t perfect and wishing it would be but knowing it won’t ever be
  • Feeling let down by others
  • Letting yourself down
  • Believing other families have it easier than you do

And on and on and on it goes…

This is the side of parenting they never teach you in birthing classes.

So I want you to know something.  The discouragement you feel inside is real and coming from somewhere. Think about this and let this sink in for a while today:

“The happiest & healthiest people are those whose expectations meet reality.”

What do you do with that?

Here are four questions every discouraged parent would benefit from asking themselves:

1. What do I expect my family to give me? 

No family will ever give you ultimate peace, fulfillment, joy, purpose, or anything like that. Neither will a spouse.  If you are expecting that from being a parent or spouse, you won’t find it.

If you are constantly discouraged or frustrated about your family, it might be because you are hoping it will give you something only God can give you.

2. Who am I trying to please? 

You will never please any of your family members fully. It’s impossible because we are imperfect people & they are as well.

If you are trying to please other people every day, you will be miserable.  You can never keep up with anyone else’s expectations. And you’ll let yourself, your family and ultimately God down.

3. How honest am I being with myself & others? 

If you stuff your personal failures and missed expectations instead of dealing with them, you will either implode or explode one day. Discouragement often comes from stuffing things we should just admit and deal with.

If you have a problem with another person, be completely honest about it.  If you are mad at somebody, tell someone (if they’re an adult or old enough….tell them).

If somebody let you down, let them know.  If you have let yourself down, tell a friend.

Lying and pretending leads to misery.  Just say it. I have done this numerous times, and it’s terrible at first, but so freeing in the end. And you know what? Much of the time you end up saving the relationship.  I don’t know where my family would be if I hadn’t practiced this. 

4. What lie am I believing? 

Gurus make it seem so easy don’t they? Go to their conference or buy their book and all your problems disappear. Did you ever buy into that lie at some point?

Chances are you thought being a parent would be easier. Well, that’s just a lie.  If you identify the lie you are believing, you will crush some of the discouragement.  The lie that marketers sell you about family is really killing your spirit. Even if you look in the Bible, you’ll discover that relationships are rarely easy.

Your discouragement isn’t just discouragement.  It’s a symptom of something deeper going on.  If you want to create a healthy culture in your family, you can’t live mad all the time.  You can’t be frustrated 24/7.  Take a step today and answer these questions honestly.

I believe it will help you beat your discouragement and get back on the growth track.

So tell me, have you ever been discouraged as a parent or (or am I the only one?). 

How have you dealt with it, healthily or otherwise?

P.S. The problem of discouragement isn’t unique to parents. I’ve adapted this letter from a post my good friend Casey Graham wrote to discouraged business owners.  I also adapted a version to church leaders on my personal blog. Seems parents,  leaders, business owners might have a lot in common.

Why Kids Should Always Ask Why

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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Your kids are back in school for another semester, and you’re resolved once again to help them excel. You want them to learn. To grow. To master knowledge.

If you bring things back to their simplest form, knowledge often answers the question: “What?”

What do I need to know to do well on the test, to excel in this subject, or even to grow my faith? What dates/formulas/beliefs do I need to learn?  At some level, everything from the alphabet to Bible stories gets processed through the lens of “what.”

It can be easy to leave it there. But there might be a danger in doing so.

Knowledge only really comes alive when you take it a step further and ask a next question. Sometimes this question gets asked. Sometimes it doesn’t. At times it’s even dismissed. But it shouldn’t be.

The question:  ”Why?

When you only ask “What?” you tend to get an accumulation of information. And that’s helpful. After all, learning your times tables or being able to recall the basic story of King David’s life is helpful. But knowledge gets sticky, knowledge gets relevant and knowledge comes alive when you consistently ask, “Why?”

You can almost see people learn forward when they start to ask questions like: Why does this matter? Why is this relevant? Why is this event recorded? Why is this being taught?

Ultimately, knowing why you’re learning something becomes a great motivator for continued learning.

I remember being in ninth grade and learning some basic high school math. I could figure out why I needed to know basic math. But I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I needed to know the Pythagorean theorem. So as high school advanced, I dropped math. And now I wished I hadn’t. I realized if I would have been able to answer the “why” question, I might have persisted in math.

Both of my sons have persisted in math, and one is now beginning to write code for computers. He figured out the “why.”

What’s true in school is also true in faith. When we know why, we are more likely to get passionate about the what. It helps complete a great learning process.

Here’s what’s likely true. If your kids are young, they’re likely asking you why far too many times.

“We’re going to the grocery store.”

“Why?”

“Because we need food.”

“Why?”

“Because our bodies need food.”

“Why?”

Well, I won’t finish the conversation because you know where it’s going. If your kids are young, push through the annoyance at all the “why’s” because underneath it is an interesting series of questions.

If your kids are in their teen years, they may have stopped asking why. Raise the question for them. Help them connect the dots between the what and the why.

Ultimately, we become most passionate about the things we understand. And when it comes to knowledge, “Why?” is the question that unlocks all that and more.

What are you doing to encourage your kids to ask and answer the question, “Why?”

5 Ways to Fight Entitlement in Your Kids

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Here’s another favorite from the archives:

Like most parents, you feel this terrible tug.

On the one hand, you want to provide your child with every advantage. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like when you do that, you’re feeding an incredibly unhealthy characteristic in our culture.

For whatever reason, we’re living in the midst of an entitlement epidemic. Probably more than any other generation before us, our generation feels as though we have a right to things that used to be defined as wants, or even privileges.

Here’s how the cycle starts:

On the day your child is born, it’s easy to decide as a parent that you need to give your child every advantage.

So you compete. You made sure he had bright colors in his nursery and exactly the right kind of mobile to stimulate his brain, but now it’s an all out frenzy to ensure your preschooler can swim, skate, hit a ball, paint frameable art, read, write and speak classical Greek before his fourth birthday.

And don’t worry, because by the time you’re done with the race to kindergarten, the culture has taken over feeding the frenzy. Your child has now seen enough advertisements and made enough friends to believe that her every desire not only can be met, but should be met. The boots that every other stylish kid is wearing are not a privilege, they are a right. Or so you’ve been told.

And then other inalienable rights emerge: the right to a phone for texting, iPod touches, Facebook and so much more.

Somewhere in the mix, you found yourself realizing that you are tempted to pay your kids for every “act of service” rendered in the house, from emptying the trash to picking up each sock.

And you realize something is desperately wrong. And you would be correct in that.

So, what do you do to fight entitlement in yourself and in your kids? Here are five suggestions:

1.  Be clear on wants and needs. I joke with my kids that we owe them shelter, food and clothes, and I would be happy to slip a pizza under the door to their cardboard house any time they wish (they are 16 and 20, don’t try this with your 5-year-old, but you get the point.) Take time to explain what is actually a need and what a want is. Culture will never explain it to them. You need to.

2.  Reclaim special occasions. There is nothing wrong with not buying wants for your kids in every day life. Save the special things for special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and the like. You don’t need to indulge for no reason. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

3.   Set a budget and let them choose. With back to school shopping and seasonal purchases, we started setting a budget with our kids early and then let them choose how they would spend it. They become much more frugal shoppers when all of a sudden they realize that money is limited and they can get more if they shop around.

4.  Establish an allowance and expectations. An allowance is a great way for a child to learn responsibility. We’ve encouraged our kids to give 10 percent of every thing they earn, save 10 percent, and live off the rest (the formula gets more restrictive the closer they get to college). Explain what gets covered and not covered out of that allowance.

5.  Be clear about what you will never pay them for. There are some things that you do because you are a part of the family. You can decide where that lands in your home. Make a list of responsibilities that no one gets paid for that you do because you are part of a family. To help with this, why not ask your kids what a reasonable list looks like? Involving them will help them own the decision. Second, make sure you follow up. And hold them responsible for what you all agreed to do. Otherwise you will be tempted to pay for everything or just roll your eyes daily and do it yourself.

Approaches like these can help raise kids who see life as a series of privileges, who live gratefully, and realize their responsibility to others.

How is our entitlement culture impacting your family? And how have you learned to battle it?

An Imperfect Christmas

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

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It’s no secret that Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Our efforts to create the perfect Christmas experience for our families can potentially sabotage the entire season.

At this point, all the ‘how to avoid stress’ tips from the I’ve-got-everything-together  people seem too little way too late:

  • Do your shopping early.(Some of you are reading this on your phone at the mall.)
  • Eat in moderation. (But you’ve already been to six Christmas parties.)
  • Spend less. (You tried. Really tried.)
  • Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything. (But how could you say ‘no’?)

The truth no matter how well we plan, there is still so much stress associated with the holidays. This is incredibly good news! Especially given that it’s Christmas. The stress you’re feeling this Christmas (or the grief, or the emptiness) is exactly why Christmas arrived in the first place.

Jesus arrived on the planet not because we had it all together, but because we didn’t.

Jesus wasn’t born into a world where everyone got along perfectly.

Jesus didn’t come for us because we were exceptionally well organized and on budget.

Jesus didn’t come into a world where families were perfectly behaved.

Jesus didn’t move into a world where people never doubted.

He came into a world that desperately needed GRACE.

What if your imperfect Christmas is actually a front row seat to grace?

Grace is a much misunderstood concept. It’s never earned. It’s not deserved. Because if it were, it wouldn’t be grace. Grace is simply undeserved love. Love that came to you not because you’ve got it oh-so-together, but because you don’t.

That’s Christmas. That’s the Gospel.

And if you look hard enough, it’s actually in the tension this Christmas where you might have the most opportunities to see grace:

with that incredibly difficult family member at Christmas dinner.

with your kids who forget it’s not just about the presents.

with the homeless person asking for a few dollars.

with yourself when you realize you don’t have it all together.

In your exhaustion, grace comes when we need it most….And it never runs out.

Sure, it would be nice to plan a little better next year. But that should never kill the joy, the power or the message of Christmas. In fact, it underscores it.

The surprise of Christmas is this: it speaks to us in our weakness even more than it speaks to us in our strength. And because of your imperfect Christmas, you  have a front row seat to see what Christmas is actually all about.

 

Don’t Be Late For Dinner

Monday, November 25th, 2013

 

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Ever notice there’s something special about a meal? Think about it:

You might have gotten engaged during or after a fine meal. (I did!)

Your best dates are often centered around a favorite meal or place. (Even if it’s your favorite burger joint.)

Your best family memories are built around food (from Christmas, to Thanksgiving, to birthdays, to summer barbecues).

You ‘ve had some of the most memorable family conversations around the kitchen table. (For better or for worse.)

One of the central elements of the Christian faith is based around a meal. (Think about that…)

I know it wasn’t easy to make the time to eat together when my kids were young. We were busy. The kids were busy. But we made it a priority. If we hadn’t. . .

We never would have heard my oldest son complain that the purple cabbage we served him looked like chopped up Barney skin (and he wasn’t eating it).

My kids never would have tricked me into downing a tablespoon of dry cinnamon…and almost choking to death. We all now think it’s hilarious but seriously…don’t try this at home.

We would have missed so much of the meaningful, heartfelt conversation that happened over the course of their first two decades of life.

Even now that they’re 21 and 17, some of the best times we have are over food…even when it’s as simple as a Starbucks or an ice cream.

You know what we did over those meals? We built a tribe. A sense of family and community that runs deep. Very deep.  It created a sense of belonging for all of us and has set the foundation for our family for the rest of our lives.

There are a thousand reasons to skip meal time or even resent it (who has the time to cook?)

But there’s one good reason to pursue it: some of your very best moments and deepest relationships in life happen around the table.

It’s a little surprising to realize that the importance of meals is actually borne out by research.

In fact, studies have shown that families that eat dinner together five times a week or more show are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems or alcohol and substance dependencies. They also tend to perform better academically than their peers who frequently eat alone or away from home.

One of the best ways you can connect your family with each other and with others is to have meaningful mealtimes together. No, you don’t have to cook every night.

What matters most is the company you keep when you share a meal.

  • So sit down at the table with your kids tonight.
  • Throw a dinner party next week.
  • Share a table with some interesting friends or extended family.

And over time, you’ll connect them in a way that can change so much.

As you head into Thanksgiving, remember that there’s more at stake than just a feast. You’ll be gathering with your tribe, deepening that sense of belonging that somehow gets strengthened even more deeply when you’re sharing food.

 

 

How to Help Your Kids Live Out Their Story

Friday, November 8th, 2013

plane (1 of 1)

Every family’s got a story.

When my dad was sixteen, he left home.

It sounds strange by today’s standards, but he actually wasn’t running away. Just the opposite. He was running into his future

At sixteen, he left his small town in North Holland for the big city of Amsterdam to find work and his future as a young man. Then at nineteen, he got on a plane to come to Canada where he saw even more opportunity.

When I talk to my dad about it now, he says it was hard on his parents. His mom and dad didn’t want him to leave, but they understood his desire to find his own way.

When he stepped on the plane at nineteen in 1959, his parents had an even harder time. They honestly thought they would never see each other again. It was a distinct possibility given how expensive travel was back then. The fairwell was unbelievably emotional for everyone.

As a father myself, I can only imagine how hard it would have been for my grandparents. Can you imagine letting your son or daughter go at such a young age, thinking you would never see them again?

As in never?

What would you do?

My grandfather and grandmother did something amazing. They let my dad live his story, not theirs.

They gave up control, protection, and let God write a story in my dad’s life that was independent of their own.

I’m kind of grateful for that. When he arrived in Canada as a single young man, he met my mom. Without that, my life would have been very different. Well actually, it just wouldn’t have been. . .period.

My dad is one of my heroes. He actually did build a new life, not just for him, but for many others. He was not only a great father, but he ran a company for years, served his entire life in the local church and has left a great legacy of character for his kids and grandkids.

I’m so glad my grandparents swallowed hard and let their son pursue his vision.

So, now the question. Would you?

In an era of overprotective, slightly controlling parenting, I wonder how many stories like my dad’s aren’t being written. Not because kids aren’t ready to write a story of their own choosing, but because parents are too afraid or unwilling to let them go or  take risks.

Great plot lines invite things like drama, risk, mission, and calling. All the things that make parents gulp (and gasp).

And by the way, my dad did see his parents again. He eventually had enough money to go back more than a few times. I even went to Holland with my dad to meet them before they passed away.

As you think about how you might help your kids connect with their own story, here are three things to remember:

1. Prepare yourself now to release them one day.
2. Understand that God has your kids on a journey from dependence to independence.
3. Let them lead (without rescuing them) today to prepare them for tomorrow.


Is there anything you need to let go of today to help create a better future for your child?