Early in my parenting adventure, even before I gave birth, I had a few wishes for the children I would eventually bear. Heart whispers, really, things I didn’t speak out loud, hopes that informed how I parented. I suppose you could call them parenting goals, but that sounds mechanical or like a thing, when mostly they provided a framework and direction for the choices I made as a mother.
I knew the kind of mom I didn’t want to become, for one thing; and some wishes were born out of my own youth.
I wanted my home to be THE home…
- a refuge for my own children when the world snipped and snarled…
- a respite for their friends where they always felt welcome
- the opposite of my personal experience as a middle and high schooler.
I lost my mom to cancer when I was nine; my father remarried a few years later. Though I always felt loved by my parents, our home was not exactly refuge for me nor respite for my friends. It was fine, but I knew I wanted more for my own children.
One of my greatest life accomplishments is achieving this.
I’m not proud, I’m t h a n k f u l; so very grateful, that among a pile of mistakes and shortcomings, our home is some place our children and their friends want to be.
How do you make your home a refuge? A few thoughts—
- It has to be a desire of your heart. If this isn’t an important value to you, it’ll end right there. This doesn’t happen by mistake, it requires intention.
- Pray for wisdom. Pay attention to your children to determine what speaks “refuge, safety, relief” when they’ve been battered by peers, teachers, doubt and defeat. If you have more than one child, this isn’t a universal answer. The answer could be as simple as giving your undivided attention while they tell you about a bad day or baking boxed brownies for no other reason than because that's their favorite.
- Don’t nag. If you’ve become a threatening, repeating parent, they aren’t listening anyway. You’re wasting breath. Take a fresh look at how you’re trying to motivate them…if they aren’t going to change, you need to adapt your approach.
- Do not make comparisons to their siblings or their friends. Ever. And they really don’t care what you did when you were their age.
- Cook dinner as often as you can. To me, the dinner table is sacred. It is where life is exchanged and family members are nourished physically and emotionally. Let them invite their friends for dinner as often as possible, too. If you aren’t a great cook, find one or two dishes that your kids and their friends love, then determine to make those things wonderfully. The effort will be appreciated.
- Encourage them to invite their friends over after school and for sleepovers. Even if your home is tiny, friends will respond to warm hospitality.
- Have plenty of snacks in the house. If you’ve got tweens or teens, you know they like to eat junk food! Take advantage of B1G1’s; purchase a wide variety. And they REALLY like homemade treats. When I make homemade sourdough bread, friends show up I haven’t seen in forever.
- Be friendly. This is actually more difficult than it sounds on the surface; there’s a danger in being too friendly. You're not striving to become your kids’ BFFs, but to provide a place where they feel welcome, loved, encouraged…and not judged.
- Have things for them to do. As much as I despise X-Box, we finally broke down and let them get one a few years ago; and as much as I don’t get it, the boys can play side by side with their friends for hours if we let ‘em. We have a gorgeous sunroom that for years we didn’t know what to do with; decorating it the way I wanted to wasn’t within our budget, so we made do for a while. Then it became my son’s weight room, and though I didn’t like it, at least it was being used regularly. A year ago it became the ping pong room and it’s been used more than ever. Maybe it’s a pool table, maybe it’s a stack of board games or puzzles. Figure out what your t(w)eens and their friends like to do, then do your best to provide for it.
- Don't force it. The funny thing is, if my kids read the above paragraph, they'd roll their eyes. PLAY BOARD GAMES? What planet am I on?! B u t…at a party for my daughter's graduation, with tons of adults and teens in the house…I found 15 of 'em sitting on the floor playing Apples to Apples. Had I suggested that, they would've laughed me out the door. Make provision however you can but remember that leading horses/makin' 'em drink thing.
- Bite your tongue. Oh, my. A few years ago, my son got a set of drums. Which meant when he and his friends decided to start a band, practice necessarily HAD to be at our house because DRUMS DON'T TRAVEL! Sometimes, this wasn't personally convenient (<–the nicest way to say it); but when the noise pushed me to the brink of insanity, I'd take a deep breath and exhale, "They're not drinking. They aren't drugging. They aren't having sex. And I know where they are and what they're doing." Don't fall into the trap of thinking your child could never do any of those things; that's treacherous and foolish. Just remember when they're pursuing a dream that isn't practical or doesn't make sense to you, but there's no harm in it, you need to find a way to accept and support them.
The world is harsh. Kids can be mean. So what are you going to do about it?
Your turn: What One Thing can you do this week to sweeten the atmosphere of your home, to encourage your tween or teen to want to hang around a little more?