My watch read one o’clock.
As in, one in the early morning, I could hear the summer sounds and Grace’s soft snore. Finally.
I knew it was taking a chance to take Grace on this camping trip, but I knew allowing her to tag along would bless Sarah with a break. And of course, it would delight Grace’s, 3-year-old heart.
I tried to settle into a few hours of sleep before the boys were ready to get up for early morning fishing and reflected on the day. The review of events brought peace to my heart.
I thought of how the boys grinned ear to ear as they paddled canoes and kayaks in the cold lake waters. I pictured how Ezra ran, unhindered and free along the path and Samuel as he licked off his sticky fingers after the campfire s’mores.
Our camping trip wasn’t an official celebration; it was just an opportunity to get out and have fun making new memories. It was a break from the norm and an opportunity to connect with their hearts in a new way.
In our fourteen years of parenting, we’ve learned a lot about what not to do. But, we have learned, no matter what is going on around us, we need to create and carve out a safe place of rest, delight, and freedom for our families.
Here’s some framework we’ve followed to reach our child’s heart.
Do you have a friend or two who ask really good questions? I bet you feel great after spending an hour with them. These conversations often represent an opportunity to be heard and a place to process feelings, ideas, and dreams.
Give this same gift to your kids. It might take some deliberate thought and plan on your part, but if you are willing to dive deeper than “yes” or “no” questions, you will begin to unearth gold in your kids.
They have so much more going on than their complaints about school, arguments with siblings, and messy room. Especially as they enter their teen years, they are desperate to have a safe place to ask their questions and share what is going on in their mind.
Plan for times of fun.
Sometimes fun happens, but it has to be mapped out on the calendar more often than not, just like the camping trip. It required a few months of prep and planning, but it was worth every minute.
Maybe it’s as simple as a drive-in movie (these are on the comeback!) or a game night, but if you don’t talk about it or make space for it other things will crowd out these memorable mini-celebrations. Look at your calendar, put a 2-hour window of time to do something out of the norm with your family.
Even the best-laid plans get hindered at times. There is no formula to perfect family connection. Just like times of prayer and worship with the kids, having family fun will have its hiccups. Ask the Lord to help you to remain open-handed with the schedule or event you have in mind.
Also, your idea of fun may not be your kid’s idea of fun. Invite them into the process and if it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility, consider trying out something new.
Remember, what might bring life to your children? What can be done in together? Dream big! Out-of-the-box-thinking will spur their hearts to come alive.
Download 10 Ways to Delight in Your Kids; these are ideas we’ve used over the years with our kids.
Share with us in the comments any ideas you’ve tried recently that your kids loved.