By: Brendt and Andy Blanks
It’s not news to any of us that we live in a fast-paced world, and one of the main victims of our mile-a-minute lifestyle is family. Being intentional about creating a healthy family life is vital to our children’s spiritual, mental, and emotional development. Think about it in terms of an ecosystem. We have the ability to create so much of the landscape upon which our children live life. For us, this means striving to create an atmosphere of health, an atmosphere that’s conducive to both grow and fun.
We’ve got a lot to learn, and we’ve certainly tried stuff that didn’t work. But we’ve also had some “wins” here and there, and we wanted to pass them on.
Here’s what we do that’s been effective at creating this healthy family landscape.
1. Practice Presence In The Midst Of Unpredictability
Consistency helps children feel grounded. But if you’re like us, every day is different. With four active children, we don’t have the luxury of always eating meals together, or even being at the same events. That’s why it’s vital for us to be fully “present” (completely attentive mentally, emotionally, and physically) when we’re actually in the same place together.
2. Always Be Teaching
Shaping our children’s worldview and teaching them to be discerners of culture is an ongoing process. The discussion never stops, whether it’s building on what they’re learning at church, or discussing why the woman on the Victoria’s Secret billboard is in her underwear (lol). Study after study shows that parents are the key influencers of their children’s spiritual identity. That’s why we’re always looking to teach.
3. Spend One-On-One Time With Your Children
One-on-one time, especially if you have multiple children, is vital in building lasting bonds with your children. Take them to breakfast a few times a month, or to a movie once every few weeks. Hang out. Have fun. Shower them with encouragement. Be sure to allow them space to talk about them. During these times, make them the focus of all your attention.
4. Invest In Your Spouse In Front Of Your Children
Let your children see you accept your spouse’s influence. Let them see you work through disagreements respectfully. Let them see you living out the fruits of the Spirit. We make sure that we reinforce the notion with our children that we will always be committed to each other and to our family. We try hard to reinforce over and over again what a Christ-centered marriage looks like.
5. Valuing Shared Experiences Versus Valuing Stuff
If you look at our budget, you’ll notice that a higher percentage of our expendable income is spent on experiences, not stuff. Our calendar backs this up. For us, it’s simple: our kids have enough. One more [fill-in-the-blank with clothes, electronics, sporting equipment, etc.] won’t positively shape their lives. But creating memories, both large and small, with the family will.
6. Create Traditions And Stick To Them
Traditions anchor individuals to family. Each year after we’re done decorating the Christmas tree, we turn off the lights and listen to Silent Night. We go to the same vacation spots each year. We have regular family movies nights. We do birthdays a specific way. We have family board game nights. Traditions, no matter how big or small, go a long way in building a healthy family environment.
7. Embrace Creativity
We work hard to encourage our kids’ creativity. We constantly have all types of music playing. When the girls were younger, we encouraged them to do shows for us or to make up stories. (Now they’re into calligraphy and jewelry making.) They draw pictures for the children we sponsor through Compassion International. We let them shoot videos on our camera phones. The goal is nurturing children who know how to express themselves, have fun, and even problem solve.
8. Surround Your Children With Scripture
We try to make sure God’s Word is heard and seen throughout our home. We not only read the Bible, but we have Scripture taped to our fridge, and often play praise music that is based off passages of Scripture. We can always improve in this area, but we try to keep the Bible in the front of our children’s hearts and minds each day.
9. Serving Others Is Important.
For us, this primarily happens through our church or through non-profits we are involved with. However you choose to do it, the important thing is helping children understand the impact they can have by giving of themselves to help those less fortunate than they are. Few things bring families closer than serving others together. The impact these experiences have made on our children is profound.
10. Freedom To Pursue Their Passions
We try hard to allow our children to be who they will be and to pursue what they will pursue. We have only made them participate in certain activities on a few occasions and only as a trial basis. On the other hand, we work hard to equip and encourage them to seek out independent activities that suit their personalities, even if it’s not in line with what we would choose for them.
As we mentioned, we don’t get it right all the time. And we’ve tried our share of stuff that didn’t work. But these concepts have really helped our girls develop in an environment that allows them the freedom and the opportunity to evolve into who God is making them to be.
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