1. Pray for them. Prayer is powerful. Spending time in prayer is a magnificent, immense, beautiful gift.
2. Make sacrifices for them. Whether you are in a season where you can fast all day or you’re in a season where due to health (even like in my case where I’m breastfeeding and pregnant), fasting from an unnecessary but pleasurable treat like your evening snack or a regular fufu drink is still a fast and can be offered up for a family’s intentions and needs. The only gift greater than prayer is prayer combined with sacrifice.
3. Compliment them. I walked into my holy hour at our chapel last week and after saying “hi” to Jesus, I sat down and the person with the holy hour before me said, “I just want to tell you your kids are always so well-behaved. You have a beautiful family and it’s so nice to see a big family. They are really good. You and your husband are great parents.” Do you know how long this compliment has nourished and energized me? I’ll give you a clue. I’m still thinking about it in any and every hard moment a full week later. No kidding. When the three year old throws a tantrum in our living room or a preteen gives me a sassy look, Ed’s words come to mind, and they energize me and strengthen me.
It’s exhausting to swim against the tide and raise kids with moral values in a morally nihilistic world.
It’s really isolating and super tiring. Compliments really go along way in strengthening our spiritual muscle. They encourage us to keep swimming against the current of majority culture. It’s like training for a sport day-after-day and winning the big game after a discouraging season as underdogs.
4. Invite but do not set expectations that take a family’s time or energy away from their domestic church (their family of procreation). If you are a grandparent and your adult children have their own children now, it is NOT their responsibility to obey you but rather it’s their responsibility to protect and educate the children God has entrusted to them.
Listen, there’s only so much time or energy we have to shape and sanctify young children. Routines are vital and expecting families to attend events, even events with your siblings, might put stress on them. Be understanding and supportive when they decline an invitation.
5. Do not give unsolicited advice unless there is an imminent safety concern. That the children are not on your latest fad diet is not an imminent safety concern nor is the family’s toilet paper choice or dinnerware style. It’s like that old saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all” only it’s requesting you “stop and think” as cartoon character Dora says.
Call out your mental map and ask yourself,
- Will my advice energize these parents or burden them?
- Will it feed them with the praise and encouragement they need or will it discourage them and drain them?
- Will it remind them that God gave them the tools they need to parent the children He gave them or will it echo the voice of the Evil One who is constantly whispering that they’re inadequate in their parenting?
6. Even if a parent asks for your advice, it is wise to be slow, thoughtful and prayerful about what you share.
The parenting mistakes I regret most are all the result of taking advice of someone I trusted. I think what eats me up about it most is if I had followed my gut, the nudge of the Holy Spirit, and not the insistent advice of a trusted person, it would have been the right choice for me and the children God gave me to parent.
Wait a minute. I am *not* saying that your experience is not valuable or that you should refrain from sharing your experience. No, you can certainly share your own experience or what worked for you, BUT just because your experience worked for you does not mean it will work for others.
So, even in your experience-sharing, remind inquiring parents that they know what’s best for their child(ren) and let your words empower them to trust themselves and go to God for help.
7. Do not invite children to attend events, sleepovers or play dates of any form without privately getting permission from their parents first.
And I want to stress the importance of asking their parents privately, NOT in front of the children. God chose them to parent these children, not you. So, for G-d’s sake, have some respect.
8. If you offer to do something and your offer is accepted (first by the parents, as stated in number 7), you’ve made a commitment. Set a date and honor that commitment even if you have opportunities to do other things.
9. If you really want to help, ask how, offer some options, and then follow-up with action if they accept your offer. If you don’t want to help, don’t ask/offer. It’s really as simple as that.
10. Do not give children or family members “things” without asking permission (once again, in private) from their parents first. Most families have a system for “stuff” and if you give unnecessary stuff, it creates clutter AND is wasteful. If you feel the need to give something, ask for ideas and then LISTEN to them.
My in-laws are great at this! For holidays like Christmas, we love to ask for a family gift from them (like a membership to a museum). This year as our Christmas gift, we received a Science Museum Membership which has encouraged us to spend family time together and learn/teach. It’s awesome! We have been there four times in the past month, even though it’s an hour drive for us, now that we don’t live in the city.
And it has added zero clutter or goodwill trips to our already-full life.
*Bonus: I can’t believe I forgot to include this is the fundamental ten but (privately, not in front of the kids) offer to take their kids for an evening or even better, an overnight, so they can have time away to recharge.
You guys, it’s vital!!!! We are grateful our teenagers take our kids so we can get away for an evening as a couple but boy oh boy, it would be so nice to go out to dinner and have a night of uninterrupted sleep.
Parents, if you lack that support system, we recently decided to give that time away to each other. Dylan sent me on a pilgrimage to Mexico.
It was amazing! I hope to send him away to rejuvenate somehow, somewhere too. Until then, we will continue to focus on St. Charbel’s words of advice and guard the warmth of our family.
St. Charbel writes, “The Family is the basis of the Lord’s plan, and all the forces of evil aim to demolish it, because they know that in destroying it they will shake the foundations of God’s plan . . . ”
The sanctity and peace of families is fundamental to God’s plan. If you are in a season of life where you aren’t overwhelmed by your own young kids but don’t have resources (time or money) to share, say a prayer for families today. Prayer is so powerful and I am sincere when I say that it is the best gift.
St. Charbel continues, “Uphold your families and guard them against the grudges of the Evil One by the presence of God. Protect them and preserve them by prayer and dialogue, by understanding and forgiveness, by sincerity and fidelity, and most important by listening.“
“Listen to one another with your ears, with your heart, with your mouth, and with the palms of your hands. Keep your hands far from the hustle and bustle of the world, because it will sweep away and destroy everything like a raging storm and the violence of waves when they come back into a house. Safeguard the warmth of the family, because all the warmth of the world will not make up for it.”
I love Saint Charbel so much and actually wrote the above quote out as a reminder to be PRESENT (get off my phone) and LISTEN to my children.
It’s hard when immersed in the hustle and bustle of family life, but as St. Charbel writes, “All the warmth in the world will not make up for it.” There is NO substitute.
God bless you all and hope you’re having a great week.