For many years, Sunday dinners were a tradition in my home. Friends and family knew of our open-door policy, and on most Sunday afternoons we would crowd an average of fourteen people around a table made for seven. Seated over comforting southern food, our teens and young adults began the storytelling, endless smiles, and laughing.
I often wonder if guests thought we spoke in a foreign language or cryptic messages. You see, over the years, we have developed our own unique family culture through the many stories we have experienced together. Random book passages are inserted into sentences, movie quotes are the answers to rhetorical questions, and silly sayings from plays and poems are the norm.
Intentionally Building Relationships
In an age where the family seems disconnected more than ever and the general expectation is for teens to rebel, I am blessed to enjoy close-knit relationships with my children. As I reflect on how this happened, it’s not complicated, but it was intentional. Always thinking about how to use the time in the day to create and strengthen the bond between parent and child, I made sure to plan it!
When the kids were young, reading living books aloud was a subject in our school day. Each year, we would begin by reading through the Chronicles of Narnia. From there, we would incorporate living books that complimented our science, history, or the arts. This was by far the favorite school subject, and the kids begged for me to continue reading while they did their math.
Each afternoon, especially when the kids were younger, I would require a naptime during which they could choose to sleep or read a book quietly. This was much needed time for me to catch up on the house or simply put my feet up. I also discovered, through the conversations that followed, another means of relating and building relationships.
Having the kids tell me about what they were reading served as an educational help by testing their reading comprehension and recitation abilities. But, more importantly, I watched as their eyes lit up as I listened to what they found important and exciting. This was helpful in choosing more books or finding topics to talk about with them in order to get into their world.
During the season when we began traveling extensively, reading loud enough to be heard in the third row simply didn’t work. Instead, we invested in audiobooks that the entire family could enjoy. Our favorites, hands down, were from Chuck Black’s Kingdom and Knights of Arrethrae series. Action packed with fascinating storylines, both girls and boys enjoyed these medieval stories analogized to biblical stories and principals. Whether a long road trip or across town for tutorial classes, having a set of audiobooks in the car is a convenient way to keep the stories going.
movies and shows
Technology has afforded us the privilege of story after story, commercial free. Netflix and Amazon are affordable ways to take a break, kick your feet up, and enjoy a bit of culture from just about any time period. Taking the time to watch a season of your kids’ favorite shows can give you a unique insight into what they enjoy and the questions of life they are processing.
drama and plays
A few years back the kids began getting involved in drama, learning the art of telling a story. Through these experiences, they matured in their ability to relate to others and deal with the pressure of learning lines and performing in front of an audience. This was an opportunity for conversations about rehearsals and to commend them as they worked hard. Conveying a message of how proud a parent is to a child is key in relationship building.
Just as Jesus used stories to convey important truths to help us grow and develop, we too can share the stories found in books, movies, and plays to help our children navigate the world, understand truths, and show a love that only a parent can offer. Around the table, we share our experiences and continue to write our story together with our children, built on love and having things in common.