Archives

Family Togetherness

Familytogetherness-2

 

If you were to ask either Doug or me what has been the single biggest blessing in our lives, I think we both would unanimously and enthusiastically reply, “Our kids!”

Being the parents of five children has been … shall we say … an active existence. If you had asked me back when they were small what “family togetherness” looks like I would have said, “Crazy!” These days, I get asked all the time, “How did you do it, raising all those kids?” Frankly, I’m not quite sure! I certainly don’t have the energy today that I did back then. (I’m sure glad we started as young as we did. Funny how your energy fades as you age. The spirit may be willing, but the body, well …)

Family97

Our brood in autumn of 1997. 

I’m grateful that our now (mostly) grown kids have become such great friends of ours and of each other. They are all starting to move out in their own directions in life: college, careers, travel, marriage, starting families, etc.  But despite distance and schedules, staying connected to one another is still a high priority to all of us.

Families are incredibly important for a number of reasons, no matter how old you are (and don’t let your teens try to persuade you otherwise). For one, the security and support that come from being in a healthy, loving family are a foundational part of God’s design for humans. We need each other! We need the belonging and community. We need the opportunities to practice patience, kindness, and generosity. We need the “iron sharpening iron” effect of learning to live in harmony with (other) imperfect humans. There’s no better place to learn these graces than in a family.

Our family has always found that a great way to maintain family togetherness is to play together—to hang out, have fun, and do things we enjoy in each other’s company. That was a lot easier when everyone lived with Mom and Dad. Nowadays, since we aren’t all under the same roof anymore, we have to find new ways to cultivate family togetherness, like our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away where we rent a lodge in the mountains and the whole family “retreats” there for a long weekend of games, swimming, fishing, and food. Everyone has to take a turn preparing a meal, because cooking together is another great way to build family togetherness.

And guess what? It’s still crazy. 🙂

 

FamilytogethernessSome of the crew hot tubbin’ during our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away.

Advertisements

Summer Before the Launch: Tips for Parents of Graduates

Friends Carrying Cardboard Boxes In Front Of New House

Note: This article of mine was published on FoxNews.com.  

 

Graduation season is here and excitement is everywhere! Neighborhoods are being marked by balloons in school colors indicating “the party is here,” and each weekend in June streets are lined with the cars of well wishers making the rounds at open houses.

But what happens after the diplomas are handed out and the celebrations are done? Can parents breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief? Not so fast.

Many onlookers believe that most high school graduates are not fully prepared for “the real world.” A Google search on “preparing teens for graduation” would have us believe the focus should be on transcripts, GPAs, college admission requirements, work and community service experiences, and job applications. But with college graduation rates lagging and employers complaining how woefully underprepared young people are for the demands of the workplace, we have to question whether we’re missing the forest for the trees in preparing teens for adulthood.

It’s a time of high anxiety, for sure—both for parents and teens. Teens are experiencing the stress of losing their comfortable support systems, their friends are taking off in different directions, and they’re feeling the impending pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. Parents are asking questions like,” Have I taught them everything they need to know? Will they make good decisions? How will our relationship change? Are they ready for independence?” That’s a lot of stress—for everyone!

Realistically, parents can’t squeeze 18 years of “what might we have missed?” into the last six weeks before the launch. However, with some strategic effort, they can make vital last-minute deposits of wisdom and encouragement, and position their graduates for success in their new environments:

Destination Preparation:

  1. Talk with teens about the changes they will experience and some successful strategies for navigating them, particularly coping and relational skills.
  2. Help them plan ahead for ways to meet new people and reassure them that it takes time and trust to build new friendships. What are their “must haves” in a true friend? The most common derailer for young people after the launch is loneliness, whether they are on a college campus or living at home while their friends go off to college.
  3. Teach them time management and organization strategies. All too soon they’ll be managing their own schedules with loads of distractions. Equip them for this challenge.
  4. Point out that they’ll have to earn the right to be heard, respected, and granted privileges; they’re not “entitled” to any of that. Encourage them to apply their best efforts in every arena and be a standout in terms of character, teamwork, and work ethic.

Relationship Preparation:

  1. Build an enduring relationship that will transition from parent-child to adult-young adult. Carefully monitor your “relationship capital” with your teen. (Do you have a positive or negative balance in your “account?”) Time your delicate conversations strategically when they’re willingly engaged.
  2. Discuss communication expectations for after they leave home. If your young adult will be away at college, how often will you expect to hear from each other and under what circumstances? If he/she will still be living at home, what will be the new, more “adult” boundaries and expectations now that he/she is no longer a high school student? Being realistic and respectful on both sides is the key.
  3. Consider a weekly meeting at a coffee shop (neutral territory) to discuss the upcoming transition. Go through a book together that can help raise pertinent questions and guide your conversations, such as What I Wish I Knew at 18 by Dennis Trittin (LifeSmart Publishing). Third party voices are especially powerful at this time.

Transition Preparation:

  1. If you haven’t already, begin to incrementally release control by allowing more decision-making freedom and holding back on correcting, reminding, and overly “helping.” This is the time for you to move from driver to passenger seat in your teen’s life.
  2. Speak positively about your expectation of their success and your unwavering belief in them. Avoid too much talk of “losing my baby” or anticipating out loud the tremendous sense of loss you will feel; this can erode their confidence and lead to feelings of guilt over leaving home.
  3. Celebrate a rite of passage to mark the transition between childhood and adulthood, such as a simple ceremony, special gift, or letter of affirmation. We aren’t always good about this in American culture, but it can help tremendously in terms of empowering young adults and releasing them with blessing and confidence into the next season of their lives.

Importantly, seek to understand your graduate’s feelings about the impending changes he or she will be experiencing, often alternating between anticipation and apprehension. Don’t take it personally if they want to spend more time with friends before they head off to their destination. They may vacillate between wanting to cling to the last moments of childhood, and wanting to rush headlong into the “freedom” of adulthood.

Give them space either way. There will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue in “real time” as they encounter the pressures and responsibilities of adult life. This last summer at home, if navigated strategically, can pave the way for those future conversations as parents build a strong relational foundation with their young adult. That’s a win for everyone!

 

 

The Launch of “The Launch!”

Launch Cove Web Res

Great news!  My new book on parenting teens is here! Co-authored by What I Wish I Knew at 18 author Dennis Trittin and myself, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World is now available for you to order, just in time for Christmas.

We never envisioned writing a parenting book when we began collaborating on What I Wish I Knew at 18. But, through our work with educators, counselors, business leaders, employers, and families, we regularly hear feedback about the training today’s kids are not getting, and what’s needed—from the perspectives of those receiving the kids we are raising – i.e., employers, schools, colleges, and youth organizations.

Click here for sample of Introduction, Chapter One, and Video Trailer

As part of parent communities ourselves, we’re also keenly aware of the emotions and concerns that surround the launching and releasing of our children into society—out of our arms and into the real world. Questions about whether we’ve covered the bases, built an enduring relationship, and set them up for a smooth transition keep us awake at night! All of these reasons are precisely why we wrote Parenting for the Launch. Here’s how you can order:

Click to order

Or call 1-800-BOOKLOG

Use coupon code P4TL

only $12.99 (regularly $18.95)

now through December 31, 2013.

It’s our joy and privilege to serve other parents, who, like us, want to set their children up for every success in life. And, it’s an honor to help educators build stronger bridges with parents. We hope you enjoy the book, spread the word to others, and join us on our journey at www.parentingforthelaunch.com!

Care Packages for Our College Kids

I was delighted when my friend Angie emailed me and some other mothers of freshmen college students, and suggested we get together to make care packages for our kids.

Each mom would bring one item and a note of encouragement for each student. Angie would pick up Priority Mail boxes at the Post Office and we’d get together for coffee to put the packages together assembly-line style. What a great idea!

It was a wonderful time!  Here’s what it looked like:

collegecare-2

These were my contribution.  I gave the girls fancy bobby pins, note cards, and a Butter Finger, and the boys got fake eyebrows (it was the week before Halloween) and Milk Duds.

collegecare-3I put them in cute bags I found at Target, with little notes attached. On the  girls’ notes I wrote  the Scripture, “The Lord your God is with you,” (Zephaniah 3:17), and on the boys’ notes I wrote Proverbs 15:13, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful”–keep smiling!

collegecare-4We lined up the boxes and everyone dropped their items in each. Here is Jane putting in her contributions.

collegecare-5

It was a lot of fun!

collegecare-6

Susan brought fun and fuzzy socks.

collegecare-7

We took time to pray together for our kids and sent the boxes off with love and blessings.

collegecare-8

Everyone took their own boxes to put in the mail.

I hope our kids realize how blessed they are to have such a wonderful community of moms supporting them!