Appreciate each other’s differences
Another thing that promotes close relationships within families is to teach your children to appreciate each other’s differences. In a family, there should be a spirit of cooperation fostered rather than a spirit of competition. God has uniquely shaped each individual within your family as a special part of his creation. We’re not all supposed to be alike or do things at the same time or the same way. Point out each other’s strengths and tell your children how God created each one of them to fulfill purposes that only they can accomplish. God took precise care in all the specific details of personality, talents, desires, etc. that uniquely make up who each of your children is, and God makes no mistakes. Even in homeschooling, you will find one child learns certain subjects more easily and struggles with something else. This is normal.
Within the family, you need to teach your children that God made us all different. Through the years as the kids were growing up, I would never let the older kids say, “Oh, that is so easy!” when a younger sibling was struggling with their work. I would tell them it wasn’t as easy for them when they were younger, and even if it was a subject they excelled in there were things they struggled with. It wasn’t right to make a younger sibling feel “dumb”. When we learn to appreciate each person, we can better begin to help each one with the special “missions or exploits” God has given each to do. As I learned to teach to the passions of each child, the other kids would come to see how each one did really have special areas of interest and how God had equipped them with natural talents or personality to accomplish those interests.
Our goal should be to cultivate a kind of “team spirit” in your kids. When one child is exploring his passion in a certain pursuit then everyone else can chip in with ways God has gifted them to help each other accomplish their goals. Team spirit, or rather, family cohesiveness is learned as your family takes on projects to serve others. Whether you are taking your little ones by the hand and showing them how to serve an elderly person or a mom with a new baby or as you join your older children in projects they attempt, the closeness of your family is a natural byproduct. Even as my children have grown to adulthood and established families of their own, they still are each other’s best friends. When one is involved in any project, such as buying and fixing up an old house, or campaigning for a good candidate, or bringing meals to a family under stress or watching the kids to give them a break, or whatever, everyone else chips in and helps them out. Their loyalties are strong and their tendencies are to look for ways to help each other when a need arises.
Spend time together
The way society tends to do things is everyone participates in activities with kids his own age and although a family lives together in the same house, their social spheres are totally separate from one another. I remember this as a child. My sister, who was eight years older than I was, lived in our house, but our paths often never crossed.
One day I asked each of my children why they were glad they were homeschooled. I love what my son Matt said. “I got to really know my family, instead of just meeting up with them in the evening.” To effectively build close relationships, you have to be together! When you are supplying a mom’s taxi and constantly going to and fro, it’s a distraction to enjoying one another’s company. I had to learn to say no to lots of “good” things, both for myself and my kids. The possibilities of good activities to be involved in are limitless! Especially when your children are young, resist the pressure to have them involved in every activity or opportunity that comes along. Our goal is not to raise well rounded kids, but spiritually prepared servants of God, providentially placed within our families to first be a blessing to each other and then to reach out to bless the lives of those around us. We as parents need to come alongside our children and train them to be sensitive to the needs of first of all siblings and then others whom our lives touch. It is a lifestyle. I would caution you to remember you don’t have forever with your kids. Some days it may seem that way, but believe me, the day comes sooner than you would wish when they are grown and your opportunities for training are over. I will never regret having spent “too much time” with my children. The days went by so quickly. Once today is over, you’ll never get it back. If we are too busy for each other, we are too busy!
More next week