1) Make time for teaching your children to be discerning cultural consumers – I stole this line and some of these thoughts from a Circe Podcast I listened to a while back, but it’s something that I’ve been pondering all my Christian life. Many Christians tend to be black and white but life is full of grey areas. This is shown in how we react/relate to culture. At the far right there is the tendency to be legalistic – don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t watch movies with a rating greater than PG, or whatever. On the far left, it’s anything goes; all things are lawful for me; it’s all about grace. Teaching our children to embrace the beautiful and appreciate all that’s good in our culture without accepting it hook, line and sinker, helps them to avoid a legalistic based approach to life. This podcast discusses some ways to engage with your teens and help them with the grey areas i.e. cultivating cultural discernment.
2) Make time to read good quality literature – there are many resources available whose purpose is to teach character but one of the best is often overlooked – reading quality literature and discussing it with your children. “Should she have done that?” “Does this story remind you of another?” I used to consider that reading fiction was inferior to reading something factual, but well written fictional books can grow your soul. The characters of fiction allow us to be witness to another’s actions and see the unfolding of the chain of consequences resulting from their decisions. This can be a powerful way of teaching our children and developing their characters. Some ideas of books to use are here and here.
3) Make time to keep your own mind active – your children need your intellectual involvement. That doesn’t mean you have to know about very subject they are studying. My older children studied chemistry, physics and calculus – things I know very little about, but I kept my mind stimulated and growing in other areas. Teens especially, need to know that their teachers think, have ideas of their own and are interested in learning.
4) Make time to feed your spirit – this is one of those obvious things we already know, but our relationship with God is often one of the first things to be neglected when life gets busy. We make time for many things and sometimes the important gets overlooked by the pressing and seemingly urgent. It’s a constant adjustment I have to make and remake as the circumstances and the seasons of life change.
5) Make time to grow your soul – looking at beautiful art, listening to great composers, reading poetry – these are so easy to slot into the day. They are often referred to as extras, enrichment or the humanities; but they aren’t “extras” as that implies that we don’t need them. They do enrich our lives and make us more human. I wrote some thoughts on this here.
6) Make time for your older children – in a large family with a range of ages, babies, toddlers, teens, it’s easy to concentrate on the little ones and leave our older children to get by with not much attention. I found that as my children got into their mid to late teens that they needed time to talk and it was usually at the most inconvenient times, like when I was just about to go to bed. I have some fond memories of those conversations.
7) Make time to nurture your younger children – sometimes it’s the younger ones that get the crumbs. It is a constant balancing act to spread yourself around. This is where prayer is so important. Many times I’ve felt nudged to focus on one of my children especially and I knew that the Lord had helped me to discern the need.
1 Corinthians 15:58
8) Make time to look after yourself physically – this is often on the very bottom of the pile of things to make time for, but it gets harder the longer you leave it. I’ve had to change my approach to this many times and it was certainly harder when all my children were little and my husband worked long hours. This ties in with the two things to make time for below.
9) Make time for your relationship with your husband – marriage is spiritual warfare. We’re coming up for our 29th wedding anniversary so I can testify to that fact! I’ve always enjoyed walking for exercise but my husband doesn’t feel that does much for his fitness. He used to go to the gym before we were married and for a few years now he’s been suggesting that we join up together. I wasn’t at all interested and preferred just to keep walking, but at the end of last year we gave each other a Christmas present of a gym membership. We only go once or twice a week but it’s been a good thing to do together.
10) Make time for wonder – we do nature study once a week generally as part of our schedule but just getting outside into the natural world gives us a different perspective. It also speaks to us about God. When I was in my late teens and not a Christian, I was travelling through the Snowy Mountains area in summer, and one day I was suddenly overwhelmed by the natural beauty around me and knew that somehow God was speaking to me through it. A couple of months later I became a Christian.