Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Preparing for Life When The Kids Are Gone

Most parents who have children can't imagine life without them. But unless we die early we are all going to experience the empty nest at some point.  Unfortunately many parents never prepare.

Instead, they spend eighteen or more years living life around their children and work. Children's activities require constant attention, taxiing and expenses. Work of course takes a significant amount of time and energy every week.

Perhaps there's a break for a week or two of vacation. But then the process starts all over again.

But what about mom and dad?  Will they ever learn to spend meaningful, fun and anticipated time together?  In many cases, no. That takes thought, planning and work.

So instead, the last child heads off to college or a family and mom and dad sit across from each other with no clue how to enjoy each other. Or they simply sit in front of the television and plan to die.

There is a better way.

Start living as a couple now. You probably did it for a few months or better yet years before the kids came along. From the time you started dating until that first baby arrived you were most likely great friends who talked, went out together, planned fun times and couldn't wait for the next time.

For some reason we think though that when kids enter the scene all that has to end. Now granted, it's more difficult. But we're making a huge mistake when our children become the center of their and our universe.

Instead we would be far wiser to keep making time together a high priority. You can still date if you work at it. You can still find time away if your plan well. As I've said other place planning is half the fun. In fact, it's not that you can't afford to be together, you can't afford NOT to be together.

Your kids need to see you making each other a priority or they'll do the same when they get married. They need to know they're not the center of the known universe. Life in not all about them.

So start right away. Put time for you as a couple on your calendar. Sure, there are limits and times when it will be harder but when the time comes for your kids to leave you'll be more OK with it and healthier in the process.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Our Kids Will Be Like Us . . . At Least In Some Ways

Some of us are old enough to remember the classic ballad The Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin. The song hauntingly tells the tale of a father who was too busy for his son during his growing up years. But when the son became an adult he also was too busy for his dad and it turns out the son had become just like his dad.

Most of us want our kids to think highly of us, be like us in some ways and feel like they learned some important things about life, faith and what is really important. But we must remember that our kids will also learn things that we'd rather they didn't emulate.  And if we're wise we'll remember that truth as we raise our kids and be willing to stop a few things that they may bring into their home someday.

Let me suggest a few.

Stop using language you don't want them to use. Sure we all have our moments when a word or phrase slips out in the heat of our anger or frustration. But some parents have made dirty, caustic language the norm. They barely raise their voice about something and an expletive or two flies out. Maybe we don't aim those words at our children, but they hear them nonetheless. You can express even your emotions with language that still builds up and helps calm the situation rather than ignite it.

Stop living a life without margin. If you never rest, slow down or take it easy your kids won't either, at least as they get older. They will think that success and self-worth come from accomplishments and busyness rather than from the Creator who made them. They won't learn how to develop healthy, meaningful relationship and how to enjoy other people without having an agenda. Learn to say "no" and help your kids understand the same thing.

Stop suggesting that your faith is more about religion than relationship. Quit going to church because that's what you do on the weekend. Quit implying that your Bible reading and prayer are mere rituals that you do at the appropriate time but rarely discuss as meaningful, real and life-changing. Serve others more, become involved in your local fellowship and teach your kids yourself about the Bible, your faith and your relationship with God.

Stop just trying to get more stuff - more money, house, cars or whatever. Your kids will quickly learn what is most important by how you spend your resources. Do you spend most of your energy to get more or give more? Have you been subtly modeling that happiness most likely comes from having the most of everything?  Show them that less is more, especially when you're focused on others and not yourselves.

You see, your kids WILL be like you in some way. And most of us adults know that there are some things we are happy our parents taught us. But there are others we wish would never have reared their heads in our homes. The good news is that if your kids are still at home you have a chance to limit that negative list. Do something about it now.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Power and Privilege of A Hug

Did you hear about the woman who started a business called The Huggery?  For sixty dollars she'll snuggle with you for an hour. She says she's right up front about what this is and is not, but I still wonder about how that works.

Whatever the case, she says that lots of people out there just need to be close to someone. I guess you could say this is a form of a hug. And yes, we all do need to be touched to survive well emotionally. Most of us know about the studies of infants where those who were held and cuddled had their health and well-being improve dramatically.

So while I don't suggest we start our own cuddling/snuggling business there are some ways we might connect through touch better at home.

First of all, cuddle with your spouse. Yes, guys, cuddle. That can take lots of forms from holding hands to sitting close on the couch to giving a long-lasting hug. And no, I don't mean the kind of touch that has to lead to more. Just be close.

Second, give more hugs. Of course, hugs toward the opposite sex should be appropriate and careful, but we don't have to eliminate them. Where we lived for eight years in Texas hugs are the norm and they make a difference in how people feel especially when they feel alone or discouraged.

Third, don't be afraid to touch your older kids in affectionate ways. Young children are easy. We pick them up all the time and often hug, wrestle or play on the floor. But teens are different story. When my son as an adolescent was getting to be about my height I would purposely claim that he wasn't as tall as me. So he would naturally ask my wife to compare us as we stood back to back.

I would put my arms behind my back and pretend to pull him close for measuring but I was really getting a hug. He just didn't know it. (That didn't last long by the way, but it worked for a while.)  Our kids need to be able to enjoy the simple, caring touch of a parent who truly cares about them.

You see, in our fast-paced, busy worlds, touch can become a thing of the past if we're not careful. So as the old commercial used to say, Reach out and touch someone.  It does matter.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.