3 Ways to Build Strong Sibling Bonds (We Are Fa-mi-ly Series)

This week I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Rebekah Hallberg, who is joining us as we continue on with the We Are Fa-mi-ly Series.

Becky and I write about similar areas of Christian Living, including faith, marriage, family, parenting, and so forth.  Once a month, I’ll be sharing over at her place, Sharing Redemption’s Stories, and she’ll be sharing here at Being Confident of This.

Be sure to give her a warm welcome by sharing this post around and leaving some encouraging comments! ;)

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This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland. The massive amounts of snow they predicted arrived overnight and we’re looking at anywhere from 18-30 inches before it’s all over. What I really want to remember from today, though, is that my kids are spending time together – and it is not just because of the snow. With kids at a wide variety of ages, it can be hard to build those strong relationships.

I want to share 3 ways to build healthy sibling relationships. Please understand, I’m certainly not an expert and my kids do not always get along, but I think that these tips are ones we can all agree on and share with our children.

One way to build strong family bonds is to encourage healthy sibling bonds, also.  This mom of three shares 3 tips for building strong sibling bonds.

3 Tips for Building Strong Sibling Bonds

1. Prayer

As our family grew, one thing my husband and I have done is to pray for our family – specifically our children and their relationships with one another. We realize that you cannot force people to get along, but prayer invites God to work in ways that we cannot. Unfortunately, prayer has not always been our first resource. We’ve tried taking matters into our own hands many times. I often wonder how much less stress we might have felt if prayer had been our first resource rather than our last resort.

I often wonder how much less stress we might have felt if prayer had been our first resource rather than our last resort.

What we’ve really learned with prayer, though, is that it’s about more than just us praying for our children. The times that have been a big blessing in the kids’ lives have been when they have prayed for each other. There is tremendous power when you genuinely pray for someone else; it makes it difficult to stay upset with them.  Praying for each other builds strong sibling bonds.

2. Prepare

This seemed basic to me when I first considered it, but I’ve come to find that it’s an important concept:

Do your kids know the expectation you have for them? Do they know that you want them to try to get along with their brother or sister?

Our kids need to know what’s expected of them. Just as we prepare them to sit quietly in church, or to behave nicely at a restaurant, we need to convey our expectations of their behavior with their siblings. Communication with them won’t guarantee a change of behavior, but it will instill those expectations in their hearts where we can nurture them and hopefully see them take root.

3. Practice

Ok, mamas, this is where it can get real. Real tough. Real dangerous. But maybe even real fun! You’ve prayed for your children and for the relationship among them, you’ve shared your expectation that they get along with one another, and now you need to reinforce that by getting them into situations where they can work on those relationships, those sibling bonds.

Some of the ways we’ve worked on this include games, books, and activities together. I’ll share a few of our favorites which all of our kids have enjoyed, despite a major age gap between the oldest and youngest.

Games:

Sorry! – This is a favorite because young kids can easily play. There’s no money involved, so they don’t feel frustrated with math skills that may not be fully developed yet. It’s simply some reading and some counting (which older siblings can {gladly!} help with), and a little revenge which keeps it interesting for everyone!

Bubble Talk – We heard about this game from my son’s Speech Therapist. It has quickly become a family favorite! We play that one person at a time gets to choose the photo to be captioned. The others choose a card from in their hands which they feel has the “best” caption for the photo. Young kids will likely choose the literal best caption, while older kids choose the card whose caption is best in the ironic sense.

HedBanz – This is similar to 20 questions in that each person takes a card and slides it into a hook on the headband. Then they have to ask questions about the card – is it a food? is it an animal? is it blue? – and try to guess the image on the card based on the answers given. I think we have the most basic edition of this game and we all enjoy it!

Books:

Here are a few of our family’s favorites:

The Narnia Chronicles – We read through the series fairly frequently, and I know the kids have each read these on their own.

Pilgrim’s Progress and Young Pilgrim’s Progress – I’ve enjoyed these books over the years and I’m glad the kids have come to like them as well. There are so many good truths packed into the stories.

Missionary biographies – I love that these books are easy to read, and tell such important stories of faith from many different periods in history.

Activities Together:

Cooking a meal – This one may require some adjustments based on the age of your children. We discuss a family-favorite meal and then each child is responsible for one portion of the meal. The oldest may boil & drain the spaghetti, heat the sauce & meatballs. The middle guy might make the salad and get all of the condiments to the table, and the younger may butter the bread and set the table.

Cleaning out the car – Maybe it’s odd, but my kids enjoy this! One child cleans out the front, another cleans out the back, and one vacuums. If your kids are older they can also wash the windows, wash the car, clean the dashboard, etc.

Do outside chores – in winter, one shovels the driveway, one cleans off cars, and one shovels the sidewalk. In spring, one mows, one moves all the outdoor furniture and one helps to weed the flower bed.

Spending time practicing what is expected of them gives them the opportunity to learn in a safe, nurturing environment. It also allows us, as parents, to point out specifically what we mean when we say, “You need to get along with each other”.  Thus, spending time together is essential for building strong sibling bonds!

It’s been a blessing to watch them grow as we’ve worked together to foster their sibling bonds! I hope these ideas, simple as they may be, will spark some ideas for how to foster sibling relationships in your own family!
Rebekah M. HallbergRebekah has been completely overwhelmed by the grace and mercy of the Lord in her life. He has proven His faithfulness in every area of her life, especially in her marriage. She has come to understand the power of redemption and God’s work in people’s lives. Her goal is to be Sharing Redemption’s Stories – spreading the good news of God’s mercy and grace to a world in need.

9 Ways to Cultivate a Family Identity (We Are Fa-mi-ly Series)

You might know a family like them, the ones all decked out in team gear for Sunday’s big game. They root together, sharing the joy of a win or the sting of a loss. They’ll be talking about the game for days.

Other families you know gather for family dinner every Sunday or vacation together every year.  Some meet for midnight openings of long-awaited movies or run every area 5K together. Some even serve alongside each other for their favorite cause.

It’s just part of who they are as a family, part of their family identity.

Strong families know who they are and that they belong together, no matter what their individual differences.  If you want to build strong family bonds then you need to encourage and cultivate a sense of family identity in your home.

Here’s how:

9 Ways to cultivate a family identity

1. Clarify your family values.

Each family has its own set of values to focus on, and those values contribute to the family identity. When family members are certain of the rules and values established in the home, they feel safe and secure. On the other hand, failing to clarify values paves the way for confusion and chaos in the home.

Values guide us when we make important choices. Values teach us who we are and what we stand for.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

What values lie at the core of your family life?  How do those values impact which activities you choose to participate in?  How do your family’s values guide your children in life situations?

2. Emphasize traditions.

Traditions give children a sense of belonging, and not just to the current family unit, but even to previous generations.  For this reason, celebrating traditions encourages the family identity.

How do you celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other special events?  What do you do to mark the first or last day of school?  Do you bake Great-Grandma’s special cookie recipe together?  Is Friday night pizza night?

Even everyday traditions become part of your family identity.

You probably already have traditions in place even if you don’t realize it, but you can always add new ones, too!  Emphasize the traditions you have. Draw your children’s attention to them and explain the significance of why you do the things you do.

What makes your family unique? What traditions do you cherish? Discover new ways to cultivate your family identity and strengthen your bonds. 9 Ways to Cultivate a Family Identity

 

3. Keep photo albums or scrapbooks.

I’ll never forget my Grandma’s bookshelf filled with photo albums.  I believe she had over 20 albums full of family photos, a treasury.  At Christmas every year, the aunts and uncles and cousins would pull out the albums and look through the physical representation of all our childhood memories.

Even as an adult, looking through photo albums is one of my favorite things to do!

Pictures remind us of who we are, where we came from, and what we’ve been through together – an important aspect of family identity.  They show us that our littlest boy has Daddy’s nose and our oldest has Grandma’s chin.  They document the progression of our family through time, the different places we’ve lived or visited, and the friends who have come and gone.

Memories are important to family identity!

4. Serve together.

Many families find part of their identity by rallying around a cause or a way to serve the Lord. Since I’m married to a pastor/church-planter, we are a pastor’s family.  We work together to prepare for and host church events and to serve our community.

It’s just part of our family identity to work together.

If your family has a heart for animals, then consider serving at a local shelter. If you’ve experienced cancer, perhaps participate in a cancer prevention walk. Whatever need or cause your family can rally around helps to cement family identity.

5. Support one another.

We have a rule in our family that whenever possible, we will all attend each other’s events. Obviously in a family of six, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But for the most part, we go to soccer games, baseball games, plays, band concerts, and awards days together.

It’s important for siblings to feel supported by each other in addition to the support of both parents.

Although our middle son doesn’t always enjoy his older brother’s band concerts, he certainly enjoys having his brother watch his own soccer games. And as a parent, I love to hear a proud, “That’s my brother!” (or sister – whatever the case may be). :)

Be a family that celebrates each other. Make that an important part of your family identity.

6. Play together (or periodic random chaos).

Families that have fun together usually have a strong sense of family identity because they genuinely enjoy being with each other.  Our family loves to tease, whether with words or poking or pillow fights.

Sometimes when our teen is upstairs (or when Dad is in the bathroom), I’ll get the younger kids together for an ambush.  We wait quietly with koosh ball guns and nerf guns until the target makes an appearance and a war ensues. It may only last for 15 minutes or so, but it gets everyone laughing together.

Make laughter and playfulness part of your family identity by being silly together whenever possible!

7. Encourage common interests.

One way to develop your family identity is to teach your children to love similar things.  For example, my husband is an Indianapolis Colts fan, so we root for the Colts in this household.

You may not enjoy sports, but your family might enjoy music, or crafting, or watching old movies, or playing games, or spending time in the outdoors.

Find common interests that you can enjoy together as a family.

8. Give conversation a chance.

Our kids love to talk. I have to admit they come by it honestly with two parents who are also talkers. :) But when we are really busy as a family, we don’t have time to really listen to each other.  I’ve noticed during those times that we deal with a lot more negative behavior.

One thing we do as a family is to eat supper together at the table nearly every evening of the week. Even during sports seasons, we will eat early or late if at all possible. Eating supper together gives us a chance to talk.  The more we talk together, the more we learn about each other, the better our family identity.

Find a time to set aside for good conversation.

9. Spend time together.

Out of all the ways to cultivate a family identity, this one is perhaps the most important.  Spending time together is instrumental in forming close ties, so there is no substitute for quality family time.

Set aside one night a week or a couple of nights a month for family game night, or go play a sport together. Schedule a family fun day by devoting an entire day to family time.  Your kids will love it (and they will hold you to the whole day, so be prepared)!

One of our favorite ways to spend quality time together is to go on family vacation. Family vacation creates fond memories that are unique to us, which is key in cultivating a family identity.

Are you concerned about finances?  Your family vacation need not be expensive nor extravagant to accomplish its purpose. In fact, you don’t even need to leave home to set aside a few days for family time!

If you haven’t already put some of these tips into practice, I hope you’ll do so soon!  Cultivating a family identity is just one of many valuable ways to strengthen your family bonds.

Come back next week for another installment in the month-long We Are Fa-mi-ly Series!

Join in me in scheduling some family fun?

Jen :)

Other posts in the We Are Fa-mi-ly Series:

We Are Fa-mi-ly: 4 Biblical Characteristics of Strong Families

Establishing a Foundation of Faith (We Are Fa-mi-ly Series)

 

How Trusting Jesus Leads to Joy

Friends, I’m overjoyed to introduce you to my writer friend, Dawn Klinge, who blogs over at Above the Waves. Dawn has a new book that’s about to be released: Look To Jesus:  How to Let Go of Worry and Trust God (coming January 26th, 2016). Today she’s agreed to share some of what she has learned with us.

I’ve enjoyed and been encouraged by Dawn’s words countless times, so I’m sure this will be a treat for you all.  Please make Dawn feel welcome by leaving her some encouraging comments.

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What is your definition of joy?  There’s one thing I know for sure; I want more of it.  My definition of joy?  That has been a bit harder for me to pin down.

 

The Bible has a lot to say about joy.  The more I study the Word, the more I realize that joy is different than happiness.  It’s a settled assurance, a quiet confidence, and a choice to trust God, no matter the circumstance.  (Romans 15:13)

How do you define joy?  Joy is mentioned often in the Bible, but not often in the context we might assume.  Learn how trusting Jesus leads to joy that's indescribable and unshakable!

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  “Putting on” a fruit of the Spirit, through our own efforts, was once described to me by a friend as being, “just as silly as gluing a piece of wax fruit to a tree and expecting it to taste just as good as the real thing”.  The production of fruit starts at the root.  The root of joy comes from trusting Jesus.

 

I was trying to put a definition on the word, joy.  Then I read this verse (emphasis added)…

 

First Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

 

Joy is inexpressible and filled with glory.  I take this to mean that joy is not something I’m going to be able to describe.  It’s indescribable.  Only those who trust in the Lord have this joy.  If I want more joy, I need to, above all, seek Jesus.  Joy will follow.   That’s a promise.

 

We can use words like confidence, assurance, and glorious to describe joy- but we need to know that those descriptions barely skim the surface.  Like a cold lake on a hot day, it’s best to jump in and experience it.

 

When we place our trust in Jesus, we will find joy.  We will also continue to experience sorrow as long as we are on this side of Heaven. The two are inseparable.  I love the way Kay Warren explains this in her book, Choose Joy:  Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.  She describes looking at train tracks into the brightness of the horizon,

 

“…the tracks become one. You can’t distinguish them as two separate tracks. That’s how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus Christ in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense.”

 

I want joy, and I have found it, in following Jesus.  When we say we want more joy, we can remember that He is where it’s found.

 

Jesus, we want more of you.

 

Dawn Klinge Above the Waves  Dawn Klinge is the author of Look To Jesus:  How to Let Go of Worry and Trust God (coming January 26th, 2016).  She writes about Christian faith regularly at Above the Waves, drawing on her experience as wife and mom to two.  She holds a degree in education from University of Idaho.  A pastor’s kid and a church girl her entire life, she’s still trying to figure out what it looks like to put her trust in Jesus.  Dawn and her husband, Derek, live near Seattle, Washington.  You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Establishing a Foundation of Faith (We Are Fa-mi-ly Series)

Last week we began the We Are Fa-mi-ly series here at Being Confident of This, so be sure to stop by the first post in the series if you missed it!  Today we’ll be discussing how to establish a foundation of faith.

While it’s important to teach our children obedience and manners, how to play sports and succeed in school, the most important thing we can ever do for our children is to establish a foundation of faith.

If we think of a family as a home being built, then think of personal faith in God as the foundation of that home.  Parents who aren’t well-rooted in faith will struggle to pass on an understanding of the Word, as well as biblical family values.

4 Ways to Establish a Foundation of Faith

1. Talk openly about your faith, even when you struggle.

Certainly, we can’t and shouldn’t tell our children everything we go through in life.  Some things simply aren’t appropriate to share with them.  However, parents are often afraid to show any sort of weakness or doubt, especially when it comes to their personal faith.

The truth is, our kids already know that we aren’t perfect.  They can see it for themselves! Thus, a foundation of faith depends on parents who exhibit and encourage authentic faith…

I’m sharing the rest of this article over at my friend Rebekah’s blog, Sharing Redemption’s Stories.  She and I share a burden for struggling marriages and families, and we’ll be working together this year to bring you quality content related to living out the Christian Faith.  Once a month, she’ll be sharing here at Being Confident of This, and once a month, I’ll be sharing over at her place.

Read the rest by clicking the picture below!

Jen :)

While it's important to teach our children obedience and manners, how to play sports and succeed in school, the most important thing we can ever do for our children is to establish a foundation of faith.   4 Ways to Establish a Foundation of Faith

 

Sharing with: Tell It To Me Tuesdays

We Are Family: Building a Strong Family Unit

Most people I know would love to be part of a strong family unit, one that stays together and loves each other no matter what life brings, a family in which each member feels loved and valued.

But building that kind of family dynamic doesn’t always come easy.

As a family in ministry, we’ve been exposed to a variety of family dynamics over the years.  Some families are very good at building bonds that keep them together while other families barely remain intact, and still others struggle with dysfunction for generations.

No one sets out to raise an unhealthy and unhappy child or family, but many do so by default.  

So what makes the difference between families that thrive and those that fail?

Why do some families seem more close-knit than others?

What can we do to keep our family strong?

Why are some families so much more close-knit than others? What makes a strong family?  Join us for this series on strengthening family ties - We Are Family at Being Confident of This

We’ll be exploring these questions and answers over the next few weeks here at Being Confident of This in a series called We Are Fa-mi-ly. Topics will range from building a family identity to keeping teens in the family, and more.

Follow along as we discuss God’s marvelous gift of family!

Characteristics of a Strong Family

If we want a family that thrives, we’d do well to examine the characteristics of a strong family.  So earlier this week, I asked our four children (ages 6 to 15) what makes a good family.

Here are their responses:

  • belief in God (several mentioned this)
  • hugs and affection
  • enjoying time together
  • doing things together (several mentioned this)
  • helping each other
  • sharing with each other
  • loving each other (several mentioned this)
  • trust and honesty
  • talking to each other

Then I asked them (and my husband) what we could do to improve our family, and they answered:

  • more family time, especially game night (that’s their fav!)
  • consistent family devotions
  • share more responsibility for our home
  • complain less
  • use kind speech with siblings

I think their answers give a pretty accurate picture of our family.  We really do have fun together, and faith in Jesus Christ is very important to us. But we certainly aren’t without flaws. :)

If you want to know how to improve your family, consider asking your spouse and children what the family does well and what you could be doing better?

An even better source to consider is God’s Word.

Strong families don't happen by accident. Building a strong family requires a biblical foundation followed up with practical habits that build family ties.  Does your family have these 4 biblical characteristics? Follow along in the We Are Fa-mi-ly series at Being Confident of This

4 Biblical Characteristics of a Strong Family

From the beginning of mankind, God intended to use the family unit in a special way. So, one of His first commands to Adam and Eve was “be frutiful and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28)

We can see that families have had a special place in God’s heart from the very beginning!

1. A strong family begins with a healthy, God-centered marriage.

In Ephesians (5:25), we see that the relationship between a husband and wife reflects the very nature of God’s love for and pursuit of His people.  Children learn much about both human love and God’s love from the relationship they witness between their parents.

2. A strong family maintains a proper relationship between parent and child.

One of the ten commandments speaks to this very relationship:

“Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Ex. 20:12 (NASB)

In a healthy family unit, parents love their children and because they love them, they discipline and instruct them.

Both the marriage relationship and the parent-child relationship serve to help children understand aspects of God’s character: Christ as the bridegroom and God as our Heavenly Father.

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called the children of God…” 1 Jn. 3:1a (NASB)

When either one of these key relationships is damaged, a child’s understanding of God’s character easily becomes skewed. 

This is why building a strong family is paramount in today’s society.  The more dysfunctional family units grow, the less society understands God’s true character!

3. A strong family teaches future generations about the history of God’s relationship with His people.

Even more, a healthy family will pass down the record of how God has worked in their own family, too!

“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and grandsons.” Deut. 4:9 (NASB)

4. A strong family puts on love.

The best families are those that just ooze with love and make the rest of us jealous, right? :)  However, as flawed humans, we are not capable of loving one another perfectly all of the time.

We all have those tense moments when feelings trump truth or miscommunication leads to unnecessary wounds, but a strong family learns to work through those tough times. A strong family learns to embrace the work-in-progress of loving and forgiving one another.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Eph. 4:32 (NASB)

We could probably list several more characteristics of strong families, but these four are foundational.

I’m willing to bet most parents desire to leave a legacy of strong family bonds for future generations, but a quick look at the world around us demonstrates that such a legacy does not happen by chance.

As mom to a soon-to-be sixteen-year-old, I recognize that the time is all too short. These formative years fly by more and more quickly, and if we’re not careful, we’ll miss out on important opportunities.

We must be intentional in building family bonds that last!

Join us here for the next installment in the We Are Fa-mi-ly series for some practical ways to strengthen your family.

Until then, put on love!

Jen :)

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