Ways to Connect with other Families
- 2003 10 Feb
Part Two of a 2-part series
No matter how many children your family has, they can benefit from friendships with other families. Only children like Jonathan and Honor enjoy playmates their own age. "Jonathan likes to play with both Ian and me, but it's important for him to play with other kids and not just be around adults all the time," says Annie.
Children with siblings can also gain great advantages from befriending children who aren't part of their same household. "It is different for the kids when they're with friends rather than their brothers and sisters," says Bob. "They learn more about how to get along with others when they play with kids from different families who have different life experiences."
Forging a friendship with another family is a powerful way to teach your children about God's love. "I think Christianity is about building relationships. That's how love is demonstrated. And our children need experience building fellowship," Ruth says.
Annie, too, believes that, "Relationships are a top priority. I want Jonathan to see the importance of friendship modeled for him. It gives him a sense that, although other things are constantly changing in the world, he can always count on God's love and the friends who God uses to express love."
Friendships bring greater blessings, however, if they're formed not just between children, but entire families. "When the husbands, wives, and children all click together, everybody wins," Annie says.
Men - whose work schedules tend to be more inflexible than those of women - typically face more challenges when trying to find time and energy to invest in friendships. But, with some advance planning, entire families can get together on a regular basis. Then men don't have to choose between spending time with their own families and spending time with friends; they can do both at the same time. "It's really an ideal way to combine time with family and time with friends," says Annie.
Here are some ways your family can build friendships with other families:
Choose several families you sense God leading you to get to know better. Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to become close friends with a huge number of families, such as most of the families in your church. Remember that you need sufficient time and energy to invest in your friendships. Pursue close friendships only with the number of families you can realistically connect with on a regular basis.
Plan. Make friendships a top priority in your own family. Communicate regularly with your spouse and children about ways you'd each like to get together with friends, and work together to build your family's schedule accordingly. Make time to see your friends even during your family's busiest times, knowing that the effort is worthwhile.
Be proactive. Think of ways your family can get together with other families, then contact people in the other families regularly to suggest ideas for meeting with each other. Don't wait for others to call or e-mail you; take the initiative yourself. If you're already planning to go on an outing as a family, invite another family to join you. This has worked well for our own family - whether the outing is to a local festival or even an entire vacation.
Be available. Let your friends know they can count on you to pray for them and help them out in other ways as needed. Be flexible enough to adjust your schedule to ensure that your family can see friends regularly.
Honestly share your thoughts and feelings. Let your guard down with your friends, so they can truly get to know you. Take the time to listen to them as well. Think of yourselves as extended family members who genuinely care about other. Meet together in informal ways - such as in each other's homes - rather than just through formally scheduled groups such as a parents' group at your children's school.
Commit to each other. Keep in touch even when the circumstances of your lives change, just as biological families do. For example, the Lienert family has stayed in contact with another family that moved out of their local area (Washington, D.C.) to California, then Texas. Each year, their two families (plus a third in their friendship circle) gather to celebrate Easter together.
Click here to read Part One of this Article.