How to Be a Good Example to Children and Extended Family in 3 Areas
I look forward to holiday traditions, but I don't always look forward to extended time with family, especially those in my extended family I don't know well. As an introvert, the holiday season is usually exhausting with all the parties, Christmas programs, dinners, teas, and caroling outings to attend.
By the time I get to Christmas, I'm emotionally exhausted, depleted in mental energy, and just wanting time alone. These are prime breeding grounds for grumpiness and unkindness. I tend to think, “Well, my family knows me and they’ll love me anyway.” As if that gives me an excuse to be snippy or show my frustration.
As we get ready for family get-togethers during the holidays, we all need to be reminded that our actions and reactions are being watched.
Even if we're the only ones trying to be a good example, if we can keep these three areas in mind, our family time will be more enjoyable for everyone.
1. Good Example of Communication
Don't be afraid to talk. Communication is the same for every single relationship. Like communication with your husband, your children, your parents, your friends, your acquaintances, strangers, and God, there is a place for long conversations as well as a place for quick snippets when you remember something or come across something of interest.
When I'm reading an article and something strikes me as funny, profound, or false, I often want to read it to my husband and share why it struck me. Or if I had forgotten to share about an incident that wasn't important but was in some way interesting, I want to say, “Oh, Honey, that reminds me...”
But it's also important to set aside special times to just talk, like a date or a certain time to talk about a specific issue.
This applies to communication with God, also. There are quick snippets like
when you listen to a worship song while doing housework, and you praise or say a quick pray along with the lyrics.
Or when you're driving and you see an ambulance go by, and you pray a quick prayer for healing for the person they're racing toward.
Or your water pipes break and the bathroom becomes a reenactment of the Great Flood, and you cry, “Lord, help us get this water stopped! And please don't let it cost as much as a new car!” (Don’t ask me if I’ve prayed these exact words!)
These are just snippets, not premeditated time of talking and listening. Every relationship needs the comfort of being able to do this almost anytime you want to connect quickly. That's why I love texting and social media.
But then we also need to set aside times specifically to air out our thoughts. A date, a family meeting, a Skype chat, or quiet time with God regularly. A time when you know you're going to need to find something to talk about, and you at least plan an idea of something you could mention if the conversation lulls.
But you also plan to do a lot of listening, too. It's not just a list of things you need to check off: “Okay, I mentioned the car repairs, the budget for next month, the complaints about curfew disobedience, or list of prayer needs from my church bulletin.” Those can be some of the conversation, but it shouldn't be all.
Our children learn from listening to how we communicate to our parents and other family members during holiday meals. We need to make sure we are listening, valuing everyone's opinions, and asking open-ended questions to continue the discussions.
2. Good Example of Affection
Don't be afraid to touch. It's of course well-documented that children need affection. Each child needs different amounts of affection, though.
Be a good example not only to your children, but also to your extended family (especially non-believers) in how to appropriately and tenderly show your love to your children, your husband, and your other family members.
kisses on the cheek
holding hands to pray
3. Good Example of Handling Conflict
And believe me, there will be plenty of opportunities for conflict. This is the hardest one for me. But our kids and other family need to see how a growing Christian should handle disagreements or bad attitudes.
This topic is worth a whole week's study in itself, but to summarize:
Tackle the problem, don't attack the person
Conclusion: While we have extended family to visit or extended time with our own families this holiday season, let us be a good example in communication, in showing affection, and it handling conflict. Let's model what our Great Example modeled for us, how Jesus communicated to his disciples and now through the Holy Spirit and His Word, how Jesus tenderly handled children and outcasts and lepers, and how Jesus loved His enemies and diffused many arguments. Let us be Christians this holiday season—“little Christs.”