Something shimmery caught my eye as I entered the room. An iridescent journal lay on my bed. I smiled.
This is no ordinary journal–it’s an ongoing conversation. My tween daughter and I take turns writing notes to each other and then leaving the journal on the other person’s bed.
My own mom started this journaling tradition years ago when I was single and traveling the country with a ministry team. She gave me a new journal, inscribed with these words, “I thought it would be fun to write in this journal and send it back and forth. It seems like it would be a neat ‘keepsake.’”
Keepsake it is. Fifteen years later, I still treasure the record of words mailed back and forth across the country. She wrote about my little sister getting braces, described trips she and my dad took and expressed her surprise over my unexpected visit home. I detailed my life on the road, wrote about an asthma attack with no mom to take care of me and described relationship sagas and my plans for getting married.
What a treasure that journal is to me. And now, I can carry on the tradition with my own daughter.
As I looked at that iridescent journal sitting on my bed, my mind wandered back to the day before. It had been a rough day between my daughter and me–full of of tense conversations and personality conflicts. Navigating these tween waters has been…an adventure. For everyone involved.
And yet, my daughter took time to give the priceless gift of heartfelt words.
I opened the journal to her newly written note. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read. Her words reached down to the depths of my soul.
In her note, my daughter acknowledged the part she played in the previous day’s struggle, while voicing child-like faith that God will continue the work He’s doing in her life. She ended by saying, “I want to get to know each other better.”
I reread those beautiful words. “I want to get to know each other better.”
Friendship. She wants a growing friendship with me, her mom.
This is one of the greatest joys and most profound responsibilities of parenting–developing relationships with the dear ones God has given to us. Here are some ways I’m learning to do just that.
- Remind them, “I’m on your team.”
Growing up is hard work. It can be lonely and frightening at times. Our kids need to know we are for them, even when we have disagreements or must administer correction. Spend time together–talking, playing, reading, serving others . . .
- Keep the conversation going.
Maybe it’s a journal similar to the ones we have used. Maybe it’s a regular date with focused, unplugged time with your child. Maybe it’s a parent-child devotional with conversation-starting topics. Find something that invites an ongoing conversation.
- Model respect and acceptance.
Modeling is one of the best ways to teach respect and acceptance. Like us, our kids bear the image of God. They have ideas worth listening to, concerns worth considering and hearts worth affirming.
They are not defined by their mistakes, but by the One who created them. He is patiently working in their lives, even as He is in ours. Let’s be their biggest cheerleaders, greatest prayer warriors and most loyal friends.
- Be the first to say, “I’m sorry.”
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. It takes humility to admit when we’re wrong, but it’s vital our kids see us pursuing peace and reconciliation. I’m often amazed at how quickly my children extend forgiveness when I say I’m sorry.
Learning to cultivate relationships in the home takes intentionality and perseverance. But, as I’m learning from my daughter, the rewards are far greater than any sacrifices made in the moment. With God’s wisdom and creativity, we can build friendships that reflect our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him too. She contributes monthly to www.Just18Summers.com and blogs at www.DazzledByTheSon.wordpress.com. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @DazzledByTheSon.