Whether you have a family ministry at your church or not, you know how important it is to equip parents to be spiritual leaders and build healthy relationships. With Christmas coming up and kids out of school, parents will have even more time and more opportunities to invest in their children’s lives. So, how can you help parents connect with their children over the break?
Parents are often told that the greatest gift they can give their children is love. But, how can they communicate that? Many parents rely on gifts. Others simply assume their children know their affections. For those who didn’t grow up in a healthy environment, they may not know how to connect with their children.
So, here are five practical ways you can encourage parents to “bless” their children during the winter break (and all year long!). To jumpstart this at your church, we also shared additional ideas for parents to use over the Christmas break to connect with their children.
- Meaningful Touch
A meaningful touch was an important part of giving the blessing in the Old Testament. When Isaac blessed his son, he called him, saying, “Come near and kiss me, my son” (Genesis 27:26, esv). Isaac’s words “come near” actually translate as “come and embrace in a bear hug.” Isaac believed he was speaking to Esau, who was more than 40 years old at the time! Isaac sets an example of a parent who didn’t limit touch to his children due to their age, an example mothers (and fathers) should pay attention to. The benefits of touch are enormous—physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- Spoken Message
A spoken message has the power to build up or tear down a child’s worth and heart and are a big part of cementing your love and building a healthy attachment to your children. Can you remember words of praise that your mother spoke to you? What about words of criticism? Our words hold great power, and the blessing acknowledges this through the spoken message. In the Bible, a blessing was invalid unless it was spoken. In the book of James, we see multiple pictures of the power of the tongue. The tongue is described as a bit that gives direction to a horse, a rudder that turns a ship and a spreading fire (James 3:1–6). Each of these pictures shows us the potential of the tongue to build up or tear down. Will your tongue be one that encourages or belittles? Children desperately need to hear positive words spoken to them. The words of a mother and father hold incredible weight in the heart of a child. Choose to speak words of blessing to your children.
- High Value
But what kind of words are we to speak or write down for our children? Those that communicate high value. To value something is to attach great importance to it. In blessing our children, we are choosing to ascribe great worth to them, acknowledging that they are valuable to the Lord and to us. This is important, even in times of difficulty with our children. Children push our buttons, try us emotionally, exhaust us physically and often deplete us financially! But in the times when we may not feel the value of our children, choosing to speak words of high value to them realigns our own perspective and encourages our children to see their value as well.
- Special Future
With our meaningful touch, with our choice to use a spoken message and by attaching words with high value to a child, we lay the foundation to help us picture a special future for our children as well. As we attach value to a person, we can see their potential and envision the great ways in which they might impact the world for Christ. Kids are literalists when it comes to hearing words that point them toward a special future or when they hear that they’re a failure, pathetic or a loser. By paying attention to the strengths your child exhibits, you can see how that sensitivity they show with other children today might make them a great counselor, teacher or coach down the road; how that leadership talent today could be something that Jesus uses to help them change the world for the better tomorrow. Every person is gifted uniquely. How are your children gifted? How might their strengths benefit their relationships and future endeavors? Paint a picture with your words of your children’s future and it can be, literally, unforgettable for them as they go through life.
- Active Commitment
The last element of the blessing really seals the deal, as the one giving the blessing demonstrates an active commitment to see the blessing come to pass in that child’s life. Words have to be accompanied by action. The blessing is not merely spoken but lived—even when it’s hard. Giving the blessing to your children doesn’t mean you don’t discipline them. All kids are like you. Fallen. In need of a Savior. And in need of someone who loves them enough to say no at times, to point them down the right path and to correct wrongs. But rules without a relationship is a great way to breed rebellion in a child’s heart. The blessing gives you the platform to do discipline well, because your children know you love them deeply and care what direction their life is taking.
What does this look like lived out? Here are some examples on how parents can intentionally connect with their children over the Christmas break:
Reading Together: While reading, take moments to pause to bless your child. You can do this by calling attention to positive character traits happening in the story. For example, if a character in the story shares a toy, pause and tell your child that they are also really good at sharing. I’d encourage you to go beyond a compliment and make it something that sticks with them. To do this, give an example of when you saw them exhibiting the specific trait.
Sticky Encouragement: Put a sticky note on their bedroom door after they’re asleep, so when they wake up in the morning, they are reminded of how loved and valued they are.
Celebrate their talents: If your children love to dance or sing, let them put on a concert for you. If they like to draw, take pictures of what they’ve created, and turn it into your desktop background or screen saver.
I “Miss You” Blessing: If you are traveling for work and will be away from your kids, buy a postcard from the city you are in and write a note of blessing to them. It will make their day when it arrives at home!
Selfie Blessing: Have a selfie photo shoot with your son or daughter the next time you are out together. Try out different filters or make funny faces to make memorable moments.
Helping Others Blessing: Have your kids spend some time reading stories to those in a nursing home. Clean out the kitchen cupboards together and give cans of food to a nonprofit organization that feeds the hungry.
Set up a “special date”: The date doesn’t have to be complicated. It could simply be a walk around the neighborhood! But setting aside time each month to spend with just your son or daughter is a great way to bless your child and demonstrate to them your active commitment to them. Each month on your date, celebrate your child by spending some special one-on-one time with him or her.
Get Ready for Church Together: Sunday mornings in the home can often be hectic, and getting out the door can be frustrating and put everyone in foul moods. To prevent this, help your children Saturday night prepare in practical ways for worship by choosing clothes for the morning, gathering items that will be taken (Bible, pen, journal, offering, etc.), and praying together for God to prepare your hearts to hear from him as you gather with other believers. Teaching your children that going to church is one of the ways that we worship God is a priceless lesson.
These are just a few of the ideas shared in Dr. John Trent’s book, 30 Ways a Mother Can Bless Her Children.
This article originally appeared here.