15 December 2017

Celebrate – Make Memories with your Children

At this season of Jubilee celebrations, let’s take some time out to celebrate the wonder of family life and make memories with our children that will have an enduring impact on their lives.

Charles Swindoll once said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” All parents want their children to have a good experience of family life and that’s why it’s important to make sure that we give them positive family memories. “Making memories” is one way of creating a lasting sense of belonging and shared identity as a family unit. It also builds security in a child and a strong sense of safety.

Shared memories are also one of the things that strengthen the bonds between parents and teenagers. These “emotional deposits” made previously in a teenager’s life, make communication much easier during the inevitable times of conflict.

Creating happy memories for our children is actually something that is quite easy to do – and it needn’t be expensive either. As summer holidays feature prominently in almost everyone’s happy memories of childhood, we can take the opportunity over the next few weeks to generate some memories for our children that will last them a lifetime.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that we have to go on expensive, exotic holidays or spend the equivalent of a year’s mortgage payments on fun things to do. Those things may well be remembered fondly in years to come, but more often it is the little things that will stick in our children’s minds. One of my favourite childhood memories is of my parents taking me, my sister and two cousins to the grounds of a local stately home. Some of the trees had fallen or been chopped down and we spent hours playing an elaborate game of pirates that involved much clambering, climbing and hiding. I can still feel the glee of seeing Mum walk the plank!

Rob Parsons is convinced that simple rituals or traditions are a big part of our memories of family life. He says in The Sixty Minute Family:

“Traditions are powerful. If you don’t believe me then talk to any adult you know who had a happy family life. Ask them to tell you what made it special and pretty soon they’ll say, ‘We always …’”

Traditions do not have to be dry meaningless rituals, but can be fresh, fun, significant activities that help us remember and celebrate God’s goodness to us. If as parents we can discover God in the ordinary and extraordinary places and can pass this on to our children, then we will help them have a heart for His kingdom.

Take the time to leave a legacy of happy memories for your children – whether in big ways or small, and whether they happen spontaneously or require a little planning. Those times of fun, excitement, laughter, creativity and helpless side-splitting hilarity are experiences you will never regret.

Memory-making ideas

 Create a bedtime ritual – read a story, remind each other of the best part of the day, say a special prayer, sing a quiet song. With older children have everyone convene in the kitchen for a bedtime snack.

 Go for a “nature walk” in the middle of the night (best with older juniors or teenagers). Choose a clear, warm night, take torches, snacks, a camera and … explore.

 Plan a “Help the Neighbours” night. Get everyone in the family together to do a surprise good turn for a neighbour – picking weeds, washing the car, cleaning the windows etc. You could also do this anonymously and leave a card on the doorstep with a bunch of flowers or box of biscuits.

 Choose a day in the summer to have a “No Special Reason” party. Allow each child in turn to pick a theme every year.

 Whenever you have a family photograph taken, make it a tradition that you always have a normal shot and a silly shot – everyone smiles nicely at the camera for the normal photo and then does crazy things for the second.

 Invent silly songs on long, boring car trips. Just pick a tune and make up new lyrics together. Sing your favourite inventions every time you have a long car ride.

 Have a good family fight. Chase each other around the house with foam ball guns, play tag and soak each other with water pistols in the garden.

 Invite one of your children out on a date. Plan it together and make it really special, being sure to do something the child likes – the cinema, playing snooker, having a meal, bowling etc.

Care for the Family is a national Christian charity whose aim is to promote strong family relationships and to help those who face family difficulties. The Care for the Family website has a section with a variety of events, resources and articles to help you in the challenging task of being a parent. Visit www.careforthefamily.org.uk

Jean Gibson