Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Strengthening the Family- #5 Friends

It is very simple... As my mother taught me, 'Birds of a feather flock together.' Your peer group can inspire you to do great things or tempt you into strange and miserable paths. True friends make it easier to live the gospel. They never make us choose between their ways and the Lord's ways. They help us be the kind of person that attracts other true friends. And they help us become the kind of person a righteous companion can choose to be with forever. If you want those kinds of friends, ask yourself: 'Am I that kind of friend to others?..' ~ Robert D. Hales, To the Aaronic Priesthood: Preparing for the Decade of Decision, Ensign, May 2007, 49

We all want good friends and we all want our children to have good friends... It isn't always as easy as it sounds so much of our children's interaction with the peers is at school or church where we aren't' always around. I think of many teens I know and almost without fail those who have good uplifting friends also have parents who welcome those same friends into their homes and take the effort to get to know them.

Because of this I and DH have always had the goal that our house would be the kind of place where our children's friends felt welcome at any time; a place that they wanted to hang out. Although the little man is just two I have given this a lot of thought lately pondering ways that I can prepare now to make my home that sort of place. At first I started to fret.. our house is by no means big or fancy and probably will never be..... then I realized so what? Is it really going to matter to my children's friends that my kitchen counters are markedly from the 80's? Do they really care that I have salmon colored siding? What then will make my home a welcome place?

1. Food: I know... you are all probably laughing at me right now but take a moment to think about it... How could a plate of warm cookies after school or a Popsicle on a summer afternoon not be a plus to any child or teen? Even with our adult friends we find ourselves stocking up on pop (which we don't drink) or snacks to pull out when they are over. Would they still like us if we didn't offer them diet Pepsi a bag of chips when they came over? Probably... but I think that by doing so we are sending them a clear message- we LIKE you!

2. Entertainment: Now I am not suggesting that you go out and by the latest game console or install a pool in your backyard but I do think that it is important that you find fun and unique activities for your children to do with their friends.

Yes, a pool, wii, or basketball court can all be great things and if you can afford it great but if not you still have a world of options- Even a simple deck of cards can provide hours of fun. For younger children you could stock up on play dough, bubbles, and a variety of inexpensive art supplies. For teens board games and a football or croquet set. Tailor it to your child's interests and get creative! You would be surprised how much fun a group of kids could have with something as simple as being let loose in the kitchen to bake and decorate cookies.

3. Space: So now you have the cards, wii, games or whatever, now find a place that can be their space. Their own personal "hangout". Even if it's just the child's bedroom or a corner of the living room enlist your child's help in making it kid friendly. Just as important as the actual space is how you as the parent treat it. By all means know what's going on and check in occasionally but DON'T hover!

4. Open Door, Open Ear, Open Arms: More than anything making your home a place where your children's friends feel welcome is more about your attitude than anything else. It may sound redundant but if you want them to fell welcome their you have to do just that welcome them. Let them know your happy to have them, even if it may not be the best timing for you. Treat them like you would your own children be willing to listen and to lend a hand if needed- you can be an influence for good especially to many children who may not have the same parental example in their own home.

I am a firm believer that if you welcome your children and their friends into your home that not only will you be able to influence them for good but that in a wholesome uplifting environment they will not only be less likely to get into 'mischief' but be more inclined to natural make good decisions. It may take work but remember "There's no place like home!"

* My Blog Post Series "Strengthening the Family" is based on my personal thoughts from reading the book "25 Mistakes LDS Parents Make and How to Avoid Them" by Randal A. Wright

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