In a world where so much seems to be chaotic and out of control, Marya Hayes proposes ways parents can be their children's safe haven.
There are always going to be things out of our control regarding our children. We have such a limited amount of time to make an impact. Because I am not always able to be with my children, I have even less time to make that positive impact. As our children grow up we are not always able to control what is happening in their school life, their social circles, and in their own minds and bodies. Their chemistry is unique to them.
In a world where so much seems to be chaotic and out of control, we can try to be their safe haven. God has given us this great privilege to raise and guide our children. We have the responsibility to meet their many needs. Make your home the place they always want to return to.
Even if we don’t have control over exterior factors, we do have control over how we treat them and how we interact with them. We can do our best to control the home environment that they grow up in. We can control our part as the model parent. My children require varying amounts of affection depending on what is going on in the rest of their lives. Sometimes they require non-stop hugs. Sometimes they just want to be playful. It’s not always an opportune time to hug, but I try to remember that they won’t always want to hug, or need a hug. Sometimes you are in the middle of cooking, or a movie and they haven’t brushed their teeth. As teens they don’t always want to shower (for some odd reasons).
I am honestly grateful that my kids come to us for love and attention and I never want to pass up the opportunity to make them feel safe and loved.
Be the ear that listens to them. Sometimes when it’s time to say goodnight the children like to vent. They are in the privacy of their rooms and they need to talk about what worries them and what frustrates them. Sometimes they just want to reminisce with you. Sometimes they want to ask questions. This is such a great opportunity to spend a bit of quality bonding time.
My job as a parent is to be the safe haven, listening and giving sound advice when prudent. Pray about what they are telling you to discern the appropriate actions to take.
Mealtime is a great opportunity to bond. During quarantine I have been with the kids so much more since school has been closed. I am with them and making every one of their meals. Because of their different ages they usually have lunch periods at different times. I let them know that I am aware of their preferences and do the best to make their “hot lunch” a special time for us. They are going back to school this week so those days are about to end.
I do tend to spoil my children in that I cater to many of their meal preferences. At times I serve one meal and they are all supposed to try it. I bake a lot and cook most meals at home, so our home is usually filled with the smells of meals being prepared. I love this aspect of being a stay-at-home mom, even though I am frequently tired or overwhelmed.
When my children look back on their childhood, I want it to be filled with happy memories of loving times. I try to have at least one activity per day on the weekends that involve playing with my children. They are currently 12, 13, and 15 years old. The quarantine has made most of those activities confined to a park setting, but that’s fine by me.
We have an ever-growing bag of outdoor toys and sports equipment that we lug to the local parks. We try out multiple parks for variety. Once a month we pack a big quilt, snacks, drinks, and a board game. We have a picnic and game time at the park at dusk. Then we play a bit of sports to burn off energy and gain or improve skills.
For holidays I try to repeat as many traditions as possible. I hope this will stick in their memories for their own adult lives. They may want to do these things with their own families but at the very least they will have fond memories of a family that cared about smiles, laughs, giggles, and making the moment special. We also repeat family vacations to both Lake Tahoe, CA; Newport Beach, CA; San Diego, CA; and Sedona, AZ. These vacations are based on outdoor activities and can appeal to almost any age.
Although I have taken them to many other places, at least they will have several locations that they feel they know intimately and have an abundance of pleasant experiences to reflect on or revisit. As a child my parents repeated Cambria, CA; Mammoth, CA; and Seattle, WA. These places hold a special place in my heart because they are locked into my memory and when back I go I feel like I get to revisit my childhood.
Most importantly, we have the role as spiritual leaders for our children. In the past, we would pray the Rosary on the way to school. We have gone to Mass consistently. During the quarantine, and during our times of separation, they were not always able to attend Mass. I think this brought about a hunger for family time in worship. They may not fully grasp the importance of the Mass at this point, but they have been appreciative to have Mass (online) in our living room, and then to receive the Eucharist each week following Mass.
As a family, we always pray before meals, whether in our home or dining out. It is second nature to them, and I pray that they always keep our Lord Jesus central in their lives. I pray frequently for their continued conversion.
In closing, we want our homes to be a model that our children can reference when they have families of their own.
Copyright 2020 Marya Hayes
Images copyright 2020 Marya Hayes. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Married to her longtime friend and mommy to 3 high energy children, who demand her constant attention, and direction, Marya serves on the board of directors for a Domestic Violence non-profit. When not working, she is working out, taking the family for nature walks and adventures, or at the movies. She lives in Southern California and feels absolutely blessed to enjoy the beauty of the area every day.