I’ve always admired families who stay close after their children are grown. A boy who wants to bring his girlfriend home, girls who go shopping with their mom even after mom’s style is. . . mom-ish. Happy camaraderie and a freedom to be unique while coming back to the fold to be loved unconditionally are metaphoric blocks we are trying to build into our family structure.

Happy, healthy, close (but not clingy) grown families are so rare anymore. When I see one, I want to stop and pull up a chair and watch, like a happy movie, pressing pause at my favorite scenes and hyper-analyzing each minute detail.

I watch my neighbors in awe, Sundays set aside for their grown children to drop by. I watch the massive quantities of groceries rushed in the door in preparation, Lay’s potato chips peeking out of the grocery sacks, the smell of the grill starting, as one by one the vehicles arrive, as their kids bring their kids home. I feel like a stalker but it’s hard to tear myself away from the sweetness of a family who loves well.

But looking at the epically cool families while your little ones aren’t even sleeping through the night can be depressing: happy philosophy discussions over bowls of ice cream seem light years away.

I don’t know this for sure, but here’s what I think: take heart because happy starts now.

I don’t have a three-step plan, but we care deeply about creating a safe family. Our kids aren’t babies anymore; JD is 11, Cambria is 9 and our youngest, Eli, is 4. We are still in the thick of it. We don’t know how it will all turn out. But here are eleven things we are doing to build relationships with our kids and create a home they’ll want to visit someday.

I don’t have a three-step plan, but we care deeply about creating a safe family. Our kids aren’t babies anymore. We are still in the thick of it. We don’t know how it will all turn out. But here are eleven things we are doing to build relationships with our kids and create a home they’ll want to visit someday.

1. Listening >Lecturing

If I want my sixteen-year-old to talk to me about life, then I must listen to my fifth grader. It is hard sometimes. I find it hard to focus. Several weeks ago JD came home from a party and sat at the counter and proceeded to download every single detail. I honestly didn’t want to hear every little bit but a warning deep in my soul stopped me from sending him to the shower. Instead, I put away dishes and listened to his happy chatter. I looked across the counter at his face, still round with boyhood, and knew in my spirit that listening mattered. Daniel told me the other day that he took JD disc golfing; he relayed, a bit shocked, that JD had kept up a running conversation with him for the entire 18 holes.

Does the talking stop for teens because parents stop listening? I don’t know yet. I only know at this stage I’m very, very tempted to stop listening: the stakes aren’t super high, the stories aren’t super interesting, I hear a lot about different kinds of pizza, jokes, and play by play description of each sporting event. But every time I start to tune out, I think of what I want in the future and tune back in.

2. Structure & Spontaneity

Children love surprises. Adults love surprises too, though we’ve conditioned ourselves well to the daily grind of life. But surprises aren’t much fun if they happen constantly. One aspect of my job as a mom right now is creating structure so that we can be spontaneous. This means bedtimes and baths and schoolwork, the rhythm of a weekend, chores and hard work. And then it means throwing it all to the wind and packing everyone up to skip school and ride the subway into Chicago to a rooftop pool Hotwire deal and see fireworks over Navy Pier and eat breakfast on Lake Michigan.

Structure + spontaneity is eating oatmeal for breakfast all week so we can eat donuts every Monday morning. It means going to bed early so they can stay up late when we have company. It means working hard so they appreciate throwing the job list in the trash and going on a hike (with snacks). Schedule makes the surprise so much sweeter; but too much schedule is just sad. Why wait for your kids to be adults to travel with them? Or eat out? No one will think going to the carwash in pajamas is cool when they’re twenty, but they’ll remember it happened and smile all over again. (I know. I was the five-year-old in pajamas watching the carwash magic. I never forgot.) Do the fun stuff. Do it now.

3. Shopping

While shopping is hardly a cross for a woman to bear, it takes time and energy and I realized with a flash one day that my daughter Cambria had been begging me to go shopping with her and I was just too busy. I love thrifting and she was looking for the glow of the mall forty minutes away. We made up a plan to shop on free Saturdays when Daniel could have Eli with him and set a date. I was stunned and humbled by how much my daughter loved doing this with me. I wanted to cry multiple times as I realized how much I’d already missed out on and what I could have missed if I didn’t listen to her. We shopped and shopped and shopped. My feet ached. She bought accessories like a diva on vacation but stuck to her budget religiously (her daddy was proud) while I succumbed to Target (her daddy was not as proud of me).

Much like listening, if I want her to know I love her and care about her need to be beautiful when she’s sixteen, I need to be involved in all those feelings now. Right now it’s the perfect color of laces for soccer cleats. I’m told a girl’s beauty needs get more complicated. I’m in it for the long haul even if it has to involve the mall.

4. Music

Our family loves music. It’s easy to make music styles a hot button conflict as kids get older. But we are trying hard to avoid that by creating “us” music, not “me” music. In other words, we listen to all sorts of music at the kitchen counter, looking up lyrics and critiquing music styles together. This requires patience for Daniel and me (I’ve given up a lot of music that I really love because it’s not best for everyone) but it also requires patience from our kids (they often have to be flexible too).

When we listen and even play and create music together we can appreciate the art and not lapse into a me-oriented world of zoning out with headphones. One of our favorite things to do is create playlists for events and people. We have a massive library of online playlists, carefully curated and edited to fit moods and events: we have a Saturday Morning Pancakes playlist and a Beanbags playlist, not to mention Happy Birthday, Dad, School Background, JD’s Christmas Party, Mowing, Rainy/Soul, and Kick My Wednesday in Gear. My hope for the next few years is for music to draw us closer, not farther apart and give a window into the individuality of each child’s soul.

5. Open Door to Friends

When does the proverbial door open to friends? I’m not sure and I don’t want to miss the window, so our door has been open from the start of our kids being able to have relationships. It only gets more enjoyable and fun as their friends get older (and funnier and more interesting).

It is never easy to allow your home to be open. It’s not easy to teach a child how to be and have a good friend; having friends and being friendly is something taught most often by example. It’s exhausting to have toddlers over that bite each other and spill juice all over. It’s not easy to deal with hurt feelings when little girls leave each other out and it’s embarrassing if it’s your kid who is the offender. It feels weary to explain why your son can’t shoot his airsoft gun at friends without eye protection.

Sometimes it seems easier to close the door to friends, but I’m not sure anything other than temporary comfort is accomplished by that choice. Interacting with my children and their friends gives me opportunity again and again to train them, to demonstrate and teach wisdom and grace as well as speaking life and love into the extra kids in our home. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that I don’t even know my children’s friends. So that means waking up now, and interacting now and swinging the door open. . . wide.

Does the talking stop for teens because parents stop listening? I don’t know yet. I only know at this stage I’m very, very tempted to stop listening: the stakes aren’t super high, the stories aren’t super interesting, I hear a lot about different kinds of pizza, jokes, and play by play description of each sporting event. But every time I start to tune out, I think of what I want in the future and tune back in.

6. Patience with Trends and Styles

Children are going to become adults. It’s important as parents to guide their steps and set parameters, but there should still be a lot of room for individuality. Think carefully before you choose to die on the hill of which shoes your child wants to wear to the family reunion. This is really hard for me because I feel like our kids reflect us. We don’t want them to be rebellious but I’d rather use my influence on issues that are black and white rather than making my daughter a mini me. Our kids are just hitting the age of caring about all of this. Homeschooling doesn’t shield a child’s desperate need to fit in and feel cool! I don’t place high priority on the cool factor–in fact a very low one (“I shop at Goodwill. You can too!”)–but we don’t want to exasperate them either.

I may live to regret this, but we have found that saying something like this works: “Hey, this isn’t our favorite thing, and please don’t wear it to special events but why don’t you wear it when you are going [fill in appropriate place for trendy item].” Time and time again I see the thrill of said trendy item wear off and the child acquiesce to our family’s more classic (read: boring) style of clothing and appearance. But in the meantime we have averted multiple world wars and wounded spirits and misunderstandings.

7. Pizza Night

On Friday nights at 7 pm at our house, you will see people draw their activities to a close and show up for pizza and family movie night. We are on our second year of regularly doing this together and I have been surprised at how much everyone enjoys it. Sometimes Daniel even takes time off of work for it.

We eat in the living room and shut all the windows. JD usually picks the movie; he screens and searches relentlessly to find excellent entertainment each week. We have not forced this time slot to be free but as Daniel and I have chosen not to work or engage in other obligations, we have noticed that the kids do too. It’s crazy the things they’ll opt out of on their own: “Oh, sorry, I’d love to go but we have movie night. Maybe Saturday.” (I secretly grin to myself.)

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8. Journaling

Journaling is actually a new way I’m communicating with the kids but it’s been so successful that I’m sharing it here. I grabbed two blank journals (here’s a great one to start with, but there are many parent-child journal options available), Googled a list of questions to ask kids, and wrote one at the top of each journal. I explained that each child’s response was 100% optional and I promised no hurt feelings if they never wrote back.

I did not expect their intense fascination with journal sharing. They pour their hearts out on paper and then leave it on my pillow in a little bound book. I have laughed and laughed and almost cried reading what they think about life, and love too. You should try it. But believe me when I say the hardest thing about journaling with your kids is refusing to screenshot their responses to your friends.

9. Debriefing after Events

This is huge for our family. We have a lot of event traffic and travel and guests and it’s very easy for us to lose track of family life. When I was a kid I capitalized on those busy times to do exactly as I pleased and I was pretty sure Mom and Dad would never notice.

Debriefing gives us a chance to see how each child is doing, if there is anything to address from the event that just happened (it’s not polite to throw and gleefully launch frogs in front of little children, even if it is fun) or soothe hurts (we are sorry you got left out of the game) or even just simply saying: “Hey. You guys were awesome hosts. Good job.”
Everyone needs a break from each other. Training children is not a lasting assignment, but marriage is, and it’s important to cultivate your marriage.

10. Sending Children to Grandparents

Everyone needs a break from each other. Training children is not a lasting assignment, but marriage is, and it’s important to cultivate your marriage. I admit feeling guilty every single time I send the kids to their grandparents (even though its only twice a year) but to fall in love again is a better gift to our children than marriage burnout while we cling to parenting 24/7/365.

11. Going Outdoors

Something about being outside seems to make humanity realize that the universe does not revolve around themselves. Being exposed to the elements is sometimes gentle and sometimes harsh but it’s all directly from the hand of God, unlike being inside our carefully controlled environments. The normal everyday frustrations of family life seem to pale a little when you leave the bills on the desk and the crumbs on the floor to go hiking in a cave or fishing in a pond.

Laying in the back yard on fresh cut grass eating cookies, catching lightning bugs, building a fire, watching stars come out, listening for birds. . . appreciating the world God created, together, brings an awareness that God is in control and we are not. And that’s a good thing for a family to know.

Looking at the epically cool families while your little ones aren’t even sleeping through the night can be depressing: happy philosophy discussions over bowls of ice cream seem light years away. I don’t know this for sure, but here’s what I think: take heart because happy starts now.

Our kids are still so young. Everyone is home at night, safely tucked in before nine o’clock. Their issues are all quite manageable. I know the years ahead will bring challenges and I’m not blind: I know there will be hard days and hard years. But I’m excited, too, because I like these people my kids are becoming and it’s so exciting to watch them grow.

I don’t want to create a close family so that I cling tightly, unable to say goodbye: that was never God’s intention or design for the family. He created families as safe places (communities!) to demonstrate the Gospel and grow children into people who will turn around and do the same. I am looking forward to launching our kids into the great wide world and I can’t wait for them to come home and tell us all about it.

Related Posts:

two surprising concepts that revolutionized our parenting
there is no formula to keep your family from sin
parenting: gospel for both of us
discipline that connects with your child’s heart
long days of small things
rice nights: choosing scarcity once a week
how to have family time your kids will love for years to come
how to grow a close-knit family

Further Resources:
The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belong and Becoming
The Most Important Place on Earth: What a Christian Home Looks Like and How to Build One

Photography: JenniMarie Photography
(Final Photo: Hayley Novak)

217 Comments

  1. Loved this! A refreshing post on the Internet! I will come back to it I love it so much.

  2. This is beautiful! I have an 11 year old and a 2 year old and I too, already think about this. I had kids much later than most of my friends and one of my best friends has a child in college and one is a senior in h.s. I’m always storing tips in my memory because she double dates with her daughter. Who does that anymore? It’s so beautiful. #parentinggoals

  3. I love all of these ideas so much! Thank you for inspiring families around the world!

  4. This was a beautiful article. Even though our children are 33 to 24, some with children of their own, I feel like every one of us will benefit from this mind set. Thank you and I will pass this information along to my family and friends. I look forward to reading future articles.

    1. I just came across this on Pinterest. I was having a bad day, in a funk I can’t get out of. Reading this by chance really put some light in me and made me put my “priorities” into perspective and made me feel happy.. blessed. I can’t wait until my kids come home today and tell them how much I love them and how much I love being their momma. Just enjoy the previous time I have with them.

  5. Thank you for this article! My kids are still really young – 3 yo and 1 yo – but I’m thankful for the example you lay out for how you care for your kids. You are so intentional in all you do! Can’t wait to implement some of these tips in the years ahead.

  6. Kathleen Brachmann says:

    I loved this article as my husband and I now with grown children and young grandchildren have tried very hard to keep Sundays special and our door is “always opened” for them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Family is everything and building those strong relationships start when they are young and continue to grow through the journey of life!

  7. I loved your story … until you got to the part about sending the kids to their grandparents! I am a grandparent and I love having our grand babies (ages 12 thru 18 now) come stay with us! But if their parents act like it’s a bad thing, the kids will think it’s a bad thing too. Please help your children live their grandparents. We have a lot to give, but probably won’t be around for as long as parents. Thank you

  8. Loved reading this article, I usually don’t leave comments but this is great, I really love the music idea. Going to start that immediately. Thank you for the great ideas!

  9. I love all your posts. They are so real.

  10. Loved this, FROM a mom whose grown kids bought houses in Our low income neighborhood to raise their kids missionally too. We also have Friday night open pizza night, used to play games but grandchildren has changed that so we hang out taking turns until little ones need to go to bed, seven grand 4 and under. Love it but can say honestly prayed my kids would reach people for Christ on all habitted continents! Retired to be available to help in these young mom years cuz I would have appreciated it.

  11. Thank you for this article! I usually don’t leave comments but this one really spoke to me. You sound like an excellent mother and I’m definitely going to implement some of your ideas in our lives.

  12. Very well written. Loved reading every word of this article. I hope I can use your tips to make our home a speacial place for our kids.

  13. Thank you for this. My husband and I are currently expecting our first child and we both share close relationships with our parents and siblings. I never really thought about how these have been cultivated but it is extremely important to us to build the same type of relationships with our daughter. I think I will print this off and keep it somewhere so I can come back to it as our little lady grows up.

  14. You sound like a wonderful mum…my kids are 20, 18, 17, 12 and 10. Each of my 3 oldest have been through tough stuff from teens on…something about hormones bringing out any potential problems!!!
    I think the best thing you can do is keep them talking…harder with my boy! Its hard sometimes to strike a balance between being the mum with unquestionable authority and the friend…but if in doubt…err on the friend side. I would rather know what was happening than not!

  15. Banashree says:

    This is beautiful.. so positive, so motivating, so real, and humble.. thank you so much for sharing. I know I’m going to read this blog again and again…

  16. I enjoyed reading your article and it brought back great memories of when we were raising our children. I wanted to add a few more ideas to your list if you don’t mind. We grew up in a wonderful church, raising our kids with other young families. Some of our best memories were serving in our local church in various ministries such as the harvest party, workday, and making meals for those in need in our church. When we worked with the youth group, we also brought our kids along to serve those in the community with coat drives , car washes, working in yards and cleaning up houses for the elderly. God even allowed us to go to Canada and Europe on mission trips serving there. Again, I love all the ideas that you listed and have fun memories of many of the things that you mentioned but I have to say I have many memories of serving in ministry together, which are some of my favorite memories while raising our kids. I believe the joy they received was much more than they received on any trip to a theme park.
    Another great opportunity with the kids was taking care of their grandparents as they aged. They learned how to love them, serve them, and take care of them and still help them to feel valued as they aged. They created many memories that they can hold on to with joy now that there are grandparents are gone.

  17. Loved this article!

    The grandparent isn’t an option for us though. My parents live on the other side of the country, and my husband’s parents, well we don’t have a good or trusted relationship (it’s become a factor of safety) and my children do not trust them.

    But everything else I love, love love!

  18. I think you have some great thoughts and applaud you for thinking ahead to when the kids grow up. My husband and I recently arrived at that time of life. Our son lives nearby and owns his own business, and our daughter is in college. We miss them a lot and are always anxious for them to come back home. Coincidentally, I just wrote a guest post today that said something you said in #10. It’s about putting your marriage first and keeping the empty nest years in mind. You’re smart to take care of your relationship with your husband, too.

  19. My kids are grown, but when they were young I did the same thing you are doing! I observed a family that had what I longed for in the future. (I actually wrote a book about it.). I also spent time with them, and asked. ALOT of questions. I asked the grown kids what made them want to come home and I asked the mom what she did to make them want to come home! She has ended up being a mentor to me, even to this very day, as she is now a grandma of 17! My kids are now 27 and 24, one getting married in June and one getting engaged soon, and they spend a lot of time here with their friends and fiancé’s! God was so good to put my mentor into my life all those years ago! I am so grateful for it, and for the work he has done I my family! Do your part and God will do His work in everyone’s hearts! It’s a beautiful work that He does and we get to partner with him!!

    Be encouraged!!
    And, come visit me at ginalsmith.com! I’d love to meet you!

  20. Many many years ago I became a single parent of one who worked full-time and my child went to preschool. Since we both spent all week at work away from each other on a strict schedule I implemented junk food Friday. That meant once we got home from work and school on Friday afternoon we broke all the rules stayed up late ate junk food and goofed off to de-stress from the week. Later I got remarried and had two more kids and the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother again but I’ve kept the junk food Friday tradition alive and we all appreciate that night of the week where were not scheduled and obligated to follow the rules of the world outside our house.

    This is a great article and I agree that you have to listen to children tell their stories and be willing to trust their judgement all that you can when it comes to friends and events at school exedra. They had a new friend come over a few times and I thought the kid was really nice and like having him around, but when I noticed he didn’t come around anymore I asked my children and they told me they did not feel comfortable with him anymore because it was rumored he was breaking into other people’s garages and they didn’t want to be involved in that. I was very proud of them for having sound judgement and for being honest with me about it. I reminded them that rumors can be false and cruel and not to pass judgment too quickly based on a rumor they heard but by the same token if they did not feel comfortable with this boy then by all means they should trust their gut and their instincts above everything else.

    I also strongly promote the BrotherStrong philosophy. We do not mistreat or embarrass each other in public, and no matter how angry they get at each other do not come home and leave one behind ever. They can fight it out at home but when they’re riding their bike around town or away at school they’re not to humiliate one another under any circumstance and they are to defend each other under every circumstance brother strong come home together and work it out here.

  21. What if you don’t have grandparents, or anyone, to send your kids to?

  22. Such a wonderful read! As I read it I was reminded so much of my childhood … Movie nights in the living room with nachos on the coffee table, music playing on my Dad’s record player, extra people at the dinner table often, day trips to the mountains with my friends and mom and dad packed and cooked a campfire lunch and food, food and more food available to my friends and I.

    I now have a 9 and 6 year old and we are raising them very similar to your suggestions, except the journaling …which I LOVE! Thank you for sharing!

  23. We’ve done all but #10 on that list. The other thing I would add is feed people – lots and lots and lots of food. 🙂 Always have food available, always be willing to feed a crowd. Our oldest is 19, the others are 16, 14, 11, 9 and 3. We have a constant group of extras at our house. We love it!!

  24. Denise Preiner says:

    Wonderful read! We are sending our youngest little man to all day kindergarten and we have 8 yr old girl in second grade. I am a stay at home mom and have longed for time to do things around our home to be a better mom and wife and so much more. I have enjoyed raising our kids at home and spending precious time with them but, it has gone too fast 🙁 . We have moved a few times with our kids and its not been easy as we live no where near family. Its difficult to see family as we know we have to leave again and grandparents don’t get to see the grand babies. We are awaiting the right position for my husband to move into with his company and waiting can be so difficult as we want to make this our last move and praying it will be but, also closer to family. Its not going to be easy I am sure for me as mom to send the both kids to school this year all day but, I know God will get me through. I know this will be good for them and for myself on so many levels and my husband for that matter. Hey maybe he’ll get to come home to a clean house that the kids hadn’t gotten a chance to destroy yet lol. I really enjoyed what you said and want to make our home a place of memories, a place to want to come home to and feel safe as we do this already but, just different as the kids get older etc. A place of joy and laughter but, structure and rules.

  25. Mary Gallardo says:

    As a mom to a 26, 24 and 22 year old……THIS IS GREAT!!! I think I did many of these things (although my kids may disagree with the listen/lecture hahah) and some I wish I had. The entirety of the child rearing for me was ABSOLUTELY to make them great adults….and great they are. I always knew I loved them fiercely, just never knew how much I was going to LIKE them. It is true that the days are long and the years are short….I confess when mine were the ages of yours I was excited to launch them and hear all about it too. There is some sadness in the satisfaction……I always miss them….and the times when it was just us. But those Sunday dinners or random texts or times we all play a game together are as great as you imagine!! God bless your journey and thanks for the GREAT read <3

  26. Jennifer A Mull says:

    These are all good ideas…. I have to be honest, though… I have 8 kids, and 4 have graduated, 3 of those have moved out. I feel very blessed because, due to financial and health reasons, I really didn’t do most of these things on the list except we did talk/listen to each other quite a bit, yet I have great relationships with each of my adult kids.

    I shared a lot with them my mistakes and how I came to Christ. I prayed with them when they made mistakes and taught them about grace. I apologized to them and asked for forgiveness when I messed up. I didn’t have the energy or time to focus in on each child as an individual, but if they came to me, they knew I would listen, even till late hours in the night.

    My older four still like to come home and talk to me… It is not unusual for my sons to talk to me for 2-3 hours about whatever is going on in their life. My daughter-in-law and I will talk until the late morning hours. My younger children, including my daughters, know that I am limited in my ability to go shopping, etc. But, we look at things online together and watch movies together. We can’t afford spontaneity very often or any vacations, but they know I let them make their own decisions in their teen years and I allow them to have differing opinions from mine. We don’t talk just about what we believe, but WHY we believe certain things, and I include examples from my own life. They know that I am not perfect, and they know that *I* know that I am not perfect.

    All four of my older sons have said that the number one reason they come to me is that I do not try to control their lives. They have seen their friends whose parents try to control everything, and they have seen their friends sneak around that and get into bigger trouble. They appreciate that I respected their opinions, allowed them to mess up occasionally while still living at home. All of them have said they want to raise their children similarly.

    So, do what you can to spend time with them, but mostly, respect them as their own person. Let them be who they are with their own interests. Don’t be so afraid of them going in a different direction that you actually push them to get there faster.

  27. I really enjoyed this. I feel like I need to work at having more fun with my kids. Often I feel overwhelmed by the amount of work to get done in a day, and the extra messes stress me out because they add to the work load. I feel like my kids only see me as the ‘drill sergeant’ which I am not naturally by nature. I used to be very laid back but now it feels irresponsible if I am not constantly trying to get more done. Finding balance is hard. Thank you for this.

  28. We did all of these except the journaling and you are right on track Hayley!! We have an only child who is 20 now but felt like a big family with all the friends who spent loads of time at our house during the growing up years! They still come by calling us Momma H and Coach – it is such a blessing and the memories are precious. It does start when they are young and your advice (from one who knows) is perfect Haley! Best wishes and well done.

  29. As a nearly-30-year-old who loves coming home, I add a resounding “amen” to each of these. My family also likes to play various games together, which was particularly helpful when some of us siblings went through an awkward/strained stage and didn’t have a lot to say to each other. The games gave us a common focus and helped reforge adult friendships. I think the most key things on the list are the listening and the patience – that is, learning to let each child feel comfortable in their own skin with you.

  30. I think you are spot on. I did all these same things when my kids were young and they do indeed, still like to be with us. They still, however, need to separate and it can be painful. I cried a lot this spring when my college aged daughter said she wasn’t going to be calling home as much, nor living at home for the summer because she felt the need to learn to stand on her own two feet. But after giving her that space, she called and sheepishly asked if she could “come visit” for a week…to which we jumped for joy. It all adds up…and in the end, parenting takes a lot of grace.

  31. This post is just beautiful. It really touched my heart. I too am in the thick of little ones. I find myself leaning more on the always structured side. I pray the Lord will give me more spontaneity. To turn a spill into laughter. To turn a mess into a game. To listen, as you said, instead of tuning out those long drawn out – doesn’t make any sense – stories. These are the years that we build the foundational relationships with our children. I pray the Lord will whisper to my heart when to lean into them, instead of just pushing through. Thank you for both the reminder and the perspective shift.

  32. Betsy Ludwick says:

    Well said! As a mom of adult children and grandchildren we have worked hard to have a family that enjoys time together. (And sometimes it is work) Our grandkids are b/t 25 and 2 years old. They all have fun together too. We plan a family dinner every Sunday but its not a requirement. We eat well, laugh loud, and even argue. But the love here is felt by all. Even the neighbors come over when they see the cars coming into the driveway. But I would caution young moms. Not everyone has the gift of hospitality. DO NOT feel that you are are a failure if you don’t have the hospitality gene. I know people young and old who are panicked by the thought of entertaining even family. That is OK! Develop the gifts you have and don’t stress the rest. If your house isn’t clean or neat, no problem. I do have the hospitality gene so it is easy for me. But not all my kids have it. They love to come over but wouldn’t be comfortable having the group at their house. Thanks OK. I don’t have the clean and neat house gene and I’ve come to terms with that. (If you want to see me, come anytime. If you want to see my house, make an appointment!) And all of your family won’t get along. Then leave them be. Thanks for this great article of encouragement.

    1. Thank you so much for this!!! This makes perfect sense and has really raised the burden of guilt for seem things for me!

    2. Perfectly said! Thank you!!

    3. We ma’am are two peas in a pod
      I either have the energy to really cook a big meal or really clean the house but I don’t have both so my house is comfortable but it’s not always a dusted and a glossy floored place to visit
      BUT …..
      Foods always good ?

  33. Such a beautiful list, Thank you 🙂

  34. Karen Bedwell says:

    Simply Beautiful

  35. This is by far the best list I’ve come across! My first born is only 4 months old, but I’ve been looking for this list since before he was born. Thank you and God bless.

  36. Virginia Lyle says:

    I this is good stuff. Thank you

  37. That was my favorite season of parenting. Now I’m in the stage where I feel like I’m doing everything wrong. Where I’m worried they may NEVER “come home”. I have a 14, 17 and 19 year old and I ‘can’t do anything right’. Sigh. I hope the tides turn again and the next season is easier. God is good and I’m trusting in the fact that He loves them more than I do and that I did the best I could and He will fill in my gaps. Enjoy this season…it goes by fast! ❤

  38. Great Read!
    I am interested in the journaling but was unable to get the link for questions to ask to work!

  39. I loved this post and have shared on all my social media places. My kids are 25 and 28 and I don’t know what we did right but they do seem to enjoy being here at our home.

    When my children were your kid’s ages, I heard a guest (I think it was Maya Angelou) on Oprah ask, “What do your kids see on your face the minute they walk through the door?” It was so convicting. I loved being a mom and having my kids come home, but my first comment was always, “Don’t put your backpack there” or something similar. I was not giving them the message of how I really felt about them.

    Children get their sense of self based on what is reflected back at them. I started doing this silly thing, “Hah! It’s Taylor (or Tucker)!” out loud or silently in my head. Looking at her or him as if she was British Royalty.

  40. And then there’s us single moms… we work full time and see our kids only every other week. In the evening I get home & there’s barely enough time to make & eat dinner, do showers, read together & get to bed on time.
    This is a great article, but so much of it seems unrealistic.

  41. Carol Bryant says:

    As a mother of 2 daughters in their early 30’s who still value our family time, I agree with everything you said. One thing I would add is that when each child is in middle school, and things start to change and communication starts to feel more challenging, take that child somewhere for a one-on-one weekend. I chose 7th grade and took each daughter to NYC for a mother/daughter weekend of fun, no rules and no schedules. We ate potato chips and drank Coke in bed watching late night television. One daughter was a shopper and spent hours in Macys. One daughter loved museums so that is where we spent most of our time. Each daughter was unique and each weekend was unique. And, for those few short days, we were friends again rather than adversaries. Teenagers are challenging and its good to remember that you can be friends.

  42. Hayley this was a wonderful post. Being in the moment is so very important and is stressed so much but you don’t see a lot of posts about how those moments will shape the relationship you could have with your children once their grown. I took so much from this post but the one I love the most is the journaling. I am going to go home tonight and get started on this with my daughter because I think it’s a great way to allow our children to express themselves and share (if they want). It’s also a beautiful keepsake to create. Thank you for these tips and reminders.

  43. Just came across this post. Thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement! God used you in my life today, and I am grateful!

  44. Loved this post!! I have two teenage daughters, and this is spot on. We certainly have hope that we’ll continue to have a home our girls want to come home to, for many years to come!

  45. Such a beautiful read ♡

  46. Homeschool. Families who do stay close all their lives.

  47. Beautifully said-very wise comments. As the mom of three grown daughters and grandmother to eight grand babies I see where I succeeded and where I could have done a lot better. Camping is one activity that helped us incorporate all the positives. I especially liked how you showed how structure makes spontaneity so much fun. God bless you!

  48. I love this Hayley. It takes work but it is sooooo worth it. You have to be intentional about everything and that is so tiring sometimes. Very well put.

  49. I enjoyed this article very much. I read it out of curiousity to see if your ideas aligned with what my husband I have done in our family in years gone by. We now have adult children (and one unbelievably adorable grand baby) who all love to come home. I, myself, never wanted to go home but I felt obligated to visit, so it was definitely a goal of mine to change things for my own kids. I would agree with everything you said and would like to add:
    Along with listening it’s so important to be interested in what your child is telling you. Ask questions, show enthusiasm and commiserate if necessary. Listening only requires two ears but connecting also requires your heart.
    And if you don’t mind me saying so, I thinking praying and worshipping with your children should be at the top of the list. Bringing the spirit of God into your home makes it a heaven on earth.

  50. Tonya Magonigal says:

    I grew up in a house that did not have any communication and decided that as a mother I was not going to let that happen. My husband and I were always very open and honest with our 3 children. We did all the things that you listed here. I can tell you now that our youngest, that just turned 21, doing those 11 items does work and they will still want to talk to you everyday and share their adventures. We are still cultivating those things with our children now. We still take trips and do fun things with them as individuals and as a family. We as a couple still take time every week to be together. Our kids still talked to as as teenagers and sometimes it was really hard to listen to their trial we stayed quiet and did not judge them. It is a blessing to us now that they are adults and still seek for our nonjudgmental love. We did this all with the help of God and many many prayers on their behalf. I know you will succeed in your family if you keep on this track.

    1. I’m struggling (esp with my 19 y/o in college) to find a good balance between not being judgmental, and not showing approval for the choices she’s making that don’t align with what we’ve taught her. How do you find that balance?

  51. I love this and communicates my heart so well. Thanks for the encouragement.

  52. Gagan Singh says:

    Home symbolises comfort , peace, security, love, feeling of wantedness, warmth, support n everything else positive for a healthy growth. This topic is a great eye opener for everyone and a reminder of many things which we may sometimes forget as parents .
    Lovely reading !

  53. Such lovely writing, and practical, grace-filled observations. So glad to have stumbled upon your little realm.

  54. Nice thoughts. It will be interesting what you have to say when they are in their teens. Enjoy the season. You’re in the sweet spot.

  55. Good post. However, I emphatically disagree with one of your comments in #5, where you state that opening your home to the friends is “never easy.” Opening your home to friends is extremely easy, and I believe that it’s much easier than having your kids go elsewhere for numerous reasons. First, there’s no driving required. You have insight into what is going on, who is eating what (sugar avoidance made easier), and once you learn to enjoy it, the kid noise is actually kind of charming and inviting. My kids are late elementary school age now so the noise involves a lot less screaming, and the messes are generally easier to clean up then toddler messes were (and the kids have to clean them up). I really enjoy the kids having their friends over – they are outside most of the time, not moping around telling me how bored they are, and I really don’t mind the forts and organizational disasters that sometimes follow playtime. Friends of mine who have teenagers concur – they don’t mind having the occasional extra kid passed out on the couch after a late night study session, and they know where the kids are. Like so many parts of parenting, having the open-to-friends house requires a deep breath and a conscious embracing, but it’s well worth it. If you’re lucky, you get to be friends with the parents too!

  56. Am I the only one who thinks going to my parents EVERY Sunday is overkill. My husband would say that is clingy. He is happy seeing his family every few months and I am fine with 2 times a month. It’s just too hard when my parents both work full time, hubby and I work full time, taking care of small children, sports, school and church events. I don’t want my kids to feel obligated to see me when they are grown, or to be overwhelmed and exhausted yet they think they have to go see mom. I would much prefer a good long phone conversation than face to face time that is forced and everyone knows it.

    1. I think it depends on the family. When my husband and I were first married, we were going to my parents’ every week, and it was too much for us, it got stressful. My in-laws have recently started having a family dinner once a month, and that seems to be about right for us. The families I know that get together more often than that seem to have it more as an informal gathering, come if you can and you want to, than a formal everyone-is-expected-to-be-there-no-matter-what thing. But what works for one family may not work for another, and that is okay. Part of having a strong family is being flexible and adapting to the needs of your own family.

    2. Just try to remember…at one point (for many years) you were your mother’s whole life. She might look forward to your visit all week! I need to do a better job about making time for my mom…after all, there will come a day when I’ll wish I could see her and she won’t be here anymore.

  57. Yes! I agree with these. I’m the mom of six grown kids now and I love that they want to come home and do things.

  58. Very good article! My parents did most of these and to this day even my extended family loves to gather together and all hang out. I will say the teenage years were not great, but even if your babies rebel remember that you’ve laid a good foundation and they will come back to you one day!

  59. I needed this right now! Please, please, please will you share some of the music your family all enjoys? Thank you!!!

  60. Crystal in Lynden says:

    You wrote about an online music library. Do you buy all the songs or is there a way to have access to making song lists that is budget friendly?

  61. Well let’s just marry Disneyland to North Korea – unrealistic and not gonna happen – silly silly get a reality check we can’t do it all-make the best of what you have -that’s winning.

    1. Gabbi Browne says:

      What?! I think these ideas are pretty doable. Can any family do all 11 every day, no, but it’s not as if she’s suggesting homemade dinners, expensive vacays, and Pinterest dreams! Wowza!

    2. Why not? Choose something that’s important to you and start implementing it in your home. Work at it until you feel good about it and then start on another one. We’re doing a lot of these in my home now with plans to add more to our lives, and it really brings joy to family life.

    3. Jackie Eastman says:

      Oh my, oh my, oh Mia. I have three grown children with spouses and grandkids and they “show up” often and regularly – just because they want to. I just read this post today along with your reply. What you claim to be unrealistic may very well end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy for your family.

      Raising kids to one day be your friends requires intentional living when they are young. I hope you will re-read this tremendous article and reconsider your position. I have already raised my family and I can tell you that Hayley nailed it in this article. The kids who choose to come home as adults are the ones who had a lot of good fun and good conversation in their growing up years.

      Thanks Hayley! When your kids are grown and gone you will reap the rewards from what you are doing now.

  62. Love this so much. We’re in a bit of a rut, and I think this post is both funny and extremely helpful. Love the spontaneity and the structure as well – I think they set guidelines for the kids without always being tied to regiment. Thanks for all the helpful ideas!

  63. Maryellen says:

    Great article : ) We do very similar things my girls are 6 and 9, and being a single parent, its vital to be attentive and engaged with them now, as we need to be able to really talk and be there for each other. The journaling is great too, my eldest loves it, the youngest is just starting.

  64. That is all great advice, and I love your thoughts. I’d add one suggestion that you can also be that child that you see bringing her family over to mom and dad’s, (grandma and pa’s) house for Sunday dinner. It shows your children that extended families are awesome by setting the example now.

  65. Katherine says:

    Agreed…we do family much the same, thanks for the ideas. Could you post a list of the family friendly movies you’ve watchedm? We often do make your own pizza/movie nights but finding a good movie can be hard..thanks!

    1. Katherine,

      Recommending movies is scary! Haha! Different families have different opinions of what “family friendly” looks like. We use Plugged In online to review movies; also there are lots of great family movie night suggestion lists out there. I usually search “family movie night” on Pinterest or Google. Two of our recent favorites were Woman in Gold and Mr. Holland’s Opus. I try to view movies as art and teach the kids to choose wide and varied film options. . . everyone loves Mall Cop, for example, but they’re also pumped for Fiddler on The Roof (up next).

      Thanks for reading and writing!

      1. “The Happiest Millionaire” is one of our families favorites, Our “Children” are 30,28,26,24 & 19 and we have been known to still gather together to watch it. We homeschooled for 15 years, it is also one of the most blessed things a family can do to unite them together and to God. Praying for you all +JMJ, joan

  66. Rachel S. says:

    Some of our kids are older than yours ranging from 4 1/2 up to 17. The 17 year old boy loves to talk to us and often tells us about his conversations with friends, our 16 year old daughter loves to go shopping with me – I need to do that more with her. The younger 3 just love to spend time together one on one and as a family. We have journaled for years, actually our oldest daughter and I share a birthday and she bought me a mother daughter journal as a bday gift 🙂 We do most of what you do and are reaping the benefits all ready 🙂 Thanks for this great reminder and enjoy your family! I too look forward to when the kids start bringing home their families, but I can certainly wait too!

    1. Oh wow! You’re a journal veteran! I love this! And I love the age range of your kids, those families are a blast. Enjoy every minute.

      Thank you for writing.

  67. For the marriages that are together, it is certainly very important to nurture them. She in no way “glorified” them or made it sound like families can’t work without two parents. Please don’t seek out and contort things to create needless hurt feelings or illusions of ill intentions.

  68. i like the bio where you say you leave the house with only 1 earring.. i used to do that too ^_^.. and my name is grace

  69. I loved your blog!!!!

  70. I like what you wrote in your bio. 🙂 My kids would definitely like all your incorporations of food to make things more special and memorable!

  71. Doreen Stewart says:

    Beautifully written… I’m trying for the same thing. My daughter is 17 and we talk every night and pray together even if it’s 2:00 am when the friends leave. I would add find something to do that you all love. Three years ago my family of four (son age 15, daughter, dad and me) started Roller skating every week. Now we skate three times a week. We’re getting fit together and have a lot of fun. We know their friends. Their friends are used to us being there. We’re trying to provide an open door for the skate friends and it’s been so sweet. We’ve grown so close to our kids through skating.

    1. Doreen,

      I love your idea of a family activity. It doesn’t seem to matter so much what the activity is, but rather the doing of it together. Together is an awesome thing.

      Thanks for sharing.

  72. Susan Dyess says:

    Maybe you should write you own blog about your experiences. Why would you ask her to”change or add” something on her blog because of your experiences. This is a blog about what she is doing and how it is working for her family which happens to include a husband. Also she doesn’t have teenagers let alone young adults so she can’t really include that experience yet. I’m sure you have a platform with a vast number of people that you could help and encourage with your experiences so you may want to consider starting a blog if you don’t have one already.

  73. Such a wonderful list! Grandparents are largely gone for us (minus grandma who lives with us) so #10 isn’t an option, but I am planning to try some of these other ideas out.

    I can shed some light on listening in the teen years though. My 17 and 15 year olds never.stop.talking. But my 13 year almost never shares thing unless he’s in a rare mood. So I think it’s a personality thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if JD keeps you updated on every inane detail of life for years to come!

    1. Maryalene,

      You have an in-home grandma! How lovely. And thanks for your thoughts on personality and talking kids. I do think you’re right however mine are all talkers! Whew! It’s yakking all the time here. 😉

      Thank you for reading and writing.

  74. Susan Dyess says:

    I just want to say you are absolutly on the right track with what you are doing. My husband and I have been married 27 years we have a 25 year old daughter. Everything minus the Journaling we did with her in your article. We never had a bad time with her, never had “those teenage years” She is now married, Her and her husband are serving the Lord and are about to help launch a church 12 hours away. God has given me grace and 2 little ones to deal with the distance. We are very close definitely not clingy. I pray we can do as well with our 8 and 6 year old as we did with her.

    1. Susan,
      So I love that you pointed out that your daughter is serving God and not in the same town. I wish I would have clarified that in what I chose to write. . . joy for our kids probably won’t mean that they live in our town. Serving God and using their gifts might take them all the way around the world and I will rejoice to see them fly away. I just hope they fly back.

      Thank you for your kind words.

  75. You write so beautifully! Thank you so much for this article 🙂 Like Kristy two comments before me, I would love to read an update in 10 or so years when your kids have passed through the more challenging teen years. I’m sure they’ll make you want to pull your hair out at times, but the Lord is our enabler and I am sure He’ll pull you through! 🙂

    I am excited to see the heights He will launch your children into when you set them loose into the world!

    1. I pull my grey hairs out already, does that count?! I’m excited for our kids too. I know there are sleepless nights ahead and burdens to give to God but I also know there is great joy ahead because God is good even if life isn’t. He is the constant, not my children’s success or failure. I cling to that knowledge even while I pray for peace and children who walk close with God.

      Thank you for reading.

  76. Thank you for this post! My husband and I found it both inspiring and honest. Did you know you have a bonus number? After we talked through these on a date last night, my husband suggested a coded “maybe we should do number 6 with the kids tonight!” I couldn’t remember which one was number 6, so I checked and discovered there are two items labelled #6 on your list!! 😉

    1. Kindred Grace says:

      We did discover that and edit the post, but I’m guessing the cached version is still showing the duplicate six. Thank you!

      1. Thanks! I was glad to have 11 of your suggestions! 😉

    2. Oh my goodness, so embarrassing! I discovered the error when I printed it out to take it to my neighbors (the epic & cool family I wrote about). I had a lot of trouble collating the pages and kept looking back to see what was wrong. I was horrified to discover the double sixes. So funny. Then I was curious if anyone would have noticed. You’re so observant so yay for you. Only one other person noticed that I’m aware of. I even listed to a podcast discussing the article line by line and they said “Number 6” twice. Hahaha. Obviously I’m not a number person.

      Thanks so much for reading.

  77. Sweetheart, your 10 are perfect. We have 3 grown sons, 3 amazing daughters in love, 8 grands and we are blessed to be that family that vacations together and where coming to Grandmom’s and Pop-pop’s is a great family time. I didn’t do it all correctly but God blessed in spite of me. Those 10 are great……I would only add: sharing of biblical faith is foremost, but I know that is already happening at your house. 😉

    1. Adel,

      Sharing Biblical faith, yes. Because without vision, people perish. Thanks for encouraging me to keep it central.

      Grandmom and Pop-pop’s sounds like the place to be. Enjoy every minute.

  78. Judy Peterson says:

    Loved this. Very useful to my new single-mom daughter who becomes frustrated easily!

    1. Awww, xoxoxoxo to your daughter. Tough road but so much grace from God for a mama trying her very best. Hopefully you can love her fiercely through the days ahead.

      Thanks for reading.

  79. Great ideas and comments about every day life. They grow and change too fast they need us and we need them.

  80. Just a quick little note. I read your bio and was confused because of a missing semi-colon. The sentence “Hayley Novak is married to Daniel, mama, teacher…” means that Hayley is married to Daniel, and married to mama, and married to teacher. I think what you wanted to say was “Hayley Novak is married to Daniel; mama, teacher and taxi service to JD, Cambria, and Eli; living in a brick house …” That says you are married to Daniel, and are a mama, teacher, and taxi service to JD. I know it’s knit-picking, but I thought it might be helpful where you are reaching such a large readership.

    That being said, your article was very insightful and well worth the read. I hope you continue to write and publish. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

    1. Those missing semi-colons! So problematic! I assure you that I am only married to Daniel.

      I’ll fix it!

      Thanks for reading.

  81. We are truly kindred spirits. I feel like I just read something I wrote. We think so much alike. My girls are 17 and 19 and guess what? I STILL like my people! Things are definitely different but the joy remains. Hugs to you my new friend.

    1. Valerie,

      I like my people too. Well, most days. So glad to hear that you’re loving your teenage girls. They’re blessed to have a mom who talks about them with so much joy.

      Thanks for taking the time to write.

  82. Thank you for the encouragement. Any chance you have a list of the movies you’ve watched over the years? I would love some suggestions.

    1. Hi, Jen,

      I keep trying to talk my son into posting movie reviews but I think it sounds too much like a school project. 😉 We use Plugged In online to review movies; also there are lots of great family movie night suggestion lists out there. I usually search “family movie night” on Pinterest or Google. Two of our recent favorites were Woman in Gold and Mr. Holland’s Opus. I try to view movies as art and teach the kids to choose wide and varied film options. . . everyone loves Mall Cop, for example, but they’re also pumped for Fiddler on The Roof (up next).

      Happy movie watching!

  83. Jesper Fjord says:

    This is a great article with a lot of spot-on observations on how to be a great parent/family. Until you bring up God and religion. How come you americans always have to do that? That kind of blind faith is scaring and it doesn’t matter if you’re protestant, feminist, ecologist, muslim or republican. Don’t live you life after a fanatic dogma.

    Take care Jesper Fjord

    1. Hi, Jesper, thanks for your thoughts. Ironically, my love for Jesus is the reason I want to create a safe family for our children. I know beautiful families who aren’t religious so it would be wrong for me to imply that Christianity is the only way to provide a healthy home life. I read the Bible as truth. If you liked the ideas I wrote, I recommend reading the Bible as insightful philosophy. I’m honored you chose to read.

  84. These are great ideas! Thank you!

  85. What a beautiful post. Since we currently have 6 teenagers I was happy to feel like I’ve lived most of this however imperfectly thus far. I so agree with the listening now being critical. We are staying very involved and engaged regardless of how challenging it is. Thanks so much for sharing this wisdom with other moms in the trenches.

  86. This is a wonderful article. Our children are 18, 25, 27, 30 and 32. The older 4 are married, and we have 4 grands. Our oldest is doing his Internal Medicine residency far away; our son-in-law joined the AF and took away our daughter and one grand, but the locals all gather at our house most every Sunday, and it’s the highlight of my week. Our daughter says Sundays still feel so odd without us, though they’ve been gone for 3 years. The thing she misses most is our popcorn and candy Sunday night tradition. I’ve found that the simplest, most inexpensive thing can become a treasured tradition.
    Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking article.

  87. What a great article, one of the best ones I have read about parenting, thanks a lot!!

  88. so good. I enjoyed this. I would love to read an update in 10 years when the kids have passed through the more challenging teen years…:) good luck with that!

    1. Hahaha! I want to read the update too! I so want to know who they’re going to be. I think in ten years my hand will be over my mouth and I definitely won’t be writing parenting articles. 😉 Thinking ahead ten years is sobering though, joking aside. “Life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table. . .” I want to make the years count.

      Thanks for reading.

  89. Thank you Hayley for writing this piece. We have young children as well (7, 5, & 10 weeks) & this article really hit home for us…probably one of the best I’ve read on ways to be the best parent you can!

    1. Aw, thank you Jennifer! The days are long and the years are short, right? Anyway that’s what they all keep telling us. 😉 Happy wishes for a beautiful summer with your littles.

  90. Barbara Kellerman says:

    I stumbled upon your article from a friend posting on Facebook. My husband and I are parents to 8 children, now ages 14-29. We are fortunate enough to be enjoying our adult and teenage children exactly like you described. I know growing up in a large family was not always easy or desired by some of them, but now they understand and appreciate the gift of family. We have what we call “Sunday Night Dinners”. Your description was spot on. Especially the food and the cars. Our neighbors always know when the kids are home. It is that SAFE place for them now. We have used many of the strategies you point out but without really having a map or a final destination in mind other than hoping to have a close family once they are grown. We always believed if the kids had stable, happy parents, they would feel secure so we made time for just us – even if it was just staying up past the last baby to put to sleep and watch a movie on the couch with popcorn. While our kids noticed many of their peers going on vacations year after year, we camped together because it’s what we could afford. We reminded our kids many times that we made decisions that made us happy, not necessarily rich. Well, at this point in my life with 8 almost grown children, I feel as though I win the lottery every Sunday when they come over. There is no greater joy for a parent than to see their children happy and enjoying those simple things in life such as a loving family. I don’t leave this comment to brag or give ourselves a pat on the back, but to say you get it – so many important points to help a family grow up to have that place where all is safe, HOME.

    1. Barbara.

      I love this.

      You are the best.

      All of the comments on this have blown me away and have been so fun to read but my very favorites are from moms in your life stage. So much wisdom in your words and I’ve read your comment three times now. “I feel as though I win the lottery every Sunday when they come over.” The sweetest. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Thank you Hayley for your kind words .

  91. You are right about the listening. Just keep listening and they will keep talking.

    1. You sound like you know this for sure, Patty. Thank you for the encouragement.

  92. Great ideas here, some of which we do as well. How long do you send your kids to their grandparents?

    1. Hey, Katie, great question, and I hesitate to get too specific because this can look so different for different families. Daniel and I are unbelievably blessed with parents we trust on both sides. The longest I’ve left them was two weeks when we were in Africa. That was really long. We sought a lot of counsel and our parents were one hundred percent on board. I did that twice, believing I was obeying God but I don’t know that I would do it again. We try to spend a weekend away twice a year, and have left them twice to go on vacation for a week.

      I hope that gives you an idea to get away. I think just getting away is what matters. . . blocking out the distractions of work and home. 🙂

  93. Love this. My home growing up was always open to our friends—for dinners, for overnights, even for long-term extended stays if a friend had something big and bad going on at their own home. It made me want to go to my house, and my friends wanted to come, too.

    I hope to cultivate that home culture for my two girls, too.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Catherine! Also, love the name of your website, assuming it’s a nod to Malcolm Gladwell’s ten thousand hours concept laid out in Outliers?

      Blessings on your ten thousand hours with your littles. 🙂

      1. You’re right! (Good catch!) The idea behind my blog is I’m investing the hours to become a better mom. I reached my initial 10k hours long ago with my first daughter, but it’s a whoooooole new ballgame with two, so I figure I’m starting over! Ha!

  94. I married into a family that does consistent family dinners and talks to each other about everything. They all (including some aunts and uncles) live within a 3-mile radius of each other. My family is spread from Portland to Phoenix to Los Angeles, partially in order to avoid any sense of obligation to visit each other. I spent a lot of time watching my in-laws in awe, listening to their stories of childhood and trying to figure out their secret. I think you’ve pinpointed a lot of it. One thing my husband talks about a lot is how they always had people over for dinner. They’d just bring friends home from school with them. I wasn’t allowed to have people over most of the time. It makes a big difference.

    1. Robynne,
      Thanks for sharing! So cool that you get to experience a super close family. I learn a lot from paying attention to other families. I spent a lot of my life picking people apart and my husband has helped me learn how to glean wisdom from so many by choosing to focus on what people do well. I owe a lot of these observations to other amazing families that my husband has helped me to see. 🙂

  95. Thank you. I love all the inspiring ideas that are simple & keep the focus on what truly matters. My kids are also young (9, 7, 5 & 5 mo) I treasure every day with them. I keep pictures of them when they were younger (where I can see them everyday) to remind me just how quickly they are growing. I work full time & the pictures really help me to make sure I spend every moment I can cultivating love & trust. I believe that our efforts in spending time together will be lasting & I really appreciate knowing so many other families are striving to build strong families. Keep up the GOOD work & you will be BLESSED!

    1. Sandy,

      Thank you for writing and I love the idea you have of keeping pictures of the babies. Mamas who work full time and love their kids in the moments squeezed in are amazing and I get a taste of it from time to time. I’m a working mom this week and know that you have my respect for your mad plate spinning skills!

  96. Kelly Wiens says:

    Thank you for thinking deeply and sharing your experience. We just finished a weekly Sunday supper with kids, “extra” kids and grandchild. There was wine, laughter, wild and loud conversation, satire, irony, opposition, humour, irritation, love. and more laughter and wine.

    I am Not close to my own parents for a variety of reasons. But as my kids were growing I made decisions around keeping the conversation going. It wasn’t perfect. They aren’t and I’m not either. But love is.

    Thank you for articulating some great ideas around keeping connections. They count!

    1. Kelly,

      I love that you chose a different road for communication. To me, that’s redemption. Parenthood is never perfect. I often think of Ann Voskamp’s words, “I am a daughter failed and a parent failing.” I love that your people come home. Thanks for sharing.

  97. What questions on journal page? Can u share more details about how it exactly works?? Love your post!

  98. Loved it! Super great advice! You are well ahead of your time! It’s so beautiful to see how you are enjoying the journey!!

    1. Thank you, Kristen. I am struggling along with every other mother. I enjoy the journey every day except the days I don’t. 😉

  99. I enjoyed reading your post. I’m a pastor’s wife – 3 grown up kids…all married…and 5 grandkids….thrilled that our kids do enjoy coming home still as much as busy lives and long distances allow…I love what you said…makes perfect sense…

    1. Gigi,

      My husband is a pk so I have so much respect for pastor’s families. I love that people with grown children have read this article but I wish you all would write whole books in response! Know that younger moms are hungry to know what you did right.

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

  100. Sharee Billman says:

    Love your words and your wisdom! You are BEAUTIFUL!

    1. Sharee,

      Thank you for your kind words! It is so scary to put yourself out there as a writer and sweet comments like yours are totally noticed and appreciated.

  101. Excellent article. I really enjoyed reading it. My kids are 19,16,10,4 and 5 months old so I’m experiencing a little of everything you write about here. Great advice that I will really take to heart! I’m starting the journaling tonight with the older ones. I know the 19 year old (boy) will not write back but it’s worth a try. I think he has so MUCH to say that he’s holding in & this might be a way for him to do it. Thank you!

    1. I love your kids’ age range! Those are the “funnest” families. I know a big key to the response from my kids was that I told them it was totally optional and I promised I wouldn’t be hurt or annoyed if they didn’t write back. (Of course, I would have been hurt, but I was going to try not to show it!)

      Wishing you good communication with your oldest, it will be me in a blink!

  102. “Training children is not a lasting assignment, but marriage is, and it’s important to cultivate your marriage.”
    As my kids leave the roost, I see this so much clearly, and applaud when you write:”to fall in love again is a better gift to our children than marriage burnout while we cling to parenting 24/7/365.”
    All my 50-something friends know how true your words are…now. But it takes a bull horn to get this through to parents when the kids are small. Keep that message coming.
    Happily our 3 guys (19, 21, 24) really do love to come home.
    Thanks be to God.

    1. Thanks, Steve!

      It’s hard for young parents to listen to older ones. Keep using your bullhorn with us. 🙂

  103. Hayley, my dear friend, I love you and your family! I struggle with the listening aspect just like you. And I have noticed that while I want to have conversations with my kids, I often get one word answers, or the “I don’t know”. I want to dig into their minds and knowwhat they are thinking and what their dreams are. It’s so frustrating!

    1. Aw, Amanda, I love you too. You are an incredibly selfless mom. I am constantly looking for better questions to ask in order to avoid dead end conversations. You can find whole lists of these online (Pinterest, Google, etc.) and there are books full of questions, too: Brave Questions is a favorite of mine. I also use a free app that has a question to ask your kid each day. It’s called CK Questions.

      xoxoxhayley

  104. Thank you for these wonderful ideas! My boys are only 2.5 and 4 months but I can definitely start now with a lot of these!

  105. Great read! I loved the journal writing idea. Any suggestions on questions? I am Mom to a 10 year old girl, 7 year old boy, and 4 year old girl.

    1. Hi, Barbara,

      Here’s a place to start!

      http://amzn.to/1Thi69W

      I just googled a list of questions and ended up with this (we are halfway through).

      Also, my four-year-old doesn’t journal. 🙂

      I hope you have fun!

  106. What are some of the questions you write in the journals? I love this idea!!

  107. Lovely article! Have tried to live our lives very similar to what you wrote about. Married for 37 years now, with three grown sons, two oldest married, with two granddaughters. Thankfully, we all have a very good relationship and enjoy each other. I recommend investing early on with your children. We are very family oriented but that does not just happen, its deliberate time together. Thanks for sharing this for so many others!

  108. Love this! Question about journaling: you have 3 kids but only 2 blank books – also, do you write down one question in the book, hand out the books, and then give them a deadline? I can just envision my attempting to do this but first shot and the journal gets lost… And how often do you open up “discussion” about a new question? Do you have all of the kids contribute to each question?

    We have 4 bio kids (ages 5-12) and two fosters (ages 3 and 5) and I work FT so just trying to wrap my mind around what the journaling would look like for is. 🙂

    Also for the playlists – do you utilize Pandora or iTunes for those?

    Thanks!!! 🙂

    1. Hi, Lisa,
      Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

      Re: journaling, I am using this list. We are about halfway through and I started several months ago. I use this list with my eleven year old and modify it a bit for my 9 year old daughter. (She is more into writing down all of her favorite colors) 🙂 My four year old doesn’t journal, haha. I leave it on their bed and they return it almost immediately. The problem at my house is not losing them, it’s actually me finding the time to write back. Sometimes rather than write the next question, I comment on their previous response. Neither of my children love writing, so I’m still not sure why this is such a smashing success with them, but it is. My advice is to pick really interesting questions and just try it.

      I found this in the NYC Public Library last year and I think it might be awesome as well: http://amzn.to/1Thi69W. Also, when I went to Amazon to find this link for you, I stumbled upon a massive assortment of journals designed for this purpose. How cool!

      Re: music, we like Pandora but we love Spotify. We pay $9/mo for unlimited music.

      I hope that helps you!

  109. I learn so much from watching other families interact. Too often, I focus on the things I don’t want to replicate in our own family culture. But how beautiful that each week you get to see such a powerful example played out next door to your own home!

    Thank you for this encouraging and inspiring post. Your illustrations and examples make each point memorable in ways that have already come to mind as I’m interacting with my children.

    I think one of my favorite points is the one about music. What an excellent viewpoint! And the journaling? I can’t wait to try that. My oldest will absolutely love the concept!

    Thank you, Hayley, for your humble example.

    1. Thanks for helping me find the words in the middle of all the muddle of thoughts I sent you! xoxoxo

  110. Wonderful post, and great encouragement for me, as a mom of an 8 and 10 year old. I am reading a book on a similar topic of getting ready to parent teens…”For Parents Only” by Shaunti Feldhan. So important to start now before teen years start!

    1. Sarah,

      Thank you for reading and also for the book recommendation- I’m adding it to my “to read” list.

  111. This is beautiful, applicable and super helpful. Thank you, from a. Homeschool entrepreneurial mom who wants her kidlets to enjoy being home and bringing their friends over. Thank you ?

  112. I’m sorry but I disagree with a lot of this post. I come from one of those families. We all live at least 3 hours from my parents house but we have those get togethers, we call, were there for each other. We go on trips together. I feel it’s some different things that made us this way:

    1) we respected our parents. We learned there are other people in the world besides you and their needs are just as important as yours. We learned your parents came come to all or maybe even half your ball games, bc they were at your siblings or they were at work, etc. and that was ok. It didn’t mean they didn’t love me. They just couldn’t make it.

    2) on that same note we get told to go play a lot instead of them catering to our every story. We got over it. We learned other people’s time is important.

    3) we learned to be independent becuase they didn’t listen to every story, setup weekly special nights for us, take us shopping on our own. I got none of that as a child. And I have more love and respect for my parents becuase of that. I had to work for what I got. I. Ever had the coolest clothes or the best car. We all had to drive the family car first before we got our own. And it was a van! I drove that to high school!!! And I had to deal with it.

    4) all teenagers experiment, think they’re parents are dumb, would rather talk to their friends. If you don’t during this time then I think that is not normal. However, going back to respect. My curfew was 11. And by God I knew I’d be in bad trouble if I didn’t make it home by then. I had fear of consequences for my actions.

    4) I was allowed to be an individual, but I didn’t get to pick my shoes for any special event. Or for church. That was rule. I obeyed it or faced consequences.

    This may sound harsh in today’s world of catering to your kids, but im thbak full to my parents, that they taught me the values of respect, money, hard work. Endurance, perseverance. I could go on.

    And I promise you my parents would never have sat down and written an article about what they need to be doing to get me to love them enough later on in life to come see them. I go see them becuase I want to. And it feels very manipulative to try to make yourself love yor kids enough to just let them be kids and you be the adult.

    I just had a 4 way conversation for 2 hours with my mom and dad, and my 2 sisters this last week. All us discussing what’s going on in our family.

    Stop overthinking it and just live.

    1. Lindsey,

      Thanks for your feedback. You might be surprised to hear that I agree with your reasons for wanting to come home. Everything you said had so much truth involved.

      It’s easy for me to demand respect and set curfews and enforce dress codes. It’s sometimes harder for me to listen and love. Both sides are needed for children to grow healthy and strong.

      Thanks for sharing.

      PS I drove an awful car too. . , it was a fifteen passenger sherriff’s van with the tracking numbers still on the roof and untinted windows. It was good for me. You’re right, children don’t need to be catered to.

  113. Thank you so much for this. I have a 12, 10 and 7 year old and am feeling so overwhelmed lately. I needed something to just point me back to why we homeschool, have traditions, have an open door for the neighbors and all the other things that we do. Love the journal idea.

    1. Alycia,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I want to make a t-shirt that says “hug a middle schooler.” 🙂 it’s an overwhelming stage for us AND them.

      I don’t think anyone regrets an open door. What a beautiful part of your home!

      I’m glad you like the journal idea. It’s been a hit with my people. 🙂

    2. There’s certainly no need to home school to have a close and loving family. That part of your comment just struck me as odd.
      All the best.

      1. Halli,
        No need to home school to have a loving family, however, everyone needs encouragement and since Alycia and I both have this educational choice on our plate, I believe she was simply identifying with what we have in common. Any form of parenting our children is draining and we all need all the help and encouragement we can find regardless of where our chicks are learning. xoxoxo

  114. What a lovely, thoughtful piece! My husband and I have 10 kids ages 11-28, and 6 grandkids ages 0-4, and most Sunday afternoons find us gathering with as many of the kids as possible. It is a much-treasured part of my week, and hopefully that of our kids… Loved all the good ideas you had for staying connected!

    Mary

    1. Mary,

      You’re reaping the rewards of hard work and loving well!

      Enjoy every minute.

  115. Ronda Watts says:

    Great insight. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ronda,

      Thanks for reading & taking the time to comment. It’s encouraging.

  116. Yes, we have to establish the foundation now! Love the journaling idea! Looking forward to giving it a try with my boys.

  117. Samantha R says:

    Loved reading this! My family did so many of these things growing up and I think that’s why home is where my heart truly is now in my early thirties. I loved spending so much time outdoors, camping, hiking, family dinners/bbqs, having heart to heart talks with my parents, staying for a few days at a time at our grandparents, and so much more. Our routines were structured and yet we often did spontaneous things too. 🙂 I think the thing I appreciate most is how many skills my parents gave me. I learned to do so many things that many don’t get a chance to experience (mudding drywall anyone?). *smiles*

    1. Samantha,

      Mudding drywall is a life skill! 🙂

      It’s fun to brag on parents who loved well. Mine did too. I’m thankful.

      1. samantha R says:

        Yes, it is fun to brag! I feel as though I didn’t thank them enough for all their sacrifices and love in my teens and early twenties so I’m trying to make up for lost time. 🙂 Now, I’m in my early thirties, they mean the world to me and I cherish our relationship. I see them through “new eyes”.

  118. This was an awesome, encouraging list. Thank you for putting so much thought into it and sharing those thoughts with us.

    1. Jessiqua,

      Most of the careful thought has come from years of observing happy families. I’m happy to share because I’m glad they’ve shared with me.

  119. Were there particular sites you found helpful or more appropriate as far as #7 and coming up with the questions for the journals? I’ll admit that “just google it” sounds a bit overwhelming…

    1. Hi, Katrina!

      You’re right- my initial Google search turned up questions I already ask. I scrolled a long way and found this list of 100 questions. We are about halfway through.

  120. These are so great! I’m just moving in to that stage of bigger kids (totally feeling the need to keep listening to those loooong stories from a pre-teen) and I so want to be intentional about building strong family bonds that last for years to come. Thank you for these specific reminders.

    1. Katie,

      Oh yes, the listening! It’s so good! My mom listened to me and it mattered so much. Now I know how hard that was for her! 😉

      Thank you for your kind words.

  121. Amazing writer and even better friend. Your words speak to my heart.

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