Prayer To Strengthen Family Bonds
3 Online Communication Tools to Strengthen Your Family Bond
Does it seem your teen is texting everyone but you? Do you feel technology is creating a disconnect in your family rather than bringing you closer together? You’re certainly not alone.
Many parents fear that all of this new technology is taking over their families and leaving little time for meaningful interaction.
The online communication tools we’re featuring today prove that it doesn’t have to be this way! Technology is a powerful force, and when used appropriately, can bring families together, help them stay connected, and even strengthen family bonds. Check out three of our favorite online platforms for families.
Family eJournal is a virtual notebook that is passed from one family member to another. Each journal consists of just 4 fun, open-ended questions, which makes it easier and less time consuming than other similar platforms.
Once you answer the questions, an email notification is sent to your family members so they can read your journal and vice versa. Why do we love Family eJournal? Because it uses the very things that most parents fear about online interaction (e.g.
anonymity and self-disclosure) for the benefit of the family! I asked Family eJournal founder Kevin Strauss to tell me more about the concept behind the product. This is what he had to say:
“We created FamilyeJournal.com to be a relationship booster for your family.With all of the time we spend online, we wanted to offer an activity your family can enjoy together but still when it's convenient for each user.
Safety and privacy are paramount so your Family Leader adds all new Family Members and uses only a first name and email address. We don't collect any identifying information which can be compromised.”
We’ve seen many family discussions on and other social media networks that disclose private information for the world to see. Family eJournal gives you a way to talk about all kinds of things with your family in a more intimate way. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?
New Family Project
New Family Project is a great photo-sharing app if you want to share pictures of yourself or your kids with other family members, but don’t want the rest of the Internet to see them or repost them without your knowledge or permission.
That’s right—now you can keep grandparents content with a steady stream of baby pics without worrying that you’re compromising your child’s privacy or leaving a digital footprint before the kid even learns to walk! I reached out to the New Family Project team to find out more about the concept behind the app. Marketing Manager Jonathan Miller had this to say:
“New Family Project came about to serve as a safe new alternative to share photos with your loved ones. What’s great about the app is that only the user sharing the photos needs to download the app.
It’s very Grandparent friendly! We also take the liberty of stripping all of the geotagging information from each photo.
Many parents are not comfortable sharing photos of their kids on sites and Instagram, and we make the process of sharing fun, easy, and safe for the whole family!”
With New Family Project, you can enjoy the convenience of sharing photos online while minimizing the threats to your privacy.
FamZoo isn’t a tool for online communication, per se, but we included it because it certainly helps parents discuss the difficult issue of financial responsibility with their kids, and it does so in a whimsical, yet structured way.
This virtual family bank allows parents to dole out allowances online, track their kids spending, and tie certain funds to specific chores. Kids are encouraged to set up savings accounts and even accounts for charitable donations.
In many families, finances are kept secret, and money is a topic of which no one speaks! Unfortunately, this can set kids up for financial hardship later on when they’re left trying to figure it out on their own! Founder and CEO Bill Dwight (aka Chief Dad) spoke to Qustodio about how FamZoo helps parents navigate difficult conversations:
“All parents want their kids to develop good money habits that are consistent with their family values. Few parents have the time, expertise, or tools to make it happen consistently. We're changing that with our online virtual family bank.Our software and prepaid cards make it convenient, simple, and fun for parents to teach their kids to earn, save, spend, and donate money wisely through hands-on experience. Some parents worry that by automating family finance activities we'll eliminate important money conversations with their kids.
In fact, the opposite is true: our automation triggers those critical conversations at just the right time and keeps the dialog going.”
There are so many awesome websites and apps out there to help make parenting a little easier.
The key is to embrace technology and use it for the benefit of your family! What parenting apps do you rely on? Note: The opinions above belong to Melissa Maypole, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Qustodio.
Download Qustodio’s free software to begin managing, monitoring, and understanding your kids’ online media consumption today. For more information on digital parenting and online safety, follow us on and .
5 Ways to Strengthen Your Bond With Your Team
November 2, 2015 4 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Having a happy, healthy, engaged workforce goes far beyond providing free food, gym memberships and a ping-pong table.
While those perks are sure to be appreciated by employees, they don’t do much in the way of motivating or retaining them. What it really comes down to is the employee-employer relationship.
New data released earlier this year by Virgin Pulse revealed exactly what employees need to love their job — and a large part of that is a good relationship with their employer.
In fact, nearly 60 percent of the more than 1,000 full-time employees surveyed said their relationship with their employer positively impacts their focus or productivity at work, and 44 percent said it positively impacts their stress levels.
Considering nearly 50 percent of the 7,200 adults surveyed in a recent Gallup study left a job “to get away from their manager,” it’s time to reevaluate the employee-employer relationship.
Here is what makes for a good relationship between employers and their employees.
1. Open communication
The key to any good relationship is communication that goes both ways. Unfortunately, employees don’t feel their bosses are really listening. A recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees by 15Five showed a mere 15 percent of employees are satisfied with the quality of workplace communication.
What’s more, that same study found that 81 percent of employees would rather join a company that values “open communication” than one that offers great perks.
To create a work environment that supports open communication, consider implementing a web-based feedback platform. According to the survey by 15Five, 70 percent of employees said they’d be more ly to share information with managers if they could enter comments into an online feedback system.
Related: How to Get Employees to Stick Around
2. Guidance and support
A leader can’t lead without providing direction. To build a stronger relationship with employees, employers must provide them with the necessary guidance and support to achieve their work goals. Employers need to have an idea of what those goals are to do that.
Yet, the aforementioned Gallup study showed that only 12 percent of employees “strongly agree” that their manager helps them set work priorities, and only 13 percent agree that their manager helps them set performance goals.
Give employees the help they need. Meet with them regularly to discuss their goals for the quarter and set priorities. This will better align them with the goals of the company.
3. Opportunities and investments
Ideally, both parties bring something to, and get something , the relationship. For employers, the benefits of a good employee-employer relationship include a workforce that is highly engaged, productive and satisfied in their role within the organization. An effective and efficient workforce is good for business.
For employees, the advantages of the relationship should go beyond the paycheck and benefits package to include individualized training.
Send employees to professional development events or invite leaders within the industry to speak during a monthly lunch-and-learn. Just be sure to provide them with opportunities to grow and improve. After all, investing in employees ensures they’ll invest in the company.
Related: The Harsh Truth: Your Employees Don't Care About Your Business the Way You Do
4. Gratitude and appreciation
It’s in our nature to want to be praised for a job well done — a result of receiving “gold stars” during our schoolyard days, no doubt. It reassures, motivates and gives us the fuel we need to continue doing what we do well.
In fact, Globoforce and SHRM’s 2015 Employee Recognition Report showed 86 percent of the 823 HR professionals surveyed said values-based recognition increased employee happiness at work, so don’t hold back on the “thank you” notes and pats. Employees will appreciate the recognition, and the employee-employer relationship will get a much-needed boost.
5. Interest in life outside of work
The employee-employer relationship should be professional, but that doesn’t mean employers shouldn’t take the time to get to know the person behind the work. Strive to treat employees as people, not just worker bees. The key is to take an interest in employees’ lives outside of work.
What are employees’ personal and professional goals? Where do they hope to be in five years? Do they have a family? What do they to do once the workday is over?
Questions these help employers to know their employees on a more personal level. That helps them make sense of individual employee actions and preferences, and forms a much stronger bond between employers and their employees.
Related: 9 Things Managers Do That Make Good Employees Quit
How to Strengthen Family Bonds
Family is the foundation that keeps you rooted in who you truly are. But as with anything, in order to keep your family ties strong, you have to work at it.
Make time on a regular basis to enjoy your family, to laugh with them, and have in-depth conversations. Maybe set up a family game night or have a weekly dinner.
Spending quality time with your loved ones is a great way to strengthen family bonds.
You’ve heard the term “Life Is Short” , and it’s true. Tomorrow isn’t promised, which is why it’s important to show your family appreciation. Send a thank you card, or buy them a special gift. And most importantly, apologize when you're wrong. Simply saying “ I’m sorry” can strengthen family bonds.
Time is precious, and once it's gone, you can't get it back. So you should live in the moment with your family, and create beautiful memories with them. Start family traditions that will last for generations. Take a yearly summer vacations or have a game night once a month. Bonding with your loved ones helps you to appreciate one another, and treasure your time together.
4. “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.”
No family is perfect. But that doesn’t mean you give up on each other. Your family should be the people you count on the most. You should also practice encouraging one another. If you can’t go to your loved ones for help or inspiration, who can you go to? But, make sure you provide a listening ear to your relatives and be supportive of their dreams and ambitions as well.
5. “A happy family is heaven on Earth.”
When you and your family are on good terms, it’s incredible. However, when you face the difficulties of the world, nothing feels better than to have the love of your family. Your loved ones should be your safe haven, and you should be the same for them in return.
Life can be hard, so families should stick together and be there for each other. Call your mom, sister, brother, and anyone else you love, and ask how they’re doing. Talk to them about what’s truly going on in their lives.
Open communication helps to strengthen family bonds, and keep you connected to the one’s you love.
6. “Other things change, but we start and end with family.”
Family is forever, and no matter how far you go, they will always be a part of you. If when you grow older and move away, your family’s house will feel home no matter what. Life gets hectic, and you might find it hard to visit your relatives often.
But even if you can’t be in their presence physically, technology can bring you together. Make Skype dates with the ones you love, and keep them involved with your life.
Post throwback photos on social media to let them know how much you miss them, so your family ties stay strong.
7. “Family. A unit of people who love and support each other through good times and bad.”
Let's face it. There will be good and bad times, and you can’t predict what the future holds. You might have to go down some rough roads together. But that’s what family is. It’s strength. It’s love. It’s unity.
When you see a loved one suffering, be the helping hand they need. If you have something to give, share it. Invite them over for dinner or offer to pay for movie night.
If you see a family member down, help bring them up because it can strengthen family bonds.
8. “A family doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be united!”
Every family has flaws, but that doesn’t mean there should be brokenness within the unit.
In fact, you shouldn’t expect perfection from your family, because eventually, they will disappoint you; whether it's intentional or not. This means you should forgive.
Everything doesn’t have to turn into a fight, and you don't always have to say the last word. It’s hard, but practicing temperance with your loved ones is how to strengthen family bonds.
9. “Family is anyone who loves you unconditionally.”
Your family isn’t always defined as people you share DNA with. In fact, some family ties are stronger between friends that blood relatives.
If you have people in your life who you can count on, who you can talk to and laugh with; they’re your family. So, don’t feel bad if you don't have a good relationship with your relatives, or if you don’t know them.
When you’re surrounded by love, that’s all the family you need. Tell your friends how much you appreciate them being in your life.
10. “Together is my favorite place to be.”
Being around family just feels good. Sitting around and laughing about the good ole days is the perfect way to strengthen family bonds.
Go out bowling or take a bike ride together; do whatever you can to spend quality time with your family. There’s nothing better than enjoying life with the people closest to you.
Your relatives share your name, your looks, and your history; that type of love and connection can never be broken.
15 Ways to Strengthen Family Ties
Rawhide Boys Ranch helps troubled youth and families turn their lives around. Our residential care program provides a safe, family-centered environment for at-risk youth who may not have experienced that prior to Rawhide. Our goal is to provide stability and […]
Rawhide Boys Ranch helps troubled youth and families turn their lives around. Our residential care program provides a safe, family-centered environment for at-risk youth who may not have experienced that prior to Rawhide. Our goal is to provide stability and cultivate familial-type bonding to help they grow and heal.
Why not practice these 15 tips for maintaining or strengthening your family ties?
1. Regularly Eat Dinners Together
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.”- Acts 2:46
Regularly eating meals together encourages daily communication and brings the family together physically. Families that eat together can discuss their day, share upcoming events, tell jokes, and voice concerns. Family dinners also encourage children to try new foods. If dinners won’t do, consider breakfasts.
2. Plan Activities Together
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”- Ecclesiastes 4:9
Between practices, recitals, sporting events, meetings, and other activities, finding quality family time can be difficult, but try at least once a week. Here are some fun activity ideas:
Building fun memories is an important aspect for strengthening family bonds.
3. Turn Chores into Fun Family Time
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:13
How often have you reminded family members about chores? Chores can be a burden and drain when performed individually, but tackling chores together can create unity. Not only are chores done faster, but they can be fun. Consider these game ideas:
- Dress up
- Create a Theme
- Make it a Race
- Shoot Hoops
4. Volunteer Together
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”- Mark 10:45
Volunteering can unite the family while giving back to others. Besides serving people in the community, volunteering can give all members a sense of appreciation towards what they have.
5. Write Notes to Each Other
“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.”- Proverbs 3:3
Notes are a nice surprise for anyone. Hide notes in your children’s lunches or your spouse’s vehicle. Hiding notes is a great way to express love towards family members and provide pick-me-ups throughout the day.
6. Laugh Together
“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.”- Psalm 126:2
Laughing produces a general sense of well-being and restores a positive emotional climate. According to neuroscientist Robert Provine, Ph.D, laughter establishes a sense of connection between people. Laughing together creates a light-hearted atmosphere, and make sure everyone is laughing with each other not at each other. Remember, laughter is contagious!
7. Develop Healthy Communication Styles
“A word fitly spoken is apples of gold in a setting of silver.”- Proverbs 25:11
Learning how to communicate is equally important. When communicating, remember:
- Listen without judgment
- Pay full attention to each other
- Make ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ accusations
- Watch nonverbal signs such as folded arms, lack of eye contact, tone
Better communication creates more trust within the family, helping all family members better understand other family members.
8. Learn From Our Mistakes
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”- 1 John 1:9
People make mistakes. Good communication may uncover faulty assumptions or thinking behind the action. Learning from mistakes helps everyone grow.
9. Forgive Each Other
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”- Matthew 6:14
If the situation is stressful, calm yourself to fairly access the situation. Once you’re calm, communicate by focusing on the issue, not a person’s character. If your position is explained to the person in a calm fashion so that they still feel loved, they are less ly to hide mistakes and more ly to feel safe opening up about problems.
10. Be Just
“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”- Proverbs 31:9
If a punishment is deemed necessary, make sure it’s just. If a similar incident happened with a sibling, make sure the punishments given fit the infraction, ensuring nobody is viewed as the “favorite.” If another family member feels a situation is unfair, sit down and communicate. This creates an understanding and promotes equality while preventing resentment.
11. Create a Family Mission Statement
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”- Proverbs 1:8-9
Much Rawhide’s mission statement, a family mission statement can provide motivation and bring your family closer and create pride.
If a family mission statement sounds a good idea, author Stephen Covey offers some strategies: “A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about-what it is you really want to do and be-and the principles you choose to govern your family life.”
12. Develop Stronger Family Spiritual Wellness
“And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”- 1 John 3:22
Participating in church activities creates a spiritual connection. Reading religious materials and attending family devotionals can inspire other family member’s faith and create deep, spiritual discussions.
13. Connect With Children at a Young Age
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”- Proverbs 22:6
Younger family members may feel overshadowed by older siblings. Pay attention to all family members, and don’t wait to take an interest until children are older. Spending time doing what younger family members are interested in creates a steady groundwork that lets your younger children know they aren’t invisible.
14. Express Sincere Appreciation
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”- John 13:34
Everyone s to be appreciated, and family members are no exception. We often mistakenly assume that family knows we appreciate them; however, most people still to hear it especially from loved ones.
Appreciation can also be used as positive reinforcement. Instead of reminding family members the tasks they must complete, simply thank them for everything they do.
Knowing they’re appreciated creates added happiness.
15. Commit to Strengthening Family
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”- Philippians 4:6
Commitment with love is the glue that holds a family together. Take time to do what other family members would or commit time to finding the right methods that will create a stronger bond.
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Using Social Media to Strengthen Family Bonds
Photo by Derek Brabender.
The attack of snowballs caught him off guard.
Father and columnist Peter McKay tells the story of his encounter with the world of Club Penguin a few years back. Describing his efforts at digitally connecting with his kids, McKay compares the site to a type of middle school social: everyone is there to hang out with his/her penguin avatar friends…but no one actually talks to each other.
Despite a rough learning curve on avatar operations, things were going well relationally. His kids seemed genuinely happy to join him online. Then McKay made the tragic mistake of launching into his parenting agenda of chores and homework right there in Club Penguin. In response, one of his supposedly loving children hurled a virtual snowball at papa penguin.
This frozen act of hostility proved to inspire surrounding penguins.
Suddenly, McKay was under a barrage attack of digital snowballs, burying papa penguin in a pile of virtual snow. To rub salt in the avatar’s emotional wounds, McKay’s offspring waddled off to another area of Club Penguin, with little regard for either their father’s plight or their homework.
Thwarted at his computer-mediated parenting efforts, McKay writes: “I won't go back any time soon. The real world may not be as exciting as Penguin Island, but at least out here if one of those little creeps lobs a snowball at me, I'm big enough to wash his face with a handful of exceedingly non-virtual snow. 1
The online world turned McKay’s existing world on its head.
It is not a secret that teens use social media to connect with their friends. However, teens also use social media to connect with adults they trust and with whom they have a positive relationship. 2 McKay hoped, this can extend to relationships within families.
For many of us adults, however, online activity with our kids can be socially disorientating. Those of us who see the relational potential of social media may discover that the reward for our efforts is a loss of parental authority.These new digital interactions are often foreign to our own experiences when we were teens.
They also leave us wondering who we are online in relation to our kids, or why something our kids seem to enjoy so much feels it is tearing our family apart.
Thankfully, we can learn a few things from research that shed light on this new parenting world. The good news for parents is that the very digital tools that have the potential to be destructive for families can also be used instead towards building new bridges of communication and family intimacy.
Texters Feel Closer
Among participants in an LG-sponsored survey on texting, most parents who text with their teens report texting helps them feel closer to one another, and more than half of those teens report the same thing.
3 While it may seem suspicious that a corporate-sponsored study discovered a product they sell could strengthen family bonds, the same study revealed that half of both parents and teens admit to driving and texting.
So texting, while potentially helpful in bringing families closer together, also has a dangerous dark side.
Families Who Play Together…
Beyond texting, using the Internet to communicate or play online games with family and friends increases social capital among users (“social capital” is the strength of human connections that contributes to a personal sense of wellbeing).
The benefit seems to lie in doing something together, even if the activity itself seems somewhat pointless to us as parents. 4 Playing together creates opportunities for positive family experiences. Of course, playing any game together would be great; participating in online social gaming merely is about joining them in what many are already doing.
Positive experiences this are an important ingredient in developing a growing sense of personal wellbeing. 5
We All to be Heard
As an added bonus, people want to share their good experiences with others, and social media provides that platform. Though individuals enjoy sharing their thoughts and experiences whether the audience is real or implied, knowing someone is paying attention makes sharing more personally valuable. 6 At first glance, this finding appears to make social media incredibly narcissistic.
In that line of thinking, a team of researchers conducted a study on users. They predicted that individuals with the greatest desire to shape public perceptions would self-disclose the most often. 7 Surprisingly, it turns out that the more a person desires to control appearances the less ly they are to participate on .
Most social media allows others to comment on, post about or tag a picture of a user. Realistically, it is far easier to avoid these sites than to control others’ actions.
Consequently, the value of many social media platforms is not in controlling a self-projected image but sharing within the context of close personal relationships.
In other words, sharing through social media is mostly about being heard by our friends.
Teens Need Our Support
Adolescents use social media to get advice and support from adults they know, respect and who are willing to engage online with them.
8 Because the majority of digital conversations focus on experiences of everyday life, it is inherently personal. 9 In large part because of this, teens view their digital connections as lifelines to their support structure.
10 As parents, we will want to be a part of that online support structure for our teenagers.
Writers versus Talkers
Using social media to strengthen family relationships is not so much a matter of adopting a series of steps, as it is a reframing of perspective.
For example, some people prefer written styles of interpersonal communication, while others prefer a verbal communication style.
11 Knowing one’s own preference of communication, perception or use of the Internet helps to understand and identify others’ preferences.For example, say you take a silly family picture with a movie cutout. If it’s okay with your kids, tag them and digitally share the moment. The verbal communicators in the family already have a moment to share their fun comments, the writers can add their thoughts from their phones or when they get home.
It may surprise you how the writers in the family recreate that experience and use it in other ways. My kids took some of those posted pictures to create a fun and memorable Father’s Day card.
It was awesome! By taking a brief moment to transfer a bit of our everyday lives into a format that writers can participate in, both communication types have a greater opportunity to help create family memories.
From Information to Relationship
When it comes to communication, adolescents are the most ly group to experience the Internet as a relational tool, 12 and chronology may be to blame for this.
Early in the new millennium the creation of an Internet social platform reframed it from a web of interconnected documents to a web of interconnected people.
13 Consequently, a person’s perspective on the Internet’s social-ability may reveal more about when they adopted it than how old they are.
Here is how this plays out. As recent as five years ago, only about a third of people age 65 and older used the Internet; it was not until 2012 that the number crept above fifty percent.
14 Of course, baby boomers are part of the increase; however, teens, any digital newcomers in this group would be experiencing these tools primarily as relational ones.
To them, the Internet and other digital tools were created to connect with their friends and grandkids, and before we know it, grandma has exceeded her texting limits.
Coming Alongside our Kids Online
Up until the latter half of the nineteenth century, communication between generations was more ly to consider the developmental and conceptual understanding of the child, and that responsibility was on the parent. 15 Also historically, children learned alongside adults.
It is increasingly less obvious in our culture how young people are supposed to learn the skills necessary to engage in adult society. In contemporary culture, it seems that it is the young people themselves who are expected to be the initiators and developers of those skills.
For the most part teens are learning how to use social media within their friendship structure as they navigate the digital landscape. 17 Consequently, they are developing relational patterns in isolation from the broader society. To bridge that growing divide, we will need to provide context, training and tools for teens to interpret messages from the adult sphere.Have you ever told a funny story at home and your kid mutters “lol” instead of laughing? Participating with our teens online helps us know that lol has meaning. It communicates to someone not physically present that you laughed, demonstrating how we interpreted his or her message.
If that group of friends continues to use that same form of communication, despite being physically present to each other, they have developed a pattern of socialization apart from the broader society. They now narrate their own laughs. This is something I observed among teens during my research.
Teens may need coaching to learn appropriate cultural behavior and understand messages coming from adults. This is not something teens have lost; it is something they are developing on their own. To bridge this we have to start where the teens actually are, not where we think they should be.
Simultaneously, we need to listen carefully to what our teens are saying online. Adults who do not listen but instead push their own agenda frustrate teens.
18 In order to build a social capital bridge to the next generation, we will need to put our social power positions at risk. 19 This may mean being open to learning about social media from our children.
It might mean risking personal competence by digitally going where it feels no parent has had to go before.
McKay was willing to go digitally where his kids were, but he wanted to use the space for something it was not created for.
Had he stayed and allowed Club Penguin to be what his kids used it for (most ly as a place to hang out with friends, play games and showcase their personal igloo) he would have eventually learned how to do what kids do there.More importantly, he would have given his own kids an opportunity to show their dad what they can do or have created on the site.
He would have truly found another dimension for connecting with his kids and an opportunity to deepen his relationship with them.
Ultimately, this is the potential power digital tools have to strengthen family connections. They provide us with additional opportunities to play with and listen to our kids, helping us to feel closer to them as we guide them toward adulthood.
- Ask your teen to show you how to do something online. Just talking about how to use the Internet better can facilitate relationship building. 20
- If your teens are social gamers, join them online in a game of their choice.
- Find a recent post by your teen to which you can give a digital thumbs-up. During your next meal together, invite your teen to tell you about their post. Then share how their post impacted you.
- Do a digital inventory on your own social media usage, noting with whom you spend the most time interacting online. How are you living present with your teens both online and off?
Seven Steps to Strengthen Prayer
My struggles with prayer run deep. The spiritual deserts in my life have always been accompanied by a parched prayer life. Eventually, I came to realize this was not only a symptom, but a cause. I was neglecting the very thing that would satisfy my weary, thirsty soul. I was ignoring the path that would not only lead me the desert, but keep me the wilderness in the first place.
I often fall short of my good intentions when I fail to view prayer as a discipline that needs to be learned and practiced and developed.
We speak frequently of the importance of prayer, but often don’t know (or forget) the “hows” of prayer. Even Jesus’s own disciples had to ask Jesus how to pray (Luke 11:1).
They saw something in the way he prayed so fervently and intimately to his Father that made them long to do the same. Lord, teach us to pray!
While it won’t be the same for everyone, seven specific actions have really helped me in my battle against a weak prayer life.
Preparing to Pray
1. Set prayer apart. The more we pray, the more we want to pray. To do this, you need to build it into the rhythm of your day any way you can: set alarms, leave notes, put it in your day planner.
Prayer is a practice that requires discipline and perseverance, and we should own the cost. Prayer is the greatest act of our day, and we must fight for it. And not just in times of need.
It matters how we train and prepare for the battle.
2. Learn to withdraw. Pull away from distractions — the phone, the computer, the TV, the constant noise of modern life — and find a way to separate yourself so you can be and feel “shut in with God.
” It can be a challenge when you work away from home for long hours or are sharing your house from dawn-to-dusk with a bunch of loud and energetic children, but make it a priority.
Your car on lunch break, a quiet corner in the office, a closet in between meals or feedings or naptimes, or simply the quiet of your heart if that’s all you can muster. But find solitude, and pray (Luke 4:42; 5:16; 22:41).
3. Have a posture of prayer. Do what you need to help you focus on what it is that you’re doing. Kneel, stand, close your eyes, look to the heavens — when your body is focused, it’s often easier for your soul to follow. If able, pray out loud.
I’ve found that just softly whispering during my private prayer time is quiet enough that it doesn’t inhibit the flow of my praying, but loud enough that it keeps my mind from wandering. As C.S. Lewis observes, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul.
Body and soul are both better for it.”
4. Pray Scripture. This is a great way to start. What joy it brings to a father to know his children hear his words, cherish them, believe them to be true, and then speak them back to him.
So much of my prayers are “plagiarized” Scripture.
Without even realizing it, they become the vocabulary of my prayers, sometimes because the beautiful promises make my heart sing, and sometimes because all I can do is desperately cling to his words.
Show me your glory (Exodus 33:18).
Turn my eyes from worthless things (Psalm 119:37).
Show me a sign of your goodness (Psalm 86:17).
Let no sin rule over me (Psalm 119:133).
You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing (Psalm 16:2).
5. Pray fervently. Praying should be active. We cannot truly come into contact with God and not be a different person, at least in some small degree, by the time we say, “Amen.” Struggle in prayer, wrestle with it, and let the Spirit move.
Answers to prayer are a blessing, but prayer in and of itself is meant to be a blessing.
Sometimes it feels the moaning of parched lips in the desert, and we should still persevere because prayer is not just the fruit of spiritual life, but the means of attaining it.
6. Pray specifically. Vagueness can be the death of prayer.
Not that we can never be general, just not at the expense of praising God’s specific attributes, confessing specific sins, or thanking him and asking him for specific things.
We must learn to pray specifically and boldly due to the status we have through Christ, while simultaneously being completely submissive to God’s will. Bold and expectant faith coupled with humble submission is a powerful thing.
7. Pray for and with others. Prayer is meant to knit together the children of God, oftentimes, people we have never even met. We share a Father, we are family, and we should bear each other’s burdens in prayer.
We become invested in each other’s struggles and triumphs. We start to care more about the people we pray for and less about ourselves. What a beautiful thing to come before our Father of one accord with the same appeals love and care for each other.
Prayer binds the church together.
Prayer is not a formula or something that only “works” if we do it perfectly, in just the right way. But it should never be careless. Careless prayers are arrows that fall haphazardly at our feet.
Prayers that we offer with little care or effort typically will do little after leaving our mouths (but be careful about underestimating God).
On the other hand, when shot with strength and desire and fervor, our prayers fly swiftly toward heaven to the throne of God himself (Revelation 8:4):It is not the arithmetic of our prayers — how many they be;nor the rhetoric of our prayers — how eloquent they be;nor their geometry — how long they be;nor their music — how sweet their voice may be;nor their logic — how argumentative they be;nor yet their method — how orderly they be;nor even their divinity — how good their doctrine may be, which God cares for:but it is the fervency of spirit which availeth much.
(Bishop Joseph Hall, 1808)
God loves to make his people into skilled archers in the discipline of prayer, with prayers arrows — fervent and strong ones that change lives, bring healing, impact our nations, alter history, unite the church, and above all display God’s glory.