Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jill Savage's new book, My Heart's at Home: Becoming the Intentional Mom Your Family Needs, (Harvest House Publishers, 2007).
Every day, you have incredible opportunities to influence the next generation through your work as a mom. You can make the most of those opportunities by creating a loving and secure environment for your family at home. If you're intentional about creating the kind of home your family needs to thrive, you'll make a significant positive impact on their lives that will matter for eternity.
Here's how you can create the home your family needs:
Make your home a safe house. Create an emotionally safe environment where family members can freely share their thoughts and feelings. Teach your kids how to respect people's opinions, individuality, property, and privacy, and require them to do so. Discipline them when they're disrespectful. Practice grace and forgiveness at home regularly. Listen intentionally to your family members, giving them your full attention when they're speaking to you. Arrange your kids' schedules so they have plenty of free time for playing and using their imaginations, as well as enough time for the sleep they need. Help siblings build strong bonds, connect with each of your kids individually on a regular basis, and show siblings how to resolve conflicts in healthy ways. Encourage your family members to take risks and learn from their mistakes.
Make your home a rest area. Slow the pace of your lifestyle down enough to give your kids the time they need to live healthy, balanced lives – spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Choose their activities carefully, allowing them to explore and develop their interests and talents without overloading them (and your family) with stress. Make sure your kids have enough unscheduled time to spend with God, with friends, and alone. Help them get the rest, exercise, and good nutrition their bodies need. Whenever possible, eat dinner together as a family, and have everyone help prepare the meal and clean up. Enjoy meaningful conversations together while you eat. Try to schedule a family fun night once a week and family vacation every summer.
Make your home a trauma unit. Tend to the emotional wounds of family members who become hurt by negative experiences or crises. Choose to love them even when they act in unlovable ways as they process their emotions. Listen compassionately to them. Allow them to express disappointment and grief. Encourage and support them as they pursue healing and hope. Pray for them, and with them if they let you do so.
Make your home a church. Since your kids spend much more time at home than they do in church, they'll be more spiritually influenced by the faith you share with them at home than they will be by even the best church programs. Make your relationship with Jesus your top priority, and let them see you live out that commitment daily in your own life so they'll be inspired to do so themselves. Encourage them to read the Bible and pray often. Whenever you encounter a "teachable moment" that illustrates God's truth working in everyday life, point out God at work and discuss it with your children. Live out your faith in every area of your life instead of compartmentalizing it, so your kids will learn that Christianity is more than just going to church; it's a way of life. Reach out to children from unstable homes by encouraging them to hang out with your kids at your home, offering them rides to church, or hosting events like backyard Bible clubs.
Make your home a pep rally. Cheer on your family members. Let them know that they have great potential, and that you believe in them and all God has in store for them. Celebrate ordinary events, such as by showing up as a family to your kids' concerts or sports games to support them. Celebrate rites of passage like puberty, moving to a new school, getting a first job, or learning to drive. Celebrate birthdays, accomplishments, and great efforts. Appreciate the uniqueness of each family member, and help your family see how their different strengths and weaknesses and complement each other. Encourage family members to pursue their dreams, and support them along the way.
Make your home a research lab. Help your family members discover their interests and talents and develop their skills. Teach your kids basic life skills in a variety of important areas, like: food preparation, mechanics, technology, yard care, reading and writing, leadership, and physical fitness. Give them plenty of opportunities to gain new knowledge in their areas of interest, and put that new knowledge into practice in their lives. When one of your kids shows a strong interest in something that doesn't interest you, ask God to help you step into that child's world and support him or her.
Make your home a school. Teach your kids skills they'll need to be successful in life, including people skills (such as making introductions, phone etiquette, thank-you notes, table manners, and hosting other people) self-management skills (like taking care of personal hygiene, managing time and money well, organizing space well, and doing homework and studying for tests effectively), home management skills (doing the chores needed to maintain a clean and organized home), spiritual disciplines (such as Bible reading, praying, and attending church and youth group) and developing biblical character and values.
Make your home a museum. Remember the work God has done in your family's life, and the heritage you share as a family. Keep and display unique items that memorialize answered prayers or meaningful experiences in your family's life together. Tell family stories, and record them in writing, through scrapbooking, through audio or video recordings, or in some other way.
Make your home a playground. Be intentional about having fun together as a family at home. Laugh often. Play board games together in your living room or play baseball in your yard. Have picnics in your yard or bake cookies in your kitchen. Go on family outings (like bowling or ice skating) and take road trips together. Don't worry about the messes that happen at home when you have fun together; it's worth the cleanup time to have fun.
Make your home a business office. Manage your family's business well. Use a central calendar to schedule each family member's events, activities, and appointments. Organize your important papers into short-term and long-term files, and develop an effective system for organizing other items like clothes, toys, and keepsakes. Assign everyone specific household responsibilities, and keep track of them.
Make your home a hospitality house. Invite others to enjoy your home with your family. Providing an environment that's emotionally safe, friendly, and clean, makes people feel welcome. When people visit, offer them food and drink and engage them in good conversation. Do all you can to provide a pleasant experience for everyone who enters your home.
Make your home a cultural center. Help your family members learn about and appreciate people who are different from them, whether because of their race, age, disabilities, or some other reason. Get to know your own family's heritage, and celebrate it. Support missions work together.
Be available to your family. As either a mom or a dad, recognize just how vital your presence and participation is to your family. Make it a priority to be available when your family needs you, while also taking time to care for your personal needs so you don't get burned out.
Work well with your partner. Invest in your marriage regularly to keep it strong. Handle parenting disagreements in private so you can present a united front to your kids after you reach an agreement. Pray together often. If you're a single parent, surround yourself with a network of caring people who can support and encourage you in all the specific ways you need help.
Adapted from My Heart's at Home: Becoming the Intentional Mom Your Family Needs, copyright 2007 by Jill Savage. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
Jill Savage is the founder and executive director of Hearts at Home, an organization committed to helping moms love their lives. Jill is a columnist with the Pantagraph newspaper in Illinois, a popular speaker, and author of several books and the coauthor of Got Teens? She and her husband, Mark, a senior pastor, serve together in ministry within the church and through their family. They have five children and a son-in-law.