In the lead-up to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to the U.S., we are launching #FrancisontheFamily, a Diocesan-wide campaign that focuses on the catechesis of #PopeFrancis pertaining to family life. We have chosen to highlight some of Francis’ most repeated challenges to us – encounter, accompany, witness, and welcome – as a way of sharing the joy of family life.
By: Laraine Bennett, Guest Contributor
The scenario is painfully familiar to many parents: You are at Mass, your pastor is giving his homily, and your three- and five-year-olds are tussling (loudly) under the pew over a Spiderman toy you regret allowing them to bring. You also regret the fact that you decided to try sitting in the first row this week, to see if your kids might behave better.
Or, you are finally heading out for a long-overdue date night, the babysitter is looking a little like deer in the headlights, and your six-year-old daughter is in tears because her older sister has, once again, called her a “stupid baby” and refused to play with her.
Pope Saint John Paul II called the family a “communion of persons.” But sometimes it feels more like a war zone. We don’t claim to have any fool-proof strategy to end all sibling squabbles. As Christ told us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). However, he did remind us that in Him, we find peace.
The Holy Spirit, who is present in our families, provides us with gifts of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22). Invite the Holy Spirit into your family through daily prayer. In his homily last Sunday, our pastor, Father VanderWoude, told us that their family found peace and unity in Christ through a nightly rosary.
But we can also offer some practical tips as well:
Model the respect and cooperation you want to see in your children.
We can demonstrate patience by calmly hearing out divergent opinions, respect and empathy by attentive listening, humility by asking forgiveness. Remember that with kids (just as with spouses), empathic listening does not imply agreement with the other’s view, but it does convey respect.
Understand your kids’ temperaments and help them avoid each other’s triggers.
For example, if your oldest daughter is a perfectionist, orderly melancholic, then asking her to share a room with her scattered sanguine sister may be asking for trouble. On the other hand, having her take the lead on a craft project will speak to the melancholic’s strengths and allow the two to bond rather than squabble. Or, you may permit the strong-willed choleric to suggest movies for movie night, while encouraging your quiet, phlegmatic child to speak up and share his opinion, as well. For more temperament differences and tips for encouraging each child to grow in virtue, please see our book, The Temperament God Gave Your Kids.
Despite the diversity of personalities, charity is what binds us together in harmony. First and foremost, seek Christ’s peace and joy through daily prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments. For those days when you are at your wit’s end, remember what God told Saint Catherine of Siena: He didn’t give each person every natural gift they might need – so that we would have need of each other. God gives us a diversity of personalities and temperaments in our families so that we will grow in charity, learn humility by appreciating each other’s unique gifts, and ultimately grow closer to God.
Laraine Bennett is the author of A Year of Grace: 365 Reflections for Caregivers, and co-author with her husband, Art, of four books on temperament and emotions. The Bennett’s are members of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville and have four adult children (who all get along!) and two grandchildren.
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