I didn’t expect that a soccer game could show me the beauty of extended family. But when my two boys’ high school soccer team made the semifinals in the state playoffs, my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, along with their families, acted like … well, family. My parents and siblings, who lived in state, cleared their schedules to sit on hard benches in cool weather after paying an exorbitant entrance fee. And those who lived out of state, in spite of having their own to-do lists, e-mailed or called the boys as they watched game highlights on YouTube.
Then, miracle of miracles, my boys’ team won the semifinals. And even though it was an evening game, family members patiently waited to congratulate each boy, then returned three days later for the state competition.
There’s no doubt that attending two games inconvenienced our extended family, and yet, they showed support. And my nieces and nephews willingly gave up activities that were important to them to spend time with us.
One labored to create a yellow poster and flags out of white typing paper, glue and a highlighter, and told those in his fifth-grade class that he would be supporting his cousins and not his own school — also competing in the playoffs. He even skipped his end-of-season sports banquet, where he was getting an award, to root for my boys.
A high school junior, knowing there would be repercussions, told her soccer coach she wouldn’t be at practice; others hurried from their performance in a high school play — and the list goes on.
A shared moment
My boys’ team won, and their extended family was there in person to congratulate them. The moment brought tears to my eyes. I was overcome by this lavish expression of family love.
By being at the games, sending e-mails and interacting with my kids one-on-one, my husband’s and my families gave the next generation a gift — a model for how extended family participates in each others’ lives, even when it’s inconvenient. And my boys noticed.
Ideas for your family
How should you support family members, especially those in the next generation? Here are a few practical tips that can help you build your relationships with extended family:
My daughter loves summer camp, but my son … not so much. When Grandpa heard about his grandson returning home instead of staying at summer camp, he told us to bring him over for the week. They spent their time camping out in their backyard, talking about God and His Word, and doing fun activities together. Our son’s time at Grandpa Camp has been significant in his life.
—Peter A. Serger
My mother chose to connect with both of my children in ways that fit their personalities. She and my
oldest daughter, 9, began corresponding through mailed letters. For my younger daughter, she sent an age-appropriate devotional with a note saying she desired to spend time talking online with her once a week. Through these weekly devotions and letters, my children forged a deep friendship with their “Nini.”
Be There, Show You Care
Be interested. Demonstrate genuine care and concern for your family. Choose a method of regular communication — whether calling, writing notes or making visits. Use these opportunities to better understand your family members; ask questions and listen carefully. Tip: If keeping track of details or dates is difficult, get a journal or pocket calendar and jot down reminders.
Be involved. Respond to the things you’re learning about your relatives. Instead of waiting to be asked, anticipate ways you can act. Is there an event you can attend or a need you could meet? Does someone long for a listening ear? Respond in ways that are appropriate for you and those you seek to encourage. Tip: Depending on the needs of your family, it might not be easy to know the best way to respond. Seek wisdom and practical advice from a trusted source outside the family, such as a pastor, friend or mentor.
Don’t have an agenda. It’s natural to want your love and support to be received well, to accomplish much and to be reciprocated. But looking for good returns can sidetrack us from offering the sincere, selfless love that marks our faith. Tip: Don’t be discouraged if your efforts feel forced at first or if the reception seems cold. Depending on family history and dynamics, it may take time to adjust, build trust or reconnect.
Pray. Nothing is more powerful than supporting your family members — especially the next generation — through prayer. Be intentional: Ask how you can pray, and let them know you are praying. Keep a record of God’s work in your family, and make it a point to share news of God’s blessings with the younger generation. Tip: Are there other Christ followers in your family? Consider gathering as a group to pray, or partner with one other family member to share prayer needs. Remember, it’s never too late to start supporting your family — and it’s always too early to stop. Proverbs 3: 3-4 says: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you. . . . Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Seeking to love and support your family faithfully will make a tremendous difference—today and for years to come.