Aleteia

What it takes to cultivate joy in your family

FAMILY
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Living joyfully in our current situation may be a real challenge, but striving for it is part of what it means to be a Christian.

If you ask around, the happiest childhood memories involve those simple times we spent together as a family. There was no need to spend  a lot of money — perhaps there were board game, spontaneous picnics, or late-night movies together. What can account for these very simple joys? It is not the thrill or excitement from external circumstances or optimism. If we are to believe St. Paul (Gal 5:20), the true joy comes from God and others – it’s the fruit of Holy Spirit. It stems from our relationship with God and is reflected in our solidarity with each other.

Living joyfully in the current times might seem like a real challenge, requiring certain obliviousness and naiveté. But this is exactly what the Bible commands us to do: “Rejoice always, pray continually” (1 Th 5:16). If we wish to have a joyful family, we need to keep on praying. The question is how are we to do this exactly in our everyday life?

The little nothings that help us to be joyful everyday

Praying doesn’t dispense us from being attentive to family life: bringing joy is hard work. It requires giving time – to bake a cake or build a tower of blocks, to hear others and to be heard. It is up to parents when and where this joy can emerge, to plant its seeds into the fertile soil. “It’s good to plan, to reserve days for spending time together, without waiting for it to become an urge,” observes Patricia. Celebrating birthdays and other important family dates is also a good way to bring some magic into our lives. 

If despite it all, the morale remains low, it might be the time to ask yourself whether you are leading a life of harmony. “It’s a cornerstone of joy,” says Angela, the mother of five. It varies from one family to another and you must carefully adapt based on age and intellect so that each child can thrive and develop his or her potential. Comparing notes is a must – you need to make sure that no one feels hurt, tired or frustrated. “What counts the most,” continues Angela “is that there is joy every day. A birthday party will be a success if your everyday life is full of joy. To get there, you absolutely need to know how to surprise and be spontaneous. People are glad to share in joy, but you need to plan everything out.”

Prepare an original meal, dance together before or after dinnertime, and allow others to take initiatives. Add to this a healthy pinch of jokes and laughter. Parents and older children should take turns. For example, kids can take the lead with jokes and movies they like. 

Experience religious celebrations in full

Share in a religious experience together as Christians, a part of a bigger family, which is the Church. And don’t forget the Sabbath. Parents must do their best to make it the most joyful day of the week.

To help you spiritually survive in the lockdown, Aleteia is offering a trove of resources. Every day we propose a daily reading from the Gospels, a morning and an evening prayer based on the Liturgy of Hours. In addition on Sundays and holidays, you will find our guide to a very special ritual you can organize at home,  a moving celebration inviting you to meditate on the Gospel passage of the day in a company of a great artist. Finally, you will find many excellent tips.

Forgiveness helps to avoid collecting resentments

A joyful heart is what loving parents give. This is the secret of a happy family. A child that feels loved will spread joy all around. Another source of joy is forgiveness. It helps to let go of pain and resentment that poison the life of a family.

It is the parents’ role to channel this joy. This requires that you remain rooted in the present and accept life as it comes, because God lets it unfold as it is. Your children will recognize this inner strength and feel peaceful. Peace is another fruit of the Holy Spirit that helps to spread joy around. “I am always thankful,” confesses Charlotte, “and I say this right in front of my kids, so one day they can do the same.”

Florence Brière-Loth

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