November 30, 2015

Building Strong Extended Family Relationships


Extended Family Relationships and How that Affects our Children

A few years ago, my father challenged us with a 200 – year generational legacy plan. Well, it was really a series of CD’s that he had listened to, and yet many of the topics mirrored goals and desires that our extended family has for our children and our children’s children. I’ve mentioned this plan before, and sometimes it’s such a challenge for me to even get through the day to day of parenting, that thinking outside my present realm is difficult. Yet, we want to cast a vision for our children that reaches beyond just their lifetime. A vision that affects generations to come, and a large part of that comes from instilling the importance of family bonding and strong family relationships from a very young age.

If you’ve visited my blog for any significant part of time, you have read a bit about our extended family, on both sides. I am blessed with an amazing circle of love from both my husband’s side of the family and mine. Due to distance and proximity, the majority of the time when I talk about the day to day of extended family, it’s my side of the family I reference.

Over twenty years ago, we made a decision to try and keep the extended family together. I was the only child not married at the time, but my parents decided to relocate from WI to NC. This was a huge decision. A change of life that would impact us all. My brothers and their spouses gathered together and said they would do everything they could to make that move with their families at some time in the future. When I got married, my husband knew this was my dream as well, but of course, the doors had to open for business. While still living in WI, three of the siblings (myself included) went in together to buy a 12 acres piece of land in NC, and now, fast forwarding many years later, and too numerous of stories to mention, we live on a 40 acre “Harried homestead” where twenty two of the thirty cousins (grandchildren) have grown up together.

It’s a dream for the children to grow up like this, but lest you think that it’s been all “Leave it to Beaver” material, please don’t hold your breath.

Extended family relationships are hard work. Extended families require ongoing communication to develop close family ties. Extended families can be a true gift, but  living by extended family requires a lot of “family meetings” to navigate these water.  )And yes,  I know it’s not for many of you. :) )

Whether you live close by each other or thousands of miles away, the key to close family relationships goes back to commitment, flexibility, dedication and the capability to sometimes just let things goooooooooooo. That can be really difficult.

We can pick our friends. We can pick our schools. We can pick our spouses,  but our families…we have to develop relationships with what we have been given. There’s no choice in that.

Now, I understand that many reading have much deeper issues than just letting things go, and in some cases, a whole process of forgiveness and understanding needs to happen, but for those of you who are able, it’s about being intentional, even if it’s just taking baby steps in prioritizing those relationships…for the sake of your children.

Last month, I looked at the “We all” of family,and how does our family traditions play a part in the faith of our children. This month, for the Faith of our Children series, I was asked to look at how our extend family relationships play a part in the faith of our children. Personally, it affects so many aspects of our lives.

The generational legacy that my parents have handed to us, and in turn built around our entire family, I pray will multiply for generations to come. For me, this needs to be an entire series because like I said, it’s not just peaches and cream, it takes work. Hard work, much prayer, and even then, it’s an ongoing process.

The pictures you see above are from our annual family reunion. We have prioritized a time in the morning and evening to come together as a large group for morning devotions and sharing time in the evening. With something as easy as this choice, our extended family affects the faith of our children. They see faith in action as a collaborative group. If we don’t take this intentional time, it just slips away during our vacation and we don’t connect on a deeper level, but with it, we have memories built in for a lifetime of more than just volleyball on the beach.

We have life memories of sharing, laughing, crying and dreaming together.

A legacy begins today. You may not have the extended family relationships that you desire, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a new family tapestry for your children. You can be the one to change how the extended family affects your children. You can be the one to cast that vision and dream big dreams,  if only just for your children’s children.

fAITHofourchildren 300x206 The We All of Family

This is the first in a series called The Faith of Our Children. We have all addressed the same topic but with many varying and differing views. Please be sure to visit the other women participating, and see how they build their children’s faith :


  1. Jen, I love this idea and really anything that involves building a legacy of faith and loving family. I always wish I lived on the same street as my siblings and close to my parents. I love that you and your siblings decided to go in on land together. That’s so neat! This has got me thinking… :)


  2. Love this! We live within an hour of my parents, grandparents, brother’s family and sister’s family, and for that I am grateful. But oh, to share the same land! Challenging, yes, but so rewarding. I want to be a fly on the wall at your gatherings. 😉


  3. Awesome, inspiring post! I am blessed to live down the street from my parents and near 2 of my siblings, but we don’t all spend enough time together. Thanks for the inspiration!


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