I don’t need to convince you of the importance of gathering the extended family to form a family reunion and yet these events can be very stressful and overwhelming. Moms need to remember to show themselves some mercy as they plan and execute a reunion and remember to extend this mercy to others! Family reunions can highlight the best and worst of times in family life so remember that God’s mercy is the most important gift we can bring to our relatives.
Mercy is a sign that our Catholic Faith is real and active in our life. For many of the family members gathered this might be the first time they have met you married, with children or with LOTS of children.
Now, practically speaking, here are a few tips to help you have a wonderful time and help your Catholic family put their best foot forward no matter who shows up!
- Set Your Mass Schedule Ahead of Time: Be clear with family and extended family: we will be at Mass no matter what. When a specific Mass is selected it doesn’t allow for misunderstandings. You might be surprised who else would like to join you. If you are clear in your communication and do not spring Mass on family at the last minute, there is no room for hurt feelings and confusion. Consider sending this text or email out ahead of time.
- Consider Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: Invite others to join you in the powerful and quick prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This beautiful prayer is easy to teach and “user friendly.”
- Quality vs Quantity: Nobody wants to see your toddler in a complete meltdown late in the evening or a child who is in desperate need of a nap and you do not step away to provide it for them. Just because family has gathered does not mean you are required to step in line with everyone else. One piece of solid advice I received years ago is to always leave 15 minutes before a major meltdown. Quality time is a blessing and should be cherished but know your children’s limits and keep their needs in mind.
- Stay In Touch Throughout the Year: Thanks to modern technology we are just a click away from extended family who live around the country. Consider using social media, texting, phone calls and email to share updated pictures and achievements with your family. When we maintain ongoing communication it takes the stress off family reunions and allows people to be more charitable. When we just connect as an extended family once or twice a year we can lack the proper compassion and understanding of dynamics.
- Stay in Budget: As a mother with seven children, I know that despite it being a special gathering we can’t blow our budget to see family. Know your family budget before you agree to the vacation or family gathering. Nothing is worse than a credit card full of charges that leave your family more stressed than when you arrived! Proper planning and budgeting can really help.
- Bring Your Own Fun: It is not fair to the children or those there to expect other people to entertain them for the course of the family gathering. Many reunions are not small child friendly, so consider picking up new coloring books, football, playing cards, chalk, board games, crayons, paint and even some cheap new toys to help the children have fun. This is especially true when staying in a hotel as it is our job as moms to plan fun and make sure young children are set up for success.
- Remember to Check Your Children’s Bags: One time I remember my five-year-old had nothing but t-shirts for a four-day reunion! Despite how old they are make sure they clearly understand the expectation of the type of dress they need to have in their bags. Nothing is worse than when a child is not properly dressed for family pictures, swimming pools, day trips and family gatherings. With such a large family we now do one load of laundry while away when we travel just to keep packing to a minimum. If that is the case for you, pack detergent.
They Will Know You Are a Christian By Your Love: Charity is one of the most important virtues required of us, especially when interacting with extended family. Remember to be charitable in your actions, words and deeds. Despite our difficulties with extended relatives, it is essential that you learn how to extend this charity to others; it will go a long way.
- A Time To Remember: Reunions are wonderful opportunity to get to know family members and better understand their life and upbringing. These types of gatherings can be windows to the past, so remember to ask questions and gain a clear understanding of how this family was raised. You are not in any way endorsing or agreeing to doing the same techniques or style with your children but these types of moments and conversations are priceless and well worth investing in. Consider bringing family pictures to share with others!
- Nobody Can Read Your Mind: If “reunioning” is causing you to feel stressed and overwhelmed, take time out to regroup. Consider checking in with your spouse and let him know how you are doing. Nothing is worse than holding resentment over the people we are called to love and they have no idea!
- Know your limits: if you need a break – take it, if you need a special treat – eat it, if you need a walk walk it, if you need a long drive – drive it; most importantly, if you need more graces – pray for them. The fact is, reunions can be stressful, but family is a wonderful gift for generations to come!