Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lessons from Children to Parents

I've been thinking quite a bit the last two weeks about the role of a parent in the life of a child.  Most of my processing has come after conversations with students.  Their words challenge me to be a better parent.

Here are some of the things I am learning from them:
  • Children want someone to care (even when they act like they don't).  Your children may tell you to quit nagging, to "not worry about it", they may even be pretty vocal about not wanting you in their business.  But from what I am learning,  no matter what they say, they need and want someone to care (i.e. Did you get your homework done? Do you have clean clothes? What time will you be home? Who do you think you're dating??)
  • Children need someone to listen.  I was cooking dinner at church a couple evenings ago and a high school girl came to meet me there directly after school.  She could not get words out fast enough.  At one point, she stopped and asked me if she was talking to much.  It got me thinking. How many times do I hurry my own daughter through what she is trying to tell me? How many times do I just not hear her at all?  No kiddo should feel like they are talking too much or that their parent doesn't want to/have time to listen.   Children are processing through so much, they need someone to listen (not always give advice, but to always listen).
  • Children need a parent who is emotionally available.  When we as parents have so much pain or chaos in our own lives, we become emotionally closed to those around us.  Unfortunately, this has a negative effect on our children.  Children need a parent or parents who have emotional margin to help their children navigate through this broken and painful world.  Parents, we must seek healing so we can help our children find it as well. (Jesus is the only one who can offer this  healing.  Not alcohol, not drugs, not sex, not money)
  • Children need parents who will not abuse or neglect them.  Parents, please don't abuse your children.  Please, please don't neglect their needs in pursuit of meeting your own.  This is what keeps me awake at night more than anything else.  Children are to be cherished, to be loved. 
  • Children need someone they can look up to.  When children look up, they see their parents first.  Are we as parents living our lives in a way we want our children to live?  Are we living out our faith in a way they can follow?  Would we want our children to model their behavior after ours?  We are creating cycles and patterns for our children that will be hard for them to break. What kind of cycles and patterns are we creating?  I need to keep asking myself that.
  • Children need to be tucked in at night, to feel safe. I once had a student tell me that their home was unsafe.  Another shared a story with me about numerous times they had to leave their home to escape some kind of imminent danger.  This lack of security is often too much for a child to handle.  Every child needs someone in their life who will tuck them in at night "snug as a bug in a rug."  They need someone who will always have their back. 
  • Children need to be reminded that they are not alone.  At the dance studio today, Stella came out of her ballet class just to make sure that I was sitting in the same place I was when she went to class.  On the way home I asked her why she did that.  She told me, "I was feeling lonely and I wanted to make sure you were still there."  Every week I reassure her that I will be there waiting for her, this time she wanted to make sure my words were true.  When our children are lonely, do they know where to find us? 
  • Parents, your presence at home is meaningful.  A child should have someone in their life they can count on.  A child should know to where to find their parent when they need them.  I know that there is a lot of debate over "quality vs. quantity" of time spent with our children.  From what I am learning, kids just want someone (specifically a parent) that will be there for them, spending time at home with them.  
  • Future lessons go here.
Parenting can be overwhelming.  It's scary to think that I have this much influence over any life, but the reality is...I do.  In fact, we all do.  Parents or not.   I am continuously thankful that I serve a God who is strong in my weakness, who fills in the gaps when I cannot, and is routing for me to be the best parent I can be.  Apart from Him, I fail.  With Him (and lots of grace and "I'm sorries"), I'm finding my way as I learn from those around me.

If you are a parent who feels like you are able to provide this for your own children, perhaps it is time to also find another kiddo who needs a strong, stable adult in their life.  For those of you who are not currently parents or your kiddos are all grown, the call is for you as well.  Is their a child that you can come alongside and offer support?  There are lots of hurting kids and each needs a pit crew.

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