THE OTHER PERSON YOUR CHILD NEEDS
Posted by Sherry Surratt
We’re miles apart connected through cell phones, but the smile I feel in her voice sinks into my bones. With me, through moves across the country, career changes, moments when I was feeling sorry for myself, and times I needed to celebrate, Sibyl always had the words that hit the spot. She’s never shied away from saying what was hard (she once told me to get off my butt and get started). But her words mattered because they were spoken from someone who knew me and loved me.
We know as adults we need these voices in our lives, but there’s someone who needs them even more: your child.
Wait a minute, your child has you, right? You’re the awesome parent who loves them more than anyone else in the world.
Exactly. You see your child through parent eyes, filled with hope and an achingly deep love that wants them to always try their best, always step into that next opportunity, always get that A, because you know they can do it. You were there the moment they made their grand entrance. You’re the one with the naked baby butt stories they beg you not to tell.
No way can an outside voice ever take your place, but they can fill a different seat at the table that you can’t.
Let’s face it. Somewhere between Lululemon and man buns, you’ve lost your coolness (okay, you haven’t lost it, you just can’t find it at the moment). You’re still essential, but now, there’s more your child needs. They need an additional, I-know-what-you’re-feeling voice. Here’s why:
They need a listening ear that’s not you, because sometimes it’s about you. Geesh, I don’t want my child talking to someone else about me! Actually, you do. Remember that time you made your daughter march back to her room (okay, she stomped) because the shorts she had on didn’t cover the essentials? She felt like you had ruined her life. When she talks to her friends about it, they’re on her side, which isn’t always helpful. When she talks to another wise adult she trusts, they can help with the why behind the what and help her see you’re on her side too. Which is incredibly helpful.
They need someone to sit with them at ground zero. As parents, we want to get them past what hurts and help lift their eyes to tomorrow. But when something hurts, it hurts today. Your child needs someone to talk to that remembers what it feels like to sit at the lunch table alone, left out of the Friday night party, or dumped by their best friend. As parents, it’s tempting to talk them out of feeling sad. It’s okay, there are lots of other parties. But often, they are not ready for this conversation yet. This is where an outside person can “sit in it” with them and help them process their feelings, giving them time for perspective to seep in.
Some things are too itchy for a parent’s ears. We want our kids to talk to us about the hard stuff. Pornography, sexting, what their best friend got arrested for last night, that decision they made that turned out to be a terrible one. But this is where an outside person can be extremely valuable. They can listen without freaking out, bring some wise words and help your child see why they do need to share it with you. A wise outside voice they trust who also reinforces your family relationship and your family values is like gold, and it keeps your child from feeling isolated with things that feel too big to talk about.
If your child already has someone they can talk to that you trust, like a teacher, coach, small group leader, mentor, let your child know you’re okay with it. Be supportive of their conversations, letting them know they can share what they talk about, but don’t force it. And honor the relationship by allowing time for it.
But what if your child doesn’t have an outside voice?
Ask a leader in your church or at their school if there are any young adults they know well who may already be volunteering and would be willing to mentor or be a big brother or sister. Relationship is key here, so make sure it’s someone your kid can connect with.
If your church has small groups for children and students, encourage your child to join. Remember, that other voice doesn’t always have to be one on one. Sitting in a group of kids the same age with a great leader can be an incredible start.
Wherever you find the other person your child needs, get to know them, invite them to have coffee, and thank them for investing in your child.
About the Author:
Sherry Surratt is the Executive Director of Parent Strategy for Orange. She is the author of several books including Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears, and Just Lead! A No Whining, No Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church. A shoe freak and coffee lover, Sherry resides in Denver, Co with her husband Geoff who is Pastor of Church Planting at Southeast Christian. She has two grown children and two incredibly gorgeous granddaughters.
MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR KIDS
Posted by Sarah Anderson
Have your kids ever hurt your feelings? I don’t mean their critique of your clothes, cooking, or stupid jokes. I mean the thing they say that just cuts to the quick.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my boys said something and it hurt so much, it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. He’s young enough where I don’t think the words were said with the intention to hurt, and he was oblivious to how hurtful his words were. But I am not naïve. I know a day will come when my boys will know the power of their words. And then they’ll use those words to cause pain on purpose.
Family is messy. At this stage, most messes come in the form of food under the kitchen table, diapers in a full diaper genie, and endless leaves, rocks, and flowers filling my counters. But at some point, I know the messiness will come in the form of verbal shrapnel. I know the messiness will be less literal and more figurative. (Or maybe with two teenage boys by that time, it’ll be both.)
And I knew from a couple of weeks ago, when the words from one of my kids hit me like they did, that I had better figure out what I was going to do when those moments come.
At the time, I shut down. I got him ready for bed and I read him books. I was present physically, but emotionally distant. But when it was time to pray, to sing, and close up the night, I realized something had to give. He may not have known I was holding back, but I did. And I decided then and there to do what felt like the exact opposite of what I wanted to do.
I decided to move close. To not let careless words create a rift. To not let hurt feelings dictate my behavior towards him. To move towards the one I felt inclined to back away from.
I decided to be a peacemaker. To be a mender of things made wrong—even when I was the one who had been wronged. To move past what had been broken in me, in order to make right what was broken between my son and me.
Not just a peace-liker. Not simply a peace-supporter. But a peace-maker
Jesus said peacemakers are called the children of God.
James, the brother of Jesus, said peacemakers reap a harvest of righteousness.
I say peacemakers have a better chance of a healthy relationship with their kids in the future.
Making peace is hard. Moving towards the one who’s hurt us is challenging. It’s counterintuitive and not all fair at times. But a parent who makes peace with their kids now sows a relationship of peace in the future. And at the end of the day, that’s my goal.
Our kids are growing up in a world we know all too well. One that thrives on conflict, revels in drama, and has no problem writing relationships and people off because of mistaken steps and words. Let’s show them an alternative exists. Maybe not in culture, but in our homes. Let’s show them peace exists, and it’s worth fighting for.
No matter what my child does or says, no matter what my child doesn’t say, or doesn’t do, I want there to be no doubt about what he’ll get from me. A mom who’ll go to great lengths—not to keep the peace, but to make the peace. To create space in our home for reconciliation. To make a habit of moving towards one another—of being the first one to take the first step—no matter what.
If my boys leave my home certain of nothing else than that, I’ve won. I’ve showed my boys no conflict mattered more than my relationship with them, and I’ve demonstrated the same tenderness and tenacity our heavenly Father shows us. He’s the God of peace after all.
As parents, let’s work on resembling our heavenly Father in this. And live in expectation of what might happen when we do.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.