In this day and age, it seems as if sometimes the most intimate and horrific things can be reduced to an emoticon. There are not enough emoticons in the world for tragedy, outrage, and horror. And, in cases of serious challenges with rights and wrongs on both sides, there is no clear button to push on social media to express the grey. So, instead of raising our children in an environment that expects easy and shallow answers to life’s grey questions, let’s raise them to become deep and intimate beings with capacities for willing, feeling, and thinking.
Keep your children close. Not to micromanage, not to hover, but to be present and attentive to what the true deep needs of children are. All children have little wants that they think are needs, but it is our job as parents to figure out what is it that this child truly and deeply needs. And we can only do that if we are paying attention over a long course of many years. We learn to read this child through all their changes, just as when we live in one place we learn to read the signs of each season in the sky and land. Attention leads to depth in relationships and the first ability of the child to empathize with another human being.
Keep your children outside. Connection with nature is the foundation of emotional and mental stability, the foundation of academic greatness in many subjects due to developing keen observation skills for minute changes, but it also becomes a time when a child can learn to be with themselves. Only when we can rest peacefully in ourselves (and perhaps in the things that are bigger than us) can we truly have deep intimacy with others and the challenges confronting humanity.
Keep your children off of social media as long as possible. Social media devalues things to a click, an emoticon, a passing by glance. As much as I enjoy social media for myself, I also didn’t grow up with it and become a rich thinker through debates on all kinds of issues right at our dinner table. Encourage reading, dinner time discussion every night, and meaningful conversations with real people.
Keep your children with great role models. Of course, be the best role model that you can be, but I think it does take a village to help raise children, especially as a child grows. We never know what other teacher, what neighbor, what other adult at a place of worship or in an activity that a child loves that might spark a light in our child’s soul. Sometimes it is something that seems so small to us that makes such a big impression on them. Build up great relationships between your children and the mentors, neighbors, or extended family they love. I know in this day and age, where coaches are not trustworthy, neighbors are not what they seem, etc. that this can seem scary. However, I think it is worth the effort to find the adults you love and that your children really can be guided by. Different seasons may need different role models outside of the family, but it is worth persuing.
Keep your children even in their relationships. As children age into the middle grades, and early high school years, it is easy for friendships and crushes to come and go. Help your child sort out their capabilities for emotional intelligence, how they treat people fairly, how sometimes old friends are actually the best friends, what to do when friends hurt them, how to react to conflict, how to be assertive and set boundaries and more. This is another thing that seems simple, but if you do not have time due to outside pressures of your own, you will not be present to help your child navigate this piece of life that is becoming more and more important in today’s world.
Slow down, and embrace being unbusy. Children are in your home for 18 years usually. It is a long time, but also short. If you don’t slow down, you might just miss it.
Blessings and love,