We are just a few days away from Valentine's Day, the holiday of LOVE. When I think of parents & kids... I think "Love is Listening". Many of you just returned home from the latest retreat in Orlando. Some of you have attended past retreats. Some are only passing through on the website & stumbled upon this post just now. Whatever category you fall into, you clicked on this most likely because you are home, back in the reality of your daily routines... & want to know how to live life fully in the midst of your circumstances & enjoy each moment. You want to know how to best love & care for your kids (and each other for that matter).
One of my favorite parts of the retreat is getting the privilege to get to know the kids and teenagers, to hear their joys & struggles. We meet together in age appropriate groups, along with many of the volunteers, and try to create a sense of "togetherness" from day1. I just served as the counselor in the teen group and was amazed by the openness & willingness of these teens to share what was going on in their hearts right off the bat. All it took was taking a little time to get to know each other. Creating an environment where everyone felt safe enough to share. And a boldness to enter into silence & awkward pauses, with a hint of humor thrown in!
I mention this not only to express my thankfulness for their transparency, but really to encourage you as parents to LISTEN. Listen to your kids. They may not be expressing themselves in words. It may be in the form of unpredictable actions and behavior, or withdrawal, or ways they distract or attempt to escape the circumstances (ie friends, video games, sports, pure busyness). And yet, they are saying so much! They are shouting out (by their actions)... LISTEN TO ME! I need you. I want to connect. I want to be honest.
What can we do as parents to love our children? We can pay attention to what they are trying to say (with or without words!)
What does this look like practically? Well, right now you are at an advantage (especially if you have just returned home from a retreat). Your kids have practiced the art of hearing a question, doing an exercise in their playbook, & sharing their thoughts with their peers. You now have the opportunity as their parent to follow-up! Now remember, not all kids will respond in the same way. We were all created uniquely & one way of connecting may not prove successful from kid to kid. So, how do you connect you might ask? Know your child.
If you feel like you don't really know them... their interests, what they love, what makes them feel alive... Watch. Pay attention. Join in. Maybe even eventually ask! Once you've earned the right to be heard... show them you care with no agenda for yourself... seek out things you can do together. Eventually the conversations about heart issues & how they are doing will naturally come up. It takes effort, energy, & putting ourselves aside. I have to remind myself of this daily with my little ones!
Be patient. Love. & Listen.
Happy early Valentine's Day to each of you!