Alongside Our Children

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When I began to plan our the month of October for this challenge, I randomly dropped this idea of "hurting and suffering alongside of our children/ teaching them to be intentional and authentic" right into this day. Thanks to FB, I was reminded that 3 years ago one of my sons was bullied so badly at school that he ended up in the doctors office with internal bruising. A long story short, the school initially was not going to do anything about helping my son because he was "dramatic" and it was his word against these students that had repeatedly kicked him in the abdomen, kidneys and face. Our amazing pediatrician called the district and reported what had happened... that's when things got moving. There are so many things that I wished I had done differently in this situation. So many ways I wished I had fought differently for my son. I don't think it was an accident that I planned this blog post on the day that my son and I walked into a doctors appointment where he finally felt heard by someone other then his parents.

DISCLAIMER: Each of us are individuals. We do things a certain way based on our personalities, upbringings, and family structures. We do what works best for our children based on what we know and understand within the realm of our children's best interest. Being unique individuals and having different views, we parent uniquely because of who we are as people. Our family parents with connective principles in mind. (The Whole Brain Child/ No Drama Discipline/ The Connected Child... these books are not all adoption related books, only The Connected Child is adoption related). I say this because the way we advocate for our children and the way we parent our children is very different from traditional parenting.

Encouraging authenticity and genuine relationships with our children is a process. A process that is always changing and always unique to the individual kiddo. Each of us parents wants different things for our children, but I believe that the core of all those "things" we want for our kids, our hearts want to see our children to grow up to be independent, well-rounded, respectful adults who contribute great things to society. Some days I cannot think past the next hour because I am just trying to keep them alive. However, as I work through my own intentional living, I have often tried to find ways to spur my children on towards being authentic individuals. Todd and I work extremely hard at creating a very open child-parent relationship with our children. This is the only area in my parenting I know that I have done well. I think this is the beginning of helping our children to become authentic and healthy in their relationships.

If we want our children to become open and successful adults, we need to teach them how to be open and successful children. Please understand, I am not talking successful in regards jobs or education, I am referring to success as respect, integrity, kindness; character traits that contribute to the success of education or jobs. If we want our children to be open teenagers and adults, we need to come alongside of them and know them deeply. Since at our core as people, we need connection and relationship, we need to begin to develop a healthy connection with our children, so they can in turn have healthy connections with others.

5 Ways to Come Alongside Our Children

1. Create a space of connection. If we are going to teach our children to be authentic (and have healthy relationships with us as parents), we need to create a space that is highly connective. There is nothing more valuable then connecting with your child. Too often we work at correction, the idea of "how I can get my child to do what I want, when I want, without asking any questions". The core value of our parenting can turn into just wanting obedience. But this potentially means that we are constantly creating tension and fear in the hearts of our families and our children. Please hear me, I value obedience, but when we are constantly fighting for obedience and it is not happening, we need to take a step back and figure out what the issues are with our children. I believe the core value of parenting is connecting with our children on their level, in their love language. Creating a space of connection is going to look different for each child, however, the outcome is always the same. It creates a more regulated child (if you are looking for obedience as a parent, this helps TREMENDOUSLY), a child who is connected to you, who wants to open up to you, and enjoys spending time with you. Having a connected relationship with our children is the heart of parenting. It is the heart of discipline. Did you know that the root of discipline is discipleship? Discipleship happens in relationship. A connective relationship. Lets create a space to walk alongside of our children, connected to them deeply, so that we can always nurture that connection and relationship. We need to disciple them.

2. Create a place for sharing. Creating a safe place that allows honest feelings to be shared without any words being said. It is so important our kiddos feel safe to share their feelings, no matter what those feelings are. Children need a place where they can share their hearts, hurts and fears- it must be done with respect. This was a hard thing for me to put into place because we can take a hit to our pride when we allow our children to share their hearts and thoughts. The way this looks in our family is that our children can come to us and tell us how they feel, even if it is something that they do not love about us as parents. As long as it is done in respect (no yelling or saying mean words), then as adults, we process that with them and not diminish their feelings.  We cannot tell our children that their feelings are wrong. Those feeling belong to them and should not be lessened in any way. We need to give our children a voice so they know that have value and that their words matter deeply to us. This teaches children to advocate for themselves in a healthy manner, not fearful or angry. BUT remember, a child is not going to do this unless you have first nurtured that connection with them.

Here is the thing about this, we not only want our children to come to us when they are hurting by something that we have done, but we deeply need them to come to us when they are hurting over any thing that is in their lives. We must have a beautiful communication with our children so that they know that no matter what, we are hear to be that space for them. We want those questions... those hard questions. I have always said that I want to be the person that talks to my children about sex, relationships, struggles, etc. I want to be that person that my children can trust and know is here for them no matter the subject/ topic. Every question is far game in our house... they take full advantage of that.

3. SIT & LISTEN. Just sit and listen. One thing that my years of working with students at our churches has taught me; to sit, listen and not act shocked. I have heard it all, nothing shocks me at this point, but I had to learn the "fake it 'til I make it" face. If we are going to nurture our children's authenticity, we have to simply be that place for them to come and share, as I mentioned above, but also not try to fix everything. We must graciously sit and listen. There are moments where we get the opportunity to fix all our children's hurts and fears, but that is not what they are always looking for us to do. Sometimes they are just looking for us to sit and listen.

4. Start a journal. I have a quiet child who I have had such a hard time getting to open up to me. I deeply do not think that it because he does not want to do so, but because he has loud and outgoing siblings and that is just not his personality. I tried everything to create connection with him, which is easy, but it was not opening him up in regards to his words. So we started a journal together. It has been my absolute favorite thing I have done with any of my children. We have a journal where all the rules apply (safe place to share feelings, hurts, fears, joys... as long as it is done with respect). We write back and forth to each other. He will write in the journal and will put it on my pillow. Then I will write back to him. Oh the sweet and honest connection we have created. The think I have noticed them most is that he is beginning to open up with his words directly to us.

5. Be a detective. Be a detective in the life of your child so that you know your child deeply. Know their love language, their fears, what makes them excited or happy, what drives them. Investigate those feelings that you kiddo brings to you or those feelings that you see, but they try to hide from you. Getting to the core of the "issue" or struggle may take some detective work. It is never what you might initially see, it is generally something completely different.

It is never too late to start this. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to my children and apologized for the way that I began to raise them (Ash & Jeremy) from an authoritarian parenting model. I have cried as I have begged for their forgiveness and prayed that God would wash over those negative parenting moments. My desire has always been that I have a very open dialogue with my children, which we do. Creating a place where we are the place they come too in their times of hurting so that we can process that with them in a healthy, loving way. This dynamic that we have created is strengthened by a few thing... connection, felt safety, and giving our children a voice. We must raise up our children to be responsible adults who are capable of having healthy relationships with those that are around them. That begins with having healthy relationships with us as their parents, discipling them towards being men and women who have integrity, love, kindness, faithfulness, trust and are followers of Christ. It all starts with our relationship with them.

This is the picture that I posted on IG 3 years ago after Jeremy and I went to the doctors appoint. I can still remember the doctor sitting down with him and praising him for coming to us and sharing everything that had happened. Encouraging him that no matter what happens, that coming to us is the right choice... every single time.

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