Becoming a parent has been the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever experienced, but with it comes new fears – not for me, but for my kids. I’ll never forget being left out from a sleepover in elementary school. Not only did it bother me at the time, but I can still remember that moment like it happened yesterday. It stung and still elicits a feeling of emptiness. I don’t think I’m different from anyone else. We all want to feel like we belong and it hurts being left out. That’s human nature – we were created with an innate desire for community.
What hit me hard this week is thinking about my kids and how much it will break my heart when that inevitable moment comes and they are left out of something at school or while playing sports. The mom in me wants to do whatever I can to make sure that they are never hurt by their peers. I don’t ever want them to experience what I did: feeling like they aren’t valuable or good enough for others. I then realized that while it’s natural for me to want to protect them as much as possible, the reality is that I won’t always be able to shelter them from the world, which can be quite cruel at times. At some point, this day will arrive and I will be crushed. However, in the meantime, one of my most important roles is to teach my children kindness and sensitivity. While I am unable to control the hurtful circumstances that may occur, I can talk to my kids about including others, be a good role model myself, and help them think about how their actions can positively or negatively affect their peers.
As I think about what I can be doing now for my kids a couple ideas come directly to mind. First and foremost, I can be praying for my kids on a daily basis. Prayer is powerful and it never hurts to seek wisdom to better deal with these types of situations that are likely to arise as my kids get older. Being a parent is challenging, and I need all the help that I can get!
Second, I can make it a priority to be a good example for my kids. Kids are so attentive and they pick up on a lot more than we give them credit for. True character is built from within the home and it is my responsibility as a parent to do all that I can to live my life in a way that my kids will see how to treat others with respect. How can I expect them to be a good friend if they see me talking negatively about others or leaving people out for no reason? As parents, we should all be striving to exhibit positive behaviors that our kids will emulate as they grow up.
Third, I can be intentional by asking my kids questions about their day. Specifically, it’s vital to make an effort to dig deeper by asking questions that get them to think about not only themselves, but others as well. The other day my mom sent me a Facebook post that a woman had written about her son’s first day of kindergarten. It had been a rough one. But then a classmate’s mom had texted. She had asked her daughter if anyone seemed to have a difficult first day at school. The mom then followed that up by asking her daughter what she could do to help him have a better day next time. The little girl wanted to call the boy and ask him to be her friend. How great is that? What a simple, yet wonderful question to ask your kids! This mama is obviously teaching valuable life lessons to her daughter at a young age. The boy may still have a rough day, but at least he is assured that someone in his class genuinely cares about him.
If we could make it a priority to teach our kids these valuable lessons during their formative years I can’t help but think how much happier we would all be. I honestly believe that true change can occur when kids learn to become other-centered instead of self-centered. At some point this cycle of making people feel inferior or unwanted has got to stop. I’m going to do everything that I possibly can to work towards being the solution to this longstanding problem. Will you join me?