Preparing and Protecting Our Children: Advice From Our Head of Lower School

michelleWe all are in an interesting space and state of mind these days. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with messages about safety and security, as the nation cries out for ways to stop the violence that has found its way into our schools. We are all cautious, we are all asking questions, we are all trying to come up with solutions. It has been heavy on all of our minds.

There are so many perspectives, so many agendas, and so many possibilities, that we as parents can feel bombarded and not know where to start, particularly as we think about preparing and protecting our children. How do we rein it all in and dissect it all? What makes the most sense for us moving forward?

I have always been led to believe that the home is at the heart of all learning. It is in the home where we learn about our morals and values; it is in the home where we learn how to live with others; it is in the home where we learn how to communicate our wants and our needs; and it is in the home where we learn to care and love one another. Some of the biggest lessons we learn in life are gleaned from being a part of a family, no matter the size or make-up. So, as we begin to process the information and think about ways to help our children in these crazy times, let’s start first with what is closest to us – our homes. This is a simple place on which to place our focus, generating life-changing results.

As parents, it is important for us to focus in three simple ways:

1. Focus our listening. In other words, tune into what your children are saying. One of the wonderful things about Lower School children is that they still like to talk with you. They want to tell you about their day and even about what they are feeling. Capitalize on this. (Trust me, the talking does stop!) Find time to ask them about their thoughts, as there is so much that can be learned through a conversation. However, be careful in the listening process. Why? Because, as parents, as we are listening, we are also trying to solve. The moment that you try to solve any situation that they may share as they are sharing, you have stopped focusing on what they are trying to divulge. At times, our children need us to be nothing more than listeners. After they have finished sharing, you can then ask them, “What would you like me to do with the information that you have just told me?” Sometimes they will say, “I just wanted you to know,” whereas at other times, they will ask for your help.

It is in the listening that you can also learn. You can learn about social dynamics. You can learn about personality. You can learn about struggles, as well as triumphs. In the listening, you can also begin to see maturity as your children talk through what they are experiencing. Use what you have learned from listening to support your children and guide them along the way. If through the listening you uncover a behavior or thought process that makes you a little uncomfortable, talk through it with your child and work together to bring about a positive change in this area. This is part of the molding process and is one of the biggest responsibilities we have as parents.

P.S. – focused listening cannot occur when you are distracted. The distractions cause you to miss out.
2. Focus our attention. There are so many ways that you can take this phrase. For our purposes today, I want you to do one simple thing – watch your children. I know that when my children were babies (and yes, I am doing this again with the little one at home), one of my favorite things to do was to watch them as they slept. Oh, what angels! As they grew, I loved watching them play outside on the swing-set or observing them play on the playground at the park. I liked to take it all in. Observation is so important because we can learn so much by simply watching. We can learn if they can share with others; we can learn if they are introverted or shy; we can learn how they deal with conflict; we can learn if they are risk-takers or prefer a level of safety. There is so much that we can gather from the watching. In our observation, we can also see where there are areas for improvement. When we see this, we need to take advantage of the teachable moment that has presented itself and work through it with our children. We have to remember that they are young and still do not have all of the tools that they need to successfully navigate this thing called life. We need to arm them with those tools and not shy away from the hard lessons. Remember, this is part of the molding process and it is our responsibility as parents.

3. Focus our words. Words are powerful. The messages that we send to our children through our words have the power to lift up or tear down. They also have the power to assure and encourage. In times like these, we have to be careful with the words that we choose. We have to affirm our children in as many ways as possible. We have to let them know that they are loved, they are cared for, and they are not alone. Our words can break down any anxiety that they may feel and give them hope for the future. So, what words are you choosing today? Choose wisely. It is often our voices that our children are hearing in their heads.

In this world in which we live, our children are calling out for safety (physically and emotionally), as well as the knowledge that they are being seen and heard. By doing all three things above, we can provide them with what they need. We must be brave for our children, even when it is hard. We must stand tall through the adversity. We must demonstrate love and resilience, and be courageous and hopeful. We must set the example for them. How they respond to things is often directly related to how they have seen us respond. It is hard to hear (even for me), but it is true. All of the above will begin to set into place positive patterns, which can lead to positive outcomes.

Let’s be brave. Let’s focus.