I prepared for this role by listening—listening when my child told me why she chose the pink shoes instead of the red
ones . . . listening when she described how that pesky ant made a mark on her arm . . . listening when minor mishaps began to turn into bigger struggles with lasting consequences.
I didn’t know exactly why I felt listening was the key to becoming my children’s “go to” person, but I think it had to do with the fact that I grew up with a dad who listened to me.
Each day after school from first grade to senior year in high school, I’d stop by my dad’s office. There was an empty chair beside his desk that was always waiting for me. My dad would greet me with a smile and place the cap on his pen. That was my cue. It meant my dad wanted to hear about my day. Most of the time, I talked about little things, but as I grew, I trusted my dad with big things. He was my safe place. He was my refuge.
That is what I wanted to be for my kids, so I have been preparing . . . by listening.
My children are eleven and fourteen now, and it has become necessary for me to broach tough topics. One of my children opens like a book when I bring up such topics. She reveals a thirst to know more. My other child laughs nervously or becomes very quiet. With her, tough topics are difficult to discuss. But I just take a deep breath and proceed. I know there are certain things she needs to hear from me. I know there are certain things she will remember me saying to her in her darkest hours. I find that once the difficult words are out, my child relaxes. In the soft glow of the bedside lamp, she admits things she hasn’t told a soul, and thanks me for loving her.
And that is when I know conversation is key.
Because listening is love.
As I prepare for my role as a safe haven for my kids, I often refer to this profound quote:
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”–David W. Augsburger.
Being a safe haven for our children is a crucial role . . .
We begin by listening to the little things.
We begin by looking up when they walk into the room.
We begin by creating space and time for talks.
We begin by being interested in what they have to say.
And later, as they get older, we continue by . . .
Asking hard questions and then sitting still to hear the response.
Turning off the television and leaving the phone in another room.
Lying beside them until the words come.
Hearing things that are hard to hear.
Not assuming they are fine because they don’t have much to say.
Being available—not just in the wake of tragedies—but every day, so there’s a foundation in place when trouble arises and support is needed.
Conversing with our children as they grow is not always easy, but it is vital to their well-being. Perhaps now more than ever before.
A few weeks ago, I received an urgent request from a blog reader. She shared an anonymous letter written by an eighth grader in her community. In it, the young man expressed suicidal thoughts that he could not tell his parents.
“You seem to know what to say to hurting children,” my reader said. “Can you help me?”
I provided words she could send to the anonymous email address from which the letter was sent. They were words that I’ve said to my former students and to my children; they were words that were said to me; they were words that made all the difference in my life.
And that is when I knew I needed to make several key conversations available to ALL children and ALL parents. I have worked diligently over the past few weeks to create a free eBook containing five critical conversations that help parents broach tough topics, repair past damage, and create loving communication practices for the future.
Conversation is key.
Because listening is love.
Let no child feel alone in his or her darkest hour. Let us be a child’s safe haven.
We can begin preparing for this role by using the words and strategies in this book.
Please accept this free eBook with the urgency in which I wrote it. Please share it so others may begin to open up critical dialogues today.
With great love and high hopes,
Rachel Macy Stafford
QUESTION: How do you connect with your kids and practice good listening?
CHALLENGE: Download and read the eBook Words that Can’t Wait this week. Work to improve your connection with your children and make sure they know you love them just the way they are, exactly as they are.
Edited by Kimberly Price.
Photo provided by the author. Graphics by Anna Jenkins.