The last post covered the reality that we do (mostly unwittingly) harm our own children. I emphasized the responsibility of knowing your own story and woundedness so you can begin to see where you are living out of brokenness that will impact your children. And then secondly, how we really do need the wisdom and insight from others to point us to see truths about ourselves that we truly are powerless to see on our own.
LISTENING TO OUR CHILDREN:
When it comes to the reality of harming our children, there is a second responsibility we as parents have: *Listening to our children*. If you are thinking “okay, I got that one!”, let me suggest that it’s not as easy as it sounds! Sure, we can listen to our children as they talk about school, or friends, or even being bullied on the bus… being involved makes us feel like “good parents”! But what if your child is telling you: “Your anxiety (or anger) consumes our home. I often feel like it’s swallowing up my whole childhood. I don’t feel safe and happy at home.”
Most families have an unspoken code (that children pick up on even before language develops), that such honesty and truth is unacceptable… They know that with such truth their parents would become completely unglued, and the whole family system would collapse. Since children depend on their caregivers for survival, they would rather loose their voice and keep their family intact.
If you want a family culture where your children can freely speak their thoughts and feelings, and be seen and heard (not just when it makes you feel good, but ALSO when you feel like you might actually become unglued!) it will take an immense amount of intention (and probably outside support!!)
Your children will start by observing your communication, honesty, and ability to repair in your marriages. Is that a scary thought? ;o) If they see that “negative” thoughts and feelings are met with defensive attack (instead of listening curiosity) they will assume that their thoughts and feelings will be met with the same.
Curiousity is a key concept here. *Listen with curiousity* If you child ventures out to share a negative emotion (in any context), for example, they express anxiety about the families finances, if you immediately try to take away their anxiety and say “Oh honey, you don’t need to feel anxious, that’s for mom and dad to take care of… blah blah blah”, the child won’t feel heard, or validated, or safe in sharing. A *curious* response could be as simple as, “I’m so glad you shared with me that you feel that way, tell me more about that feeling. When does that feeling come over you? Where do you feel that anxiety in your body?”
This is a resource that Ryan and I really enjoy using: “Comfort Circle for the Listener”
NEXT post, I’ll get to categories of actually how we harm our children.