Empathize – Understanding Your Child’s World
I used to tell parents if they wanted to understand their child’s world they needed to watch the TV’s shows their child enjoyed. I also told them to pay close attention to the commercials that aired during those shows. There’s still a little validity in doing that, but these days bring on a whole new set of opportunities. Our children are now bombarded with media from all angles found on an array of electronic gadgets. Who really knows how many messages a day pass through the mind of your child? With this said, there’s more to a child’s world than the latest video game, app, or iTunes download. If this is the sum of your child’s world, it’s time for a re-focus for sure.
Your child’s world is first and foremost the life they lead at school, what they do with their friends, church, and any activities they do in addition to all that.
So how do you connect to that? How can you empathize with your child when they get anxious over the details of their life? Here are three actions you can take that serve as fundamentals to understanding the world in which your child lives.
Talk to your child…then listen.
Even though your work schedule is demanding, and your home is imperfect, experts agree that you should take time to talk to your child every day. Simple conversations about their day are a great place to start. Some kids are ready and willing to share all the details – they’re talkers. All you have to do is ask a question and sit back and listen. But to get information from some kids you have to take a very detailed investigative approach. Getting facts out of them takes real patience. Asking a few questions at a time and gathering little bits of information will open for you “the doors to knowledge.”
James 1:19-20 says “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Communication with your children is key. We need to learn and practice how to be better communicators. And remember, communication is a two-way street; both talking and listening are important.
Connect with the adults who know your child’s world outside the home.
Parents who volunteer at their children’s schools have a better idea of what their children’s daily environment is like. And kids like you being there.
You also need to think outside of your child’s school. Your kids are usually around others if they play sports, go to church, or spend time at a friend’s house. Taking time to have conversations with coaches, church leaders, and other parents will help you not only understand your child’s world better, but it will also give you a contact in case of any type of emergency or problem.
Spend time, time, and even more time with your child.
Being a father that now has two grown children I can truly say that I don’t regret any of the time I spent with my girls. I do have regrets however, that I didn’t spend more. I believe it is often hard to remember how incredibly fast your kids are growing up when you’re in the thick of things.
You only get one shot at this. As parents, we all have obligations, and in addition need to take some time out for ourselves. But I’m reminded of the commercial, “Life comes at you fast!” I agree; some times faster than you would like. My grandfather told me when we had our first child to enjoy every moment. I’ve tried to do just that. I remember taking our children to the zoo when they were younger. They loved seeing the animals and riding the train. As they got older the most important thing at the zoo became the concession stand.
Before you can really empathize with your child you have to understand their perspectives, their interests, their passions, but most of all you have to be willing to watch, listen, pray and learn.
Pastor of Families, Westwood Baptist Church, Alabaster, AL