I have to admit that when I stood in our kitchen, with tears in my eyes, watching the destruction in our beloved nation’s capitol, my first instinct was to hide my face from my kids. We openly discuss our feelings- sometimes probably to a fault. But this was different. This explanation was something more than I was ready to sift through.
My ability to hide my face from our kids lasted for less than two minutes- because, if you’re a parent, you know the needs are many and dire, at dinner time. So, as our 10 year old approached me, and our 7 year old followed, they read my expression and immediately started questioning me.
After a few minutes to collect my thoughts, I recognized the opportunity that was presenting itself. As parents, one of the most incredible privileges we are given is the chance to frame the way our kids view the world, by talking to them about examining situations through our families’ values and beliefs.
Listed below are topics we discuss in our house frequently, but certainly after last week’s events. Take what you would like, and leave the rest. These aren’t perfect, but they are shaped by principles we try to teach, model and continue to grow into.
10 Important Life Lessons for Kids
1. Most of the people you will meet in your life will be incredibly full of love, and kindness and good intentions.
And sometimes you will meet people that are dealing with their own difficult issues, or just don’t have certain skills, and they will not treat you or our country and her people in a way that honors the beautiful person God created you and them to be. Set a boundary. Use your words. And know that if they show you a second time that they won’t respect you, believe them. It’s okay to wish people well and create some distance between you and them. But never be afraid to stand-up for what you believe in.
2. Group think can be exciting, and sometimes dangerous.
When you are with a group of people, and someone gets an idea, it can be exciting to jump in and do what they are doing, especially if it’s something you normally would’t do. But also remember that you need to be able to live with the choices you make with that group, and will somehow be held accountable for them- whether it’s by an authority figure, or just by yourself. Of all the things I have struggled with after I did them, the most difficult things to forgive myself for, have been those I did because I just went along with the crowd and didn’t think for myself. When you find yourself with a group, don’t forget to stop and think- is this decision something I will respect myself for after I do it?
3. You are who you hang with.
Growing up, I didn’t always love this rule. I wanted to be the exception to this, and thought that I could still remain ME, even when I was with people that didn’t have a lot of the same values I did. Unfortunately, most of the time this isn’t true. It’s important to know that how we view our world is shaped by the voices we hear most often. We want you to grow-up with voices that are positive, kind, encouraging, faithful and fun. Having a group of friends that have voices like that are so important. We love the friendships we see you choose, and will always be here to help you navigate the friendships that aren’t as full of those qualities. Why is it important? Because we never want to lose you- and we never want YOU to lose YOU.
4. If there are voices that are super loud- and want you to only listen to their voice and point of view- start asking questions.
Although we know that as kids most adults in your life- teachers, coaches, parents- want you to do a lot of things without questioning them, it’s okay to push for more information when your gut tells you to. I’m happy to practice some options with you to do this respectfully. And if it’s the voice of a kid in your crew? Ask yourself why they need to be the one to always call the shots, and if you are okay with that. Just don’t forget- your body, your mind, your heart, your choice, your consequences.
5. Trust your gut.
God put those feelings inside of you for a reason. Trust it. If you want to investigate why you may feel a certain way, do it when you are safe. That’s the time dad and I will always be here to talk it through, if you want us to. Even if it’s hard- especially if it’s hard, let’s talk it through.
6. What you permit, you promote.
I like to give people a million chances. I like to think that I can handle things by myself- even when I find myself in the same situation over and over again and unsure of how to change my pattern. But the longer you permit something to happen, the more you promote that thing to continue to take place. This can be both positive and negative! Just remember that your brain and your heart are protected by lots of things in your body to keep them safe. We need to do the same thing for our emotions, thoughts, and the world around us.
7. Hatred and anger don’t solve anything, and they don’t tell the whole story.
They are emotions that are actually pretty easy to feel. They often cover-up something that is much harder to admit- fear. When we are afraid of something or someone, sometimes we choose to be angry with them, or to hate what we don’t understand. This keeps us from really understanding what we need to learn about another person or situation, and what we need to learn about ourselves. It can cause us to say and do things we wish we didn’t, and often leads us to feel ashamed about our actions and words. So, when you start to feel anger or hatred toward someone or something, ask yourself if you are afraid, or sad, or nervous, or unsure. If the answer is yes to any of those questions, take your time and ask dad and I to help you through it. If you aren’t ready for that, say a prayer and know that God will lead you to where you need to be.
8. Dad and I will do everything in our power to make this home your safe spot to come when the world is scary.
That’s it. Other than God, there is no one in this entire universe that could love you more than we do. We always want this home to feel like the safest place you can be.
9. As you grow-up, it’s important to check that the information you are reading, watching and hearing, is accurate.
Your devices will give you amazing access to information. Information can be so empowering, and exciting and sometimes, just not true! Dad and I want you to know that it’s important to make sure you understand what the values of our family are, and are able to sort out the values and beliefs of people you will get information from. Different values and beliefs make different things important. They also shape people’s willingness to be honest, considerate and reliable. Let’s check out some sources that may help you to understand where we can find reliable facts!
10. Most things in this world are not all or nothing. Most things in this world are both/and.
We are now living in an age of extremes in the media. These tools are so cool to have because they allow us to see some really positive aspects of the world around us, but they can also show things that are really sad and scary. It’s important to remember that we always have to check the images we see, with the experiences we have in our own life and with the experiences of those we spend time with. So even if the news, or social media is full of images that are all the same, and give you a picture of the world that is perfect, or one that is awful, it’s important to remember that most of the time, it’s really more of both. Every single day people are incredible, and terrible. They are generous and selfish. And they can always change for the better, or for worse. Remember the life of both/and.
Every conversation we have had about the difficulties our country and her people have been faced with over the last year of our lives, have all been summarized and tied back to the fact as American’s we have great privilege and with that comes great responsibility. We love our country and even when people in our country act in a way that we aren’t proud of, we need to remember that the actions of one don’t tell the story of the others we do not see.
If we want to see the good, we have to be the good. Once we do our part, the law of attraction will guide us toward others doing the same.
If our kids remember even one of these ideas, it will be a win. Just in case, I will bring them up every time a circumstance provides me with the privilege.
This post originally appeared at The United State of Us, published with permission.