As a divorced mom, I learned the hard way that my children have a need to be heard. They need me to listen to them. They need to tell me what they think…how they feel. They need to know their voice has value.
A great amount of value.
Often, their “voices” have changed they way I’ve thought of something.
It’s a process we continue to work through. Daily discussions at the dinner table or in the car heading to their activities…a quick chat when I drop by their rooms to say goodnight. We might discuss a video they’ve seen or something from the news. I’m teaching them to think critically…to look at something they might see as interesting or amusing…to explore it a little further…watch it from a different angle.
We’re living during a time where kids have information thrown at them constantly. In this social media and internet age when things are at their disposal…we, as parents, need to know what they see in order to help them decipher the information. Just because everyone else thinks something is funny or cool…is it? Are we raising followers…or leaders?
Last week, Bones told me she didn’t go to the “Leadership” meeting at school even though all Summer she’d said she wanted to be part of the Leadership Club. I asked why she hadn’t gone and her response of “none of my friends were going” threw me for a loop.
I get it…I totally get that it’s hard to stand alone when you’re a teen…but I hope that I’m giving them the skills needed to think for themselves. To decide if something is right or wrong. To trust their voices. To walk away if they aren’t comfortable in a particular situation…to stand up for the underdog. To stand up for themselves.
I want my children to have respect. For others. But also for who they are as individuals.
I’m trying to teach empathy in a time when I believe it’s lost.
When we hear things in the news, I often take it as “learning moment” and this week, I sat down with my children to show them the “chant” that was used during frosh week at SMU (as well as other universities.) At the time I showed them, I admit, I fully expressed my anger and quite possibly forced my opinion on them to the point that one of them said “OK MOM…WE GET IT!”
Once I’d calmed, we had more of a “normal” conversation about it…if in fact, discussing “rape chants” with your teens can be considered “normal.” Our discussion revolved again around them “having a voice” and how their voices matter. How if they ever get so much as a small inkling in their stomachs that something isn’t right…that they should explore that gut feeling. Because they have to trust their feelings and they have to follow what they believe is right and wrong.
We need to teach our children to listen to themselves. To stand alone even when it’s absolutely terrifying.
I’m not perfect, my kids aren’t perfect…I’d never go so far as to say my children won’t ever get caught doing something inappropriate…that they won’t disappoint me…disappoint themselves…but I’m doing my very best to allow them to see things with a critical eye. To THINK. To make decisions that will sometimes go against the crowd and to be proud of those decisions.
That’s my job. To grow tomorrow’s leaders with voices that matter. Because they have a voice. Because their voice counts. And when push come to shove, I hope I’ve done my absolute best to give them the strength to use it.