Developing the Character of Responsibility

Developing the Character of Responsibility

In our adult experience, we undoubtedly know of acquaintances, friends and family who epitomize the essence of responsibility…and those who definitely do not. Part of our role as parents is to help our children become responsible members of our family, responsible students in school and evolve into responsible citizens in our society. It is a tough job…and in order to help our kids learn these skills and demonstrate this character, it is important to reflect on what it really means to be responsible. We would probably agree that we all want our children to learn to do their best, persevere even when it is difficult to keep trying, be self-disciplined and accountable for their actions even when it is hard to admit mistakes. We want them to understand the importance of keeping their word and being dependable. We want to help our children take pride in our environment and feel a need to contribute to the betterment of our world. Importantly, teaching our children to be morally aware, making decisions which are right, just and true to our Christian values, all contribute to helping them become a responsible individual.
The job of teaching these attributes to our children is a lifelong task but one which can start very early in their lives. There are several steps we can institute within our families to help instill responsibility for our children. Undoubtedly you have already developed ways to do this but perhaps you can get some additional insight from the following suggestions:

    Learning to be responsible is a process and a challenge for us all, young and not so young. Our children learn a lot from our example and, as we demonstrate to them that they can count on us, that we will follow through on what we say we will do… and that we will be honest and forthcoming if we can’t…they will follow our lead and our lessons to become the trustworthy and responsible people we hope them to be. If we can be patient and let them learn from their mistakes, we will see that their sense of responsibility will be present in their actions, in their moral strength and as they accept personal accountability for the decisions they make.

    Life's Challenges and Strategies to Cope

    Life's Challenges and Strategies to Cope

    Sometimes life hands us challenges that may be unexpected and often unwelcome. Whether an illness, loss of a job, an accident or death, divorce, financial setback or relationship issues, these events can put us and our family into a tailspin and scrambling for direction to deal with them. If we can remember that, generally, we have the strategies to cope with most adversity, the path to surviving these unexpected “speed bumps” can be smoother and more hopeful.
    Feelings of sadness, shock and anger are normal when events happen which have not necessarily been “the plan” for ourselves or our family. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and also to anticipate and accept periods of highs and lows. It is also normal to worry about the impact of these events on our family and how they may affect our future. While we attempt to gather information, look at options and make some choices, this anxiety will likely lessen as we move forward in a positive direction.
    And perhaps we can benefit from some reminders as we attempt to deal with these unforeseen “opportunities” and try to create a new norm for our families:
    Practice acceptance – Rather than spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on the “why me?” aspect of our unexpected situation, we need to try to focus on the situation at hand. It’s normal to go through a period of loss about what might have been but, ultimately, acceptance of what is can propel us into constructive decision making;
    Work to separate your ego from the circumstance - Worrying about how things will look to the outside world can detract from the goal of facing the challenge, reviewing our options and developing a plan of action to resolve/accept the situation;
    Ask for and accept help – It’s important that we reach out to our support network and let them know that our family is struggling and may need their time, help, energy and unconditional acceptance with what we are dealing with. And now is the time to say YES to offers of prepared meals, babysitting, transportation, grocery shopping… time offered for listening and hugs;
    Be honest and open with your kids – Although circumstances and ages of our children will perhaps dictate how much we share, we do have the ability to reduce their fears and increase their trust for us by dealing with the situation with as much honesty and straightforward information as possible. They don’t necessarily need to know some of the more sensitive details as long as we help our children to realize that they can always come to us to ask questions and have reassurance that we will be direct and open about all that we do share;
    Normalize your family as much as possible – While crises can consume lots of energy, emotions and time, seek moments to gather your family to share a meal, walk around the block, go to the park, play board games or watch a movie together. Spending time with each other can help soothe our souls and reassure our children;
    Take time for yourself – We all will need presence of mind, energy and clear thinking to face the situation at hand so make sure you look for ways to nurture yourself and regain focus. Some days may only afford a few minutes of breathing time and others longer… but time each day is critical for focus and rejuvenation;
    *Allow your family to process change - Be gentle with yourself and your children as we all need time to adapt to the new norm in our lives. It’s important to listen to our kids’ concerns, hurts, fears and questions and sometimes the best response is simply to reassure them that we also struggle with the changes…”me too” can be so comforting as they realize that we also miss the ways things were;
    *Draw on your faith – Embracing your church community, seeking direction from our minister, prayer and meditation can be extraordinary sources of strength for us and our family. In fact, it is through our faith and beliefs that we uncover the courage, compassion and power to sustain us in difficult times;
    Show Gratitude – Again, it is vital to acknowledge our initial feelings of shock, uncertainty, loss, grief or despair. However, after a while, it is also important to reach out to see what is good and positive in our life and the lives of our family members. These moments of gratitude can propel us toward healing and regaining the joy in the minutes that are filled with beauty, calmness, optimism and hope;
    Seek professional help – There are wonderful experts trained to help our family process through times of uncertainty, change and challenges. More than likely we are struggling with issues unfamiliar to all and having the support of an outside professional can add perspective and ease everyone in their journey to feel healthy again.

    While we all hope to experience and enjoy the best situations in life, challenges are inevitable. As we deal with unexpected circumstances, it is important to allow each member of our family permission to process through these changes at his/her own pace, with respect and unconditional acceptance for each other’s needs and perspectives. Resolving problems together can serve as opportunities for growth and allow us the chance to demonstrate the resiliency, the strength and the love we share as we all look forward to a brighter day.

    A Parent's Prayer

    A Parent’s Prayer

    In honor of Mother’s Day on May 14th and Father’s Day on June 18th, we wanted to share the following “Whispers of my Father – A Mother’s Prayer” written by Rachel Aldous and used as lyrics in a song dedicated to her daughter, Hannah:
    My sweet baby on loan from above. No better treasure could I more love.

    I stand here beside your bed as I pray. I lay my hand on your head and I say:
    May you grow up to serve Him all of your days
    May He lead you and guide you In all of your ways.
    May His hand bless your future with friendships that last
    May you cherish your youth and not grow up too fast.
    I stare in wonder at your tiny frame. Just to think that God knows you by name.
    He knows every hair on your beautiful head. He knows your thoughts before they are said.
    May you grow up to serve Him all of your days
    May He lead you and guide you In all of your ways.
    May His hand bless your future with friendships that last
    May you cherish your youth and not grow up too fast.

    My prayer for you…
    May God grant you peace in the midst of a storm.
    May God give you strength even when you’re forlorn.
    May you answer the door when Jesus comes knocking.
    May wisdom guide when your mouth is talking.
    May discretion protect you and keep you pure.
    May you never stumble or fall for a lure.
    May your heart remain humble to the very end.
    May uprightness and truth be what you defend.
    May the world not ensnare or change who you are.
    May the light that’s within you shine like the stars.
    May angels surround you, body, spirit, mind.
    May favor and peace be yours to find.
    May rejection and pain never reach you
    May your spirit grow bold for what you’re called to.
    As you rest in God’s care, I will rest too…
    Knowing that Jesus is watching over you.

    Helping Our Children be Mindful

    Helping our Children be Mindful

    Last month we read of the benefits of practicing mindfulness and striving to be present in our daily routines. We learned some techniques to use which could help us lead lives filled with compassion, connection and calmness. This month we are concentrating on the impact of mindful practice with children. Mindful curriculum and practice in schools is increasing across our country and studies show that, with mindful instruction, students are demonstrating more compassion for themselves and others, learning how to pause rather than react to situations, and are more focused, and less stressed, in the school setting. Additionally, an increase in both emotional resiliency and optimism as well as problem solving skills and creativity has been acknowledged as children learn to take steps in becoming more in tune with their feelings and aware of their sense of being.
    MindUp, a science based mindfulness curriculum funded by the Hawn Foundation, trains educators to teach to school age students. Its research finds that mindful practice among students increases cognitive and academic ability and that 90 percent of children experienced improved peer relationships and maintained a stronger self-concept, enhanced self-regulation and management skills. Additionally improved organizational skills were seen and the children were involved in fewer incidents of bullying and absenteeism.
    As we raise our children to be ready for the fast pace of our world and hope to see them become compassionate and deliberate in purpose, what are some things to keep in mind as we try to help them develop more mindful strategies? Consider some of the following suggestions:

      Our hope is to offer our children tools which they can utilize throughout their lives. It’s important to keep these exercises simple and fun so that they can relate to and remember them as they face situations of potential stress or anxiety. These activities also allow us to share meaningful time with our family in a way which is healthy, productive and encourages mindful and present practice.

      Love Is...

      February…the month of love…is a traditional time that we celebrate the ones we treasure in our lives. And while Valentine’s Day conjures up thoughts of candlelit dinners, walks on the beach and cards filled with words of endearment, the importance of expressing love to our family…and of teaching the value of love to our children…is one we may need to incorporate more in our daily relationships all year long.
      We know that we, as parents, have an incredible influence on our children and the way we model our love for each other serves as an example for our kids. We have a huge responsibility to our children to help them learn and understand some of the intrinsic characteristics in developing and sustaining healthy and loving relationships.  We can find inspiration from the many lessons we know in the Bible such as the ones found in 1 Corinthians 13:4:

      Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  
      Love is patient: In our crazy life filled with appointments, athletic practices and games, lessons, homework, meals to prepare and daily tasks, it is easy to become rushed and impatient as our little ones take time (a lot of time!) to dress, brush their teeth, tie shoes, ask questions (and more questions) and just gather themselves. They will take note of and appreciate our actions to stop, take a breath, and wait for them rather than hurry them along. We can help them to understand that slowing down, listening intently, answering all questions and helping others is showing the love, acceptance and patience we should have for each other;
      Love is kind: Our children watch the way we interact with people all day long. They are influenced by the way we speak with our spouses, our own parents and family, strangers, people at the store, in the school, our friends, their friends.  Do we speak with kindness? When discussing things with our spouse, are we kind or do we raise our voice? Do we hug and kiss and hold hands and are we quick to show our respect and love with each other? Do we assume good will and anticipate that our loved one is doing the best they can in all situations? Do we allow this same presumption for our kids as we do for the adults in our lives? These actions can speak volumes as we attempt to model our kindness and love toward one another.
      Love is pure: While small children may not be able to comprehend the importance of purity and faithfulness in love, as they grow and become teens, it is important to help our kids understand that a person who loves them will never dishonor them or make them do something they don't want to do. These lessons can be taught through words, example and years of watching your own faithfulness and loyalty to your family.
      Love is selfless: Examples of generosity can be seen daily...offering the last cookie or the comfortable spot on the couch or watching you and your husband/wife take care of each other, volunteering your time or reaching out to those in need are gestures our kids will tune in to as they take notice of your selflessness toward others. They will learn by your actions that being generous through both word and deed is important to developing enduring relationships and expressing our love.
      Love forgives: Just as we, as adults, trust and rely on God's grace, we need to be quick to reassure our children that nothing they do will ever change our love for them.  It is important that they know we will not hold grudges and that, while it is natural to have disagreements in any important relationship, these differences of opinion or behaviors will never affect the love we will hold for them forever and always. 
      As we celebrate our love for each other all year long…and especially on the day of love, February 14th, what are some fun ways to include our kids in the Valentine's Day fun?  Perhaps you might consider some of these ideas celebrating the joy of love:
        We know from our relationships with each other, and with God, that to love and be loved is truly a most powerful gift. During this month, and throughout the year, resolve that each and every day you will tell the ones you cherish just how much they mean to you and how grateful you are to them for the joy and love they add to your life!
        Happy Valentine’s Day!!