My husband and I now have two children, ages 7 and 5, and I've had many amazing opportunities to spend time with other families as a parent and during time served in youth ministry. I notice consistently that kids across ages are looking for older children and adults to acknowledge them, to remember what their interests are, to make them feel known. These kids can have have difficult, complex family situations, or what we might consider to be to ideal, supportive family situations.
The instinct to crave healthy supportive relationship with someone whose experiences might parallel what we're currently experiencing appears to be universal.
The truly beautiful thing is that we don't have to do this alone: as parents, as kids, or as families. We can reach out. We can find a community, we can pour into that community, and we can receive from that community. We can find others that invest in our children and we can watch beautiful relationships grow.
As my own children develop in to their very distinct personalities - one a high-energy, driven goal setter; the other a deeply relational creative free-spirit - it becomes more and more apparent that these additional relationships play such a vital role for each of them. They both light up when these adults in their lives are present, and it's incredible to me to see how they feel known and loved, what they learn, and they moments they treasure.
My children need people intentionally pouring to their lives for the same reasons I need others intentionally pouring into mine. The list of reasons is extensive really, but these are the three that continually resonate with me:
1. Every child's personality is so unique. While I see aspects of my personality and my husband's in each of our kids, there are so many aspects that are less familiar to us. In those areas, it's less instinctual for us to know what our kids will connect with, respond to, how they will learn, and what they need. If they have other people - each with their own unique personalities - investing in their lives, it helps fill out those areas.
2. It helps children feel safe in a big world. If the only "safe" or trustworthy people are your own parents, then it's easy to full vulnerable when you are not in the "safety zone" (home). But when kids can make strong, positive connections with adults (or older children) outside of the family structure, this helps resource them to understand how to find more of these people in the world, and also fuels a greater sense that life is "doable".
3. It creates a common thread of the love, joy, and grace that Jesus teaches us throughout their human experience. It gives them multiple places to turn to if they are navigating difficult situations. It allows them to see several different expressions of the fruit of the Spirit, and what it can look like to live a Jesus-centred life, at the various stages of life, and in various circumstances.
As you watch your own children grow, or those that are part of your life, why do you think they benefit, or could benefit, from additional adults or older children investing in their lives?
What positive experiences have they had that involve extended family, loving community, youth group leaders, pouring into their lives?
Please share your comments and stories below.