For the sake of the children girl
Family | Write 31 Days 2017

For The Sake Of The Children: A Life-Changing Conversation

October 22, 2017

It was a life-changing experience for our family, an experience that my daughter and I have discussed in great depth. She feels it is an important message to share with others—for the sake of the children. So, with the hope that this might benefit a family or two, we share the following with you:

It was an ordinary evening—at least in the beginning it was.

But what was once ordinary and routine would soon turn into a night like no other.

The kids were heading to bed and I was planning to enjoy some downtime.

It was late, we had had a long day, and I was tired.

Before sending the girls off to bed, they joined me in their sleeping brother’s room to do something we often do in the evenings—stand around his bed and say things like, “He’s so CUTE!”, “I just LOVE him!”, “He is SO funny! He always makes me laugh.

On THIS night, however, we made no such comments, for he was still awake!

In a moment of pure spontaneity, and pushing aside my need for “down time”, I said, “Climb onto his bed, girls! Let’s talk!”

And talk we did! For the next hour the kids and I sat on that twin bed and I let them talk about anything they wanted to talk about. They talked and laughed and shrieked in delight and talked some more. I laughed right along with them. I laughed…and I listened. And I thought how there was nothing in the world that could replace that moment—not relaxing in the tub for the evening, not reading a book, certainly not surfing the Internet.

Somewhere around 10 pm I announced it was time for bed. There were groans of protest, for the kids wanted that moment to last forever. We agreed to make this “nighttime chat” a regular occurrence, so the kids went to bed happy—but not before giving me a big hug and saying, “I love you, Momma!

For some reason, that night, their words “I love you” sounded more sincere.

 

The next morning, the kids made their way into my room

“We’re hungry!” they announced. “What can we have to eat?

“Climb onto my bed,” I said. “we’ll eat in a few minutes. Right now, let’s talk some more.

There was no need to ask twice. In the blink of an eye, I had three kids bouncing on my bed in an effort to get comfortable.

Once snuggled under the covers they began to talk. They talked about how much fun last night had been and how they wished we could talk like that every night. Then they talked about a dozen other random things— a steady flow of conversation, interrupted only by happy giggles.

An hour later, the conversation changed directions. Not wanting to ruin the moment, but feeling like the time was right, I asked, “Guys! How do you think our family is doing? What do you think we can do to have a better family? How are you feeling? Are you happy?

{silence}

{kids looking at their toes}

“It’s okay, guys,” I reassured them, “you can tell me anything. We have to know each other’s true feelings if we’re going to make our family better.”

{more silence}

{daughter buried her head under the covers} “It’s just so hard,” she finally whispered. “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

 

 

“You won’t,” I assured her, rubbing her back soothingly. “You can tell me anything.”

The other kids listened attentively, still looking at their toes.

Slowly, gradually, one by one, they each opened up.

“I feel unnoticed,” came the first hesitant response.

“Unnoticed?” I wondered, feeling puzzled. “We’re in the same room with each other much of the time, interacting with each other. How could one possibly feel unnoticed?”

My question was left hanging as the responses continued to roll in.

“I feel like people interrupt me when I speak.”

“I wish we had better manners around the table.”

“I feel worried a lot.”

“I wish we had better planned Family Nights.”

“I wish we could talk together every night so we can get all our thoughts out before we go to bed.”

“I think we should make sure the house is clean before we go to bed each night.”

“I think we should spend more one on one time with each other.”

 

The tears trickling down three little faces told me they all agreed with the last statement.

 

“I feel sad, anxious, uncertain.”

“I feel like I have to get mad in order to get attention.”

“I feel like people aren’t always interested in what I have to say. That makes me feel bad.”

“We always have Family Council meetings, but we’ve never shared our real feelings before.”

Nearly three hour had gone by and the kids had lost their appetite for food. Instead, they were relishing in this moment of shared feelings—honest and raw.

The pain I was feeling at this moment was almost more than I could bear. How could I have been so blind to the many conflicting emotions my children had been feeling? Everything had appeared fine on the surface, but I now knew that everything was not okay.

 

We needed a plan, a plan that would involve the Savior.

 

After much prayer and many tears, a plan was formulated. We would work together to find a solution for each concern, strive to keep our new goals during the week, and discuss our progress every Sunday.

We would do all in our power to turn our wrongs into rights, and then put the rest in the hands of the Savior.

 

 

“Notice me. Listen to me. Pay attention. Really care about what I have to say.”

The hearts of children throughout the world are silently shouting these words.

I had no idea my children’s hearts were part of that chorus.

Soon, if all goes according to plan, and with the help of the Savior’s Atonement, each person in our family will be singing instead,

“I’m noticed. I’m listened to. I’m appreciated. I’m loved.”

 

 

The personal and family goals we have set challenge our family each day, yet I am at peace with our family’s current state of affairs and wonder if there is more that I can do—for other children.

My daughter mentioned that her church teacher’s brilliant idea of allowing each person in the class one minute at the beginning of class time to share anything they would like had turned an unruly class into a relatively quiet one.

“We just never have a chance to say what’s on our mind,” my daughter explained. “This gives us a chance to speak and people actually listen to what we have to say!”

I wondered if the same concept would work for the 6-week class I was teaching for a group of 5 to 7-year-olds. Week one had been disastrous. Chaotic. A train wreck. I didn’t want to go back.

 

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An idea came to me to create a new class rule, a rule that I presented to the kids at the beginning of week two and every week after that:

“The teacher MUST get to know her students.”

Silence. You could have heard a pin drop. I had their attention. This was something that was important to them. They sensed that they would soon be presented with an opportunity to speak, to share a little bit about themselves, to be noticed, to be heard.

Each week, one by one, the children shared something about themselves. A favorite dessert. A dream pet. A favorite color. I listened intently, and made occasional comments.

The next five weeks flew by with not even a glimmer of disaster, chaos, or a train wreck. In a seemingly miraculous way, I had gained the respect of the children and they, in turn, had given that respect back to me.

Rather than talking “at” them, I had listened, I had noticed, I had cared.

Our “class rule” has now become my “life rule”:

I MUST get to know the children, wherever they may be, for ALL children deserve to feel noticed, listened to, appreciated, and loved.

 

Day 22 Challenge: Make a concerted effort this week to notice, listen to, appreciate, and love the children in your life.

 

 

This is Day 22 of my Write 31 Days series for 2017: 31 Days to an Authentic Life.
For an index of all the posts in the series, please click HERE.

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  1. Oh I needed this so much! for the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to help my kids release some anxiety and feel more relaxed. I think it might be time to stop trying to figure it out and simply ask them. We’ve had those moments when we all jump into bed giggling and hanging out, but these questions you asked are some that I’m going to be presenting to them. The hustle get’s in the way sometimes, and it hurts my heart because I know that life can’t be all hustle, however, some weeks require it to be. Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s right on time for me.

    1. Thank you for sharing your struggle, Jen. It’s nice to know that our family is not the only one dealing with these types of communication issues.

  2. This post was beautiful to read. A much needed reminder that we all need to just listen to our kids. I needed this so much. Thank you

  3. This was an incredible post – thanks for sharing these special parenting moments with us! I don’t have kids (yet – hopefully soon!), and my husband and I have talked extensively about what we can do to have open & honest communication with our kids. Feeling noticed, appreciated, etc is so important to everyone, but I think so much of kids’ self esteem relies on it. I teach 4-5 year olds at church and we always take a minute for each kid to talk about anything they want, uninterrupted. They get so excited to do it and if we don’t have class on a Sunday, some of them come find me at church and say “Ok, I wanted to tell you this in class but since we aren’t having class, I want to tell you now!”

  4. Oh, this is so good. There is such a huge difference when I sit and truly listen to my son, be it his silly jokes or his deep feelings. There a time not too long ago when he said he doesn’t feel heard. That hurt but I really needed to hear him say that. So, I’m working hard on listening more and talking less. He’s 11 and will be all grown up soon enough.

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