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Parenting: Listening as important as talking

Jeremy Mahood is the senior pastor of All Nations Church.

By Rev. Dr. Jeremy Mahood

From Sudbury Parents 2018

“Hey mom,” Bobby exclaimed. “Is it true the Bible says God made man out of the dust of the Earth?”
“Yes, dear,” Bobby’s mother replied.
“Is it true when we die we return to dust?” Bobby asked.
“Why yes, dear,” came the answer.
“Well mom,” Bobby exclaimed. “There is either someone coming or going underneath my bed.”
As caregivers of children, we have to be ready for the BIG conversations about topics such as life, death, divorce, sexuality, God and spirituality.
How you respond to children when they ask challenging questions triggers an internal and subconscious response in your child, which makes your child feel safe and secure, or unsafe and insecure.
“Your answer to the big question is not nearly as important as your attitude towards your child when they ask the big question,” says Karina Kasunich, director of Rock City Kids at Sudbury’s All Nations Church.
Often parents and caregivers are busy, overworked and pressured for time and that’s exactly when children want to talk.
Whether trying to understand the death of a pet or a beloved grandfather, Kasunich goes on to say, “If you shut them down on the small issues, they won’t discuss the big issues.”
Taking the time to bury the dead sparrow found on your deck will go a long way to letting your child know that you are a safe person with which to discuss death, sorrow, grief and disappointment.
As your child matures physically, emotionally and spiritually, you will be a trusted parent to whom your child can seek emotional refuge as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.
Amanda Robichaud, pastor of THECORE student ministries at All Nations Church, offers four suggestions for managing the big questions children and teens can ask.
Hear them. Pay attention and focus.
Acknowledge them. Make this moment the most important moment for your child or teen by concentrating on them and not being distracted.
Validate them. This is a serious issue for your child or they would not have brought it up. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, let them know you know how important this is for them. You can use words such as, “This must be very sad for you,” or “I can see you are upset.” Allow them to ask the questions. This time is about them, not you. Don’t over analyze your child. Just let them be themselves.
Redirect them. When children are overcome with emotion they need help from adults to think beyond their discomfort. Discuss good memories or happy moments; agree to talk again when they feel like it. Hug them.

It’s OK as parents not to know all the answers to the big questions. Children are often not looking for answers but a safe place to ask questions.

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