Henri Nouwen once said, “The greatest gift one can give to their children is a safe place for them to find their own lonely way.” This is something we have really taken to heart in the last year or so as we continue stumbling through this journey called Life. I believe that all of us have our own journey to walk–and anyone who’s walked it will agree with me in saying that yes, it is lonely.
We are responsible for our own actions no matter what others have done or do. This is something we are continuing to remind our children as they stumble through their own lonely journey. As they stumble, make mistakes, fall and get hurt, get angry, grieve; also as they rejoice, make progress, win, create, or just be, we want our home to be the place where they feel safe enough to feel and express those feelings.
Sure, there are healthier ways to express some feelings than others. I don’t expect our children to know those ways right off the bat, for they are children. I am the one that needs to remember that and show them grace through the heated and volatile moments. I also need to remember that I, as an adult, am still learning better ways to deal with my own feelings and emotions.
Life-changing and pivotal moments come when we, as parents, choose to calmly and lovingly allow our children to express their feelings in the way they know how. If things are heated and volatile, (only when after things have calmed down on both ends), we choose to speak to our child about the healthier ways to express the feelings they had. They key is to do this without bashing them or shaming them and telling them that their feelings were wrong.
These pivotal moments can only come if that child feels safe. A child can only feel safe if there has been a real and honest effort by the parent to nurture that relationship. By real and honest, I mean admitting to the times we have failed in our own reactions, apologizing, and truly listening to the hearts of our children as we hear them express their feelings. Our children have a tendency to mimic us in how we express our feelings. If they see and know that we are still learning how to express our feelings in a healthy way, they tend to show us more grace. I’m realizing how much an apology for an overreaction means to our children–after all, our children tend to show us more grace than we deserve.