The Gift of Forgiveness

A family friend who had watched us raise our children over the years once asked my son, “What did your parents do right in raising you?” We had met up with them in Thailand in 2002 and had not seen them for a few years. She was raising her own set of children, a few years younger than my set.  Our son, at the time was a teenager. He, after going through some rough faith testing waters, had a radiant faith and was involved in leadership at his International School in Central Asia.  Our friend had known him mostly as a young boy growing up in NW China. His answer was a bit humbling but not completely surprising to me.  “They asked me to forgive them many times.”

 

As I look back over the years of our parenting I have to agree with my son. I believe our parenting took a steep growth spike when we learned to face our own brokenness and pain. We learned to forgive our own parents for their shortcomings, and then ask our children to forgive us when we hurt them.

 

There was the time when we left them for too long with our youngest son’s first grade teacher.  We needed to go to Thailand to sort out some messy team problems.  We stayed an extra week to get some R&R afterwards.  These were in the days when there was only one flight a week in and out of Central Asia to Thailand.  Our dear friend, who volunteered willing to take care of our kids, probably didn’t realize how much work mentally and physically it took to look after 3 lively school age children. (She will always be our hero!)  Our kids missed us, we missed them, it was too long and they let us know. I was angry with myself as well because in my heart I knew it would be too long when we booked our tickets, but I wasn’t vocal enough with my husband at the time.  I hadn’t learned to trust my instincts enough.  We asked them to forgive us (more than once!) and made a promise to take them back to Thailand some day.  We were able to fulfill that promise a few years later.

 

In the day in and day out of raising children there are numerous times when we are stretched in our patience and self-control, we speak harshly, or spank them in anger (if we spank), ignore them when they are talking to us, or at least don’t give them our full attention.  I have had to ask forgiveness when I’ve told a story I thought was funny about them that was actually embarrassing to them. We have asked them to forgive us for the effects of our anger, depression, impulsive decision-making, and contention between us at times.  The list goes on and on.

 

This is a beautiful humbling aspect to parenting if we but embrace it.  This is who we are – imperfect human beings yet hopefully growing and learning from our many mistakes.  Thank God for His grace and love that covers a multitude of sin.  Thank God for children who long to keep a bond with their parents. Thank God for the gift of forgiveness.

 

Building Parent/Child Connections

Build and strengthen your bonds of connection with your child.  You can repair them if they are damaged.  Don’t start with a list of all the things your child has done wrong.  Start with your own heart.  Where have I wronged my child?  Was I impatient?  Was I distracted?  Was I negligent? Did I shame him? Was I too harsh? Learn to say:  “I am sorry, I was wrong. Please forgive me.”  I have found children to be the quickest of forgivers.  They long to be connected with their parents. I found as a parent when I would use this approach that my child would not only forgive me, but be much more open to admitting their responsibility in the matter and open for correction.

Today there is a great struggle for our time.  Jobs, careers, schools, peers, extra-curricular activities of sports, music, etc., all play a part of this struggle. Parents must make choices of just how much time to spend with their families. Children need time with their parents.  They need to know they are valuable and time is one of the currencies we use to show them their value.  How important is it for both parents to have full-time jobs?  How important is it for children to be involved in extra-curricular activity and how much is enough? These and many other questions need to be wrestled with, not just automatically decided by what everyone else does.

Making meaningful family memories are ways to stay connected.  Doing something special with each child on a regular basis is a way to say you are special to me.  It might be as simple as a once a month coffee or hot chocolate date.  It might be a walk or trip to the park.  Family vacations are so important.  Those are times of extended time together, doing something special together.  My kids have always loved camping or trips to a lake for swimming.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.  Those memories stay with you.  I remember my mother telling us stories of her family vacations camping on the beach. They were some of her favorite memories that she loved talking about.  My own memories of childhood have those vacation highlights there.  I know it is the same for my kids.

When a Parent/Child bond is strong then that child is able to increasingly connect with others.  It is so simple yet, so vital.  They have security at home and this enables them to be secure outside the home. Parents teach their children whether they mean to or not.  Children watch and learn.  The way a parent interacts with others is watched and learned.  How do I talk about others at home?  We can model to our children how to interact with other, how to be kind and courteous. We can show them how to make friends.  It is also important to talk about these things with children.  We need to teach them about what is appropriate in our society and what is not.

I love it when a child or teenager looks me in the eye and greets me or has a conversation with me.  On the other hand I have been walked past and ignored by children I know who make me feel like I am invisible.  Teach your children to look people in the eye and say hello.

Build peace in the world by connecting as a family with others who are different from you.  This is so important for children to not only learn tolerance for others who are different but to respect and learn from those differences.  Not everyone can travel abroad as my family has, but the world truly is at our doorstep.  We can get out and meet our neighbors who may have emigrated from another country.  Explore ways to do this with your children.

We humans are wired for relationship and connection, yet we must learn how to do this in a healthy way.  Parents teach your children.