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Things You Need to Tell Your Children

Dear old dad, we remember him well. He came home, ruffled the hair on our head, asked when dinner was ready and plopped into a chair older than the Roosevelt administration (Delano, not Franklin D.) to read the paper. He loved us, he meant well, but frankly, now that we have the benefit of an internet full of enlightenment and a couple of generations of parents calling for a higher standard, we realize he was clueless. Just think about all the conversations you’ve already had with your children (provided they are at least old enough to understand what you are saying), and you’ll notice that, unless you belong to a privileged minority, these are things you never heard mentioned as a child. Our kids have advantages our parents couldn’t have dreamed of, both technological and psychological, and one of them is having parents who understand the value of mentoring and the role of modeling and the need for clear communications in that process. Here, then, are a few bases you need to be sure you cover with your child before they turn their attention to things like cars and colleges and life beyond the safety of the nest you’ve provided.

Tell your children about what you’ve learned so far in your own journey. Give them a sense of their heritage, talk about your dreams and how they evolved over the years, and why they may have gone away. Paint a picture of hope, but keep it real so your child understands that goals are good, but planning is required and commitment is essential. Crawl down from the pedestal they’ve put you on, and assume the position at the head of the family table. Do this frequently, make this conversation a part of your family culture.

Tell your children about the relationship between choices and consequences. Show them how life works, that positive energy begets positive results, and vice versa. Make them understand that attitude is everything, and that the only thing we take with us at the end is a ledger of the good and evil we’ve done in our lives, and the list of people who will miss us when we’re gone. A long list is a life well-lived.

Talk to your children about parenting. Let them know you are their advocate first, and some combination of caretaker, mentor, disciplinarian and cheerleader while you’re at it. You’re their friend, too, but never to an extent that it compromises your commitment to these other roles. Tell them you will do what it takes to help them learn and grow, no matter how much it hurts, because the hurt always goes away if the heart is in the right place.

Tell your children you love them. Don’t judge, but always be in teaching mode. Be patient, but do not tolerate or accept less than their best. Always believe in them, always be there for them, even when this means leaving them alone with what they’ve created. Tell them about God if you so choose, but regardless tell them this is something they need to discover for themselves, that belief cannot be inherited.

And finally, expect nothing in return. This is the highest love of all. Give of yourself willingly, with passion and with pride. And accept the results for what they are, accept your children for who they are. Because the truth of it is this: you deserve neither complete blame for their failures or all that much credit for their successes. They are not yours, yet they are your responsibility, if only for a time. Make that time count. Be present. Be vigilant and courageous.

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