If I had to chose a word to describe my life this year, it would be transition. As you know, two of our daughters are getting married and our first grandchild will arrive in August. As a result my relationship with our girls is changing. Transition and change can be hard and confusing. Yes, they’ve been adults and “on their own” for quite some time. But this new season of transition has its own growing pains. I need to recalibrate how I do relationship with my girls in this season.
To do that I thought on Stephen Covey’s advice in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He says, “Begin with the end in mind.”* So I thought, When I look back on this summer what to remember?
The only answer I had was a good, rich time with my family. I want to nurture our sense of family and commitment to each other before we go our separate ways this fall. Outside of my relationship with God and Gene, nothing matters more than my relationship with my kids. Not a clean house, not keeping my agenda, not even keeping up with my friends (at the expense of my kids).
With that end in mind what do I need to do differently or tweak? The things God showed me are necessary for any age of child, but as our kids grow they become even more important.
- Respect—Our relationship must have a foundation of respect. Have I been disrespecting our kids? Not blatantly, but I haven’t been as patient with them as I need to be. They are in transition too and need more understanding than I have been giving. Respect works in tandem with the next thing I need to do to nurture relationship. . .
- Listen—Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen without thinking about what I want to/need to say. My kids can tell when I’m tuned in to them. I need to be all there with them and listen. To listen well I need. . .
- Time—Give them time where I’m fully present–no phone in hand, no words of wisdom ready on my lips. Most likely these opportunities will come spontaneously when I’m plowing through my to-do list or about to take a power nap. But when my kids are ready to be with me, I will be ready to be present with them. This will require for us to predetermine in our minds that we will be available to our kids to listen, help, or do whatever they want when they are ready.
- Empathy—After my kids have talked and said all they want to say without my interrupting and when they are ready to listen to me, the first thing I need to let them know is I heard them. It’s called empathy. Brene Brown describes empathy as “feeling with people.” (Brene Brown’s 2:49 minute video on empathy) Even if I think I have the solution to what they are experiencing, I need to feel what they are feeling. I need to go there with them. It’s my gift to them. “Wow. That is hard.” “I’m so sorry you are going through this.” When others do this for me I feel loved and affirmed. Why do I not do this for my girls regularly? I love it when others are there for me. This is not the time for my stories of when I was their age. My girls just need to know I heard them and care.
- Affirmation—My girls need me to continually let them know I believe in them. As they begin their next seasons of life they to know their mom supports them and has confidence in them. They need me to remind them of their strengths and what they are doing well. “You have a gift for understanding people.” “You persevere like no one else I know!”
- Encouragement—My girls need for me to cheer them on. “You are almost there!” “This is something you can do!”
- Suggestions—Finally, after all of the above, I can offer suggestions as they are ready to hear. Yes, my girls want to hear my thoughts, but only after they have been heard, affirmed, and encouraged. The key is to not use my lecture tone or lecture length. Short, pithy, and personal stories are most effective.
In what remains of this summer, I will do my best to pour into my girls what they need—a loving, encouraging, supportive mom who believes in them. I will do my best to tie up and gag the worrisome, meddling nag who tries to overtake me from time to time.
Will you join me in making this summer a wonderful memory for our families? Let’s check back in September and share our fun stories!
*Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Page 104.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.