Take My Presence With You
I love this commercial (click on picture to watch). The little Darth Vader suddenly becomes empowered–“may the force go with him.” What does this have to do with parenting? As family shepherds, we don’t necessarily want our children to have “the force go with them;” but, we do want them to have our “presence go with them.” We do our children a great service when we build a sense of our presence into their lives. A child gains a sense of security, personal power, and comfort when they have the realization that their “parent’s presence goes with them.” Like the little Darth Vader in this commercial, children who have a “parental presence go with them” feel empowered. So, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker taught Luke about “the force,” we want to teach our children about “parental presence” and how it will follow them to protect, nurture, and guide. How do parents build a sense of presence into their child’s life?
First, we hug and hold them. The earliest way a parent becomes present to a child is through bodily touch. So, we hold them, hug them, playfully wrestle and tickle them, and snuggle up on the couch with them. As a child grows, the family shepherd embraces to comfort, gives a high five to celebrate, walks with an arm around a shoulder to encourage, or gives a gentle slap on the back to congratulate. All of this physical touch confirms our presence, our involvement, and our interest in our children’s lives.
We also build our presence into our children’s lives by physically stepping into their world of school. We stop at the school now and again, talk to the teachers and coaches, even the principals. When children see us at school and know that we know teachers and counselors at the school, they become more invested in doing well. They think twice about their own behavior because of the relationship “mom and dad” have with the staff. Besides, you never know when mom and dad might just show up. (Click picture to see video about parental involvement in school from Connect with Kids.)
Take the time to step into their world of technology as well. Friend your child on Facebook and make that “friendship” a prerequisite for their Facebook page. I’m not saying to spy on your child’s every move, but casually follow them on your own Facebook page and check out their page now and again. This will help you monitor your child’s safety and appropriateness in the public domains. You can assure that your child does not post information that is too personal or revealing (such as phone numbers or addresses) as well as nipping any potential cyber-bullying in the bud. Learn to text and send your children a text message once in a while. They’ll think you’re a little “weird,” but they’ll know that you are thinking of them and they’ll feel your presence. Keep the phones out of the bedroom after bedtime and in a common area for charging. Too often children and teens stay up throughout the night texting rather than getting their needed sleep. Establish the rule that you can look at their texting history at any time. Children receive inappropriate texts at times–sexting or bullying texts. As family shepherds, we need to monitor this potential to protect our children.
Let your children see you stepping into the community. Go to the church your child attends. Attend his concerts and sporting events. Let them see you engaging their friends at these events, congratulating and conversing with them. Get to know their friends when they come to your house. Talk about their interests. Sit in with them while they watch a movie together. Also spend time getting to know the parents of your children’s friends. Interact with them at various community events and school functions. Who knows, you might even develop some new friends yourself. And, your child learns that you are present in the community around them.
You may be thinking, “All of these suggestions are just a regular part of life.” That’s true. However, as a parent, these activities take on new meaning. They play a special role in teaching your child that your presence goes with them. That wherever they are, you might show up…or someone you know might show up. This knowledge provides a sense of security and comfort…your presence is there to protect and nurture. It also helps to provide motivation for responsible behavior…your presence goes with them to encourage responsible behavior. Move over Darth Vader, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, we want to teach our children about parental presence and how it will follow them to protect, nurture, and guide. “Take our presence with you.”