If only all young people felt valued and knew that their lives had meaning and purpose. If only parents knew how to show their kids their value and worth. What would our world look like? What would our communities look like? Better yet, what would our families look like?
It has been said that the single greatest human need is the need to be needed. What this means for us as parents and teachers is this: What truly counts is not what we do for our children, but the opportunities we give our children to do for us and others.
Albert Schweitzer said, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."
At YouthZone we teach parenting classes, provide one-on-one parent consultations and education and support.
In our classes we talk about how to create opportunities for kids to know their lives have meaning and purpose. The three conditions that must be present in any relationship for this need to be met are: A person must believe that they are listened to, taken seriously, and seen as significant in the eyes of others.
There are many ways to meet these needs; one of them is through the art of dialogue. Exchanging ideas and asking open-ended questions are a few ways to beef up your talking time with kids.
Listen without a pre-determined outcome, and use your body language to say, "You are important, and have important ideas and feelings to share."
A study was done with high-risk 4-year-olds in day care. For seven minutes a day, the workers replaced the question "Did you have fun?" with "What kinds of things were fun for you?" and then waited for a response. There was an average increase of eight points in testable IQ for those kids.
Secondly, we can give children opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways. That may mean you have to give up some control over regular household chores, laundry, pet care, grocery lists, room cleanliness and, well, you get the idea.
Let youngsters have meaningful ways to serve others and make your family's life just a bit more relaxing.
Have your kids decide and plan what you are doing together for the weekend. That does not mean they say they want to go skiing and out to eat and you do all the work and pay for it. That does not create a feeling of purpose, but rather it builds an entitlement attitude. If they want to go skiing and out to eat, they get to contribute to the plan.
If you are short on time, they can plan and prepare a few meals for the freezer, throw in a load of laundry or even decide to tune up the entire family's equipment and load the car.
Today is a great day to begin finding ways for your kids to serve, for them to feel valued and needed and to give their life meaning and purpose.
Parents who would like to connect to other parents or just need a listening ear are welcome to call YouthZone at 945-9300.
Lori Mueller is the executive director of YouthZone. "Parent Talk" appears on the first and third Saturdays of the month. The column is the result of YouthZone, The Buddy Program, Family Visitor Programs, Kids First and Roaring Fork Family Resource Centers teaming up to provide parents with information and resources about strengthening family relationships.