In caring for children now, you’re shaping the present and the future in powerful ways. You’re molding a child’s impression of adults and adulthood. You’re modeling how to communicate with someone very different than yourself. And so much more. So deliberately make this world a better place, and the future a potentially brighter thing, by actively caring for the children around you. Here are ten practical ways you can do so.
Babysit them for their parents. As you care for those who care for them, you bless the lives of both.
Learn their name and call them by name. Not just the next time you see them, but every time thereafter. You get bonus points if you can remember the name of one of their closest friends.
Give them a moment of your undivided attention. Bend over or drop down to one knee to be on their level, if possible. This is often such a rare thing for a child to experience, outside of their kin or closest friends, it will make a real impression on them. They’ll be thinking: “Here’s a grown up that looks at me, not just through me or around me? Amazing!”
Virtually banish comparisons with “the good old days” from your vocabulary. The operative word is “comparison.” Oh, it’s fine to occasionally bring up how things were done back in the day, but don’t make a habit of making or preaching moral comparisons (i.e. – then = good; today = bad). Not only do we all live in the present now, but often “the good old days” were actually, in many ways, what an octogenarian friend of mine calls “the so-called good old days.” Live in the present, not the past, for their sake and your own.
Take note of things children give their attention to these days, be it movies, games, activities, books, or whatever. These things will often serve as talking points you can call up and use in your conversations with them. As you learn what they’re tuned into, you can step into their world and not always expect it to be the other way around.
Adopt their technology. What? They can whiz around a smartphone or iPad and you don’t even have a clue how to use one? They’ll think Granny is hip if she creates a Facebook page and actually uses it for something beyond lurking. Imagine how surprised they’ll be to receive a text from Gramps ever so often. Be the grown up and engage children by embracing the world of technology. Even better, let them teach you. Don’t allow the thought to even rest in their head for a minute that adults aren’t open to new ideas or different ways of doing things.
Write them a brief, handwritten letter. A card is good for little ones, but just a plain, handwritten letter is even better for ones now past single-digit age. Word it with the present in mind, but pen it with how they would understand it if they read it again thirty years from now … because they just might. Yes, that’s old school technology, but that’s part of your job description: to introduce the younger set to old school ways while simultaneously adopting new ways.
Ask their opinion of things and try to see the world through their eyes. As you do so, you’re nurturing their sensitivity toward, and respect for, others, as well as modeling the importance and value of asking questions and listening deeply.
Build your relationship not on giving them presents, but on being present with them. In doing so, you’ll show respect to other family members who may not be able to give, though they’d like to do so. You’ll help allay any hint of an “arms race” as to who can give the most. You’ll subtly declare the true place of material things in life. And you’ll teach them by vivid example that the far greater gift is simply being with and for each other, whether things are present or not.
Introduce them to another adult who will treat them as you have treated them in any of the previous ways. Remember, you’re in the construction business, busy about about building bridges spanning generations.