Kid Talk: Four Ideas for Increased Connection

14 04 2016

Speaking with children is a bit of an art. As adults, we spend a lot of time thinking and speaking with our adult vocabulary. Children need simple words, shorter sentences, essential truth and vivid examples. This isn’t too difficult to accomplish, but takes some conscious thought and consistent effort. Just talk. Keep it simple. No need to baby-speak. Don’t muddy the waters with complicated ideas. Pass on what is most important. And, by the way, learning the habit of communicating simply will help you understand difficult concepts too.

Jesus used simple language.

-Rick Warren

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance…

-Paul (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Simple Words

When you speak with children it doesn’t mean you treat them as less intelligent, but you will connect with them better when you use words that they are familiar with. Remember, they haven’t encountered nearly the amount of words you have as an adult. So turn phrases like, “eternal life” into “forever life.” It means the same thing when you elaborate on it in conversation, it’s more fun to say and it hits home. Try simply talking to children and not talking down to them or over their heads. Aaron Reynolds, a crazy good kid communicator, says it this way, “You’re just talking, just sharing something cool. Casual. Real. Personal. This tone draws them in rather than pushing them away.”

Shorter Sentences

The NIrV is a children’s translation of the Bible. It is a great example of how shorter sentences are easier to read. They are also helpful in comprehension. Shorter sentences help you take a breath between thoughts. Doing this increases your ability to process. Ephesians 1 contains a long and masterful sentence. But try reading that to a child. You couldn’t expect them to understand. Even adults will need to read that sentence very slowly and deliberately. Then to grasp it fully, adults would need to break it down into connected thoughts. Turn a big idea into a memorable and repeatable phrase such as, “God is super strong!”

Essential Truth

Stick to the most important things. Sometimes we just want to dump all of our knowledge into children’s brains, but brains don’t work that way, especially kids brains. So stick to the essential truth you want to communicate for the moment and repeat it in different ways. Paul received essential truth and passed it on. While much of his writing is complex, he nonetheless continues to return to what’s essential. Everything he writes about is expanding on the idea that 1. God wants us to belong to him and 2. He makes this possible through Jesus who died, was buried and came back to life. (Notice the simpler word choice of “came back to life,” instead of “rose again.”)

Vivid Examples

Remember that kids have difficulty thinking in abstract terms. So consistently bring in tangibles, visuals, everyday objects, common experiences. If you’re talking about water, go get some! If you want children to see what Jesus means when he talks about the vine. Show a picture or bring in a real one…with grapes to share! Jesus communicated simply even with adults. To talk about the Kingdom of God, an extremely abstract concept, he used seeds, sheep, trees, birds, dirt, pearls, and on and on.

Let’s just talk to kids this week and enjoy the simplicity that comes from that!

Lord, thank you for the simple truths of life.





Life: Longing for the Way it is Meant to Be

5 04 2016

Life is a wonderful gift. From birth to death, every unique individual is on a journey of discovery and a search for meaning and significance. Yet death is a stark reminder that life is all too short…unless…there is an alternate ending. This is the Gospel: Christ came to bring us life. Real life. Forever life. There is no need to shy away from the topic of death with children. They may not have firsthand knowledge of it, but they can grasp eternity better than you might think. Celebrate life with kids this week as they, and you, develop into all that God has planned for you.

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Eternal life is…quality of life, life to the limit.

-John Eldredge

I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.

-Jesus (John 10:10)

Over the past few months, I have written about lifespan development. My starting point for writing about development largely came from the book Development Through the Lifespan, by Laura E. Berk as well as the work of Erik Erikson and his observations on life stages.

From birth to death, individuals are changing and shifting from season to season, milestone to milestone and phase to phase. There are key markers to each phase, which we will do well to understand and acknowledge. Development theory is still a theory and so the markers may not be empirical fact, but there are significant observations to be made. Summarizing each phase is a difficult task, but the benefits include ‘aha!’ moments, establishing goals, recognizing challenges, preparing for what’s to come, influencing the next generation well, etc.

For parents or children’s ministry volunteers, especially, being able to identify that the most important target for an infant is developing trust, we can pool our efforts into that one area more effectively. Or in your family, understanding and appreciating what your parents may be feeling or working through may increase your ability to strike up meaningful conversations.

Perhaps a child wasn’t from a home where skills could be learned without shaming or she never had a safe place to struggle with her identity. Knowing this can increase your empathy, the ability to understand or share the feelings of another. Recognizing this in yourself can be a humbling first step to receiving the help you need and making the next appropriate step in your personal growth.

The bottom line is this: God values every life greatly. He created real life and has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are all changing, shifting, developing. Yet, to know God’s design for life we must wait, for our best life is yet to come. Let us live and develop and mature as God meant us to and as much as we are able. Let us wait and long for the full realization of what God has planned.

Here are the links to all of my posts on development:

Lord, help me celebrate your gift of life today.





Late Adulthood: Fulfilling Reflection

22 03 2016

Late adults (65+) are those who’ve been blessed to live a full life. They’ve entered a time of harvest from all they’ve experienced. They are to be highly honoured and not forgotten. They have much wisdom to offer. But here, despair can set in if regret overwhelms. Before you enter this stage, ask yourself, “Will I have lived a meaningful life?” While you live out this phase, ask yourself, “What are the best parts of my life that I can share?” The next generation greatly benefits from the wisdom of its ancestors.

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Life ought not be wasted.

-John Piper

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

-Psalm 90:12

Life in this phase, as hard as it is, can be lived with fulfilling reflection. 

Whatever has happened in your life to this point, there is something positive to reflect on. If you’ve lived with many regrets, set those regrets aside and search, as for treasure, for what you can be grateful for. If you’ve lived well, finish well also. There is much from your life that you can share.

In your biological family and church family, honour your elders. Spend time with them. Interview them for their life experience and wisdom. Value them.

Let these final years (or decades?) be your best years. Stare death in the face with hopeful joy. Connect with those closest to you. Mend broken fences. Teach, encourage and strengthen others. As Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy towards the end of his life, you can also say,

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Here are some suggestions for finishing your race well:

  • Journal to aid your reflection
  • Beware of cynicism or arrogance taking away your joy
  • You are nearing death so face it with dignity and integrity
  • As your body continues to decline, treat it well with regular exercise and beneficial eating habits
  • Tell your life story
  • Spend time with children and youth for their sake and yours
  • Exercise your brain. Examples:
    • learn an instrument
    • read with a pen in hand
    • take up an art such as drawing, painting or crafting
    • solve puzzles and problems (the game kind and the real life kind)
  • Your habits may seem to be set in stone, but continuing to learn new skills and try new things will add to your enjoyment of life
  • List 100 things you’re especially grateful for and make them visible
  • If you’ve stayed married to this point, congratulations! Satisfaction in this relationship will likely increase so pour out your best energy for the other.
  • Don’t let retirement be an excuse to give up!
  • Volunteer often
  • Seek leadership opportunities and roles in your community
  • Find creative ways to benefit your children, grandchildren or other close family members or church family members:
    • write a letter
    • babysit
    • offer advice, but be careful of meddling
    • create something as a gift
    • put together a family tree or, even better, learn about genograms
  • Continue to find ways to connect with a local church
  • Remember that life is greater than you and reflect on God who transcends our understanding

What suggestions would you offer for maximizing the joy in this phase of life?

Lord, thank you for the heritage of our elders.





Middle Adulthood: Leaving Your Mark

17 03 2016

Middle adults (40-65) are at a critical juncture. They are realizing the brevity of life and their unique opportunity to build a nurturing and equipping legacy filled with deep meaning. This is not the time to fade out or burn out! You have life experience to share! Fan your desire to contribute to the next generation.

Our lives become the sum of all whom we have loved.

-George E. Vaillant

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord…

-Psalm 78:4

There are many endeavours that the middle adult can be involved in. Career enrichment, family satisfaction, business decisions, investment securities, health improvement, etc. Life at this time can be very full and flourishing. Yet, if not handled well, can become empty, stagnate and stale.

You may begin to ask yourself questions like these,

What do people get for all their work? Why do they work so hard on this earth?

-Ecclesiastes 1:3

But when your life is lived for others and not for self, you will begin to move toward deep satisfaction and not toward bitterness, resentment or callousness.

Individuals at this stage of life who recognize that meaningful care is the hallmark of an enduring legacy will enrich their own lives as well.

Here are some ways to really care:

  • Tell stories to children
  • Find someone to mentor…fast
  • Donate from what you have acquired
  • Volunteer your time any way you can
  • Teach the unique skill set you have developed
  • Build something that will last
  • Play games with children
  • Put less value on your physical traits and more value on your contributions
  • Find contentment with whatever you have and have become
  • Discover how you can maximize and share your life experience and practiced abilities
  • Don’t run from the reality that declines in your body are coming, but face it with grace
  • Find ways to challenge and stimulate your mind, body and spirit
  • You may be launching children, but don’t neglect opportunities to connect
  • Don’t run from your aging parents, but keep them close and take care of them
  • Spend time with children and really listen to them

Lord, help us to age with impact.





Early Adulthood: Avoiding Loneliness

8 03 2016

Early adults (18-40) are craving a life enriched with intimate and committed relationships. Yet many are experiencing perpetual loneliness. More than many realize, loneliness contributes to many illnesses and depressive tendencies. This week make a concerted effort to extend friendship to someone in your community. Authentic friendships will do more to change the world than most anything!

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Loneliness is a distressing, painful experience which humans…want to avoid.

-Kraus, Davis, Bazzini, Church, Kirchman

Now you are my friends.

-Jesus (John 15:15)

As Erik Erikson summarizes, loneliness can lead early adults to promiscuity or exclusivity, both dangerous extremes.

The pursuit of this phase is committed intimacy.

Commitment in relationships will lead to long-lasting satisfaction including emotional and mental health. Here are some suggestions for moving toward committed intimacy:

  • Find a group to be a part of such as sports, music, crafts, hobbies, reading, arts, etc.
  • Connect with a small group at church
  • Find opportunities to volunteer and give back with others
  • Study God’s plan for marriage and make the decision to marry very carefully
  • Make life-long learning a habit you do not just on your own, but with others also
  • Network in a way that adds value to others
  • Find a mentor…fast!
  • Mend broken family relationships or seek ways to connect or reconnect intentionally with family members
  • Look for ways to be of service to employers, colleagues or employees
  • Be aware that loneliness may peak at this phase, but can decrease from here on out as commitment increases
  • More than likely, you will begin to stabilize in the community you are a part of as your relationship habits solidify.

Lord, make loneliness disappear!





Adolescence: Who Am I?

23 02 2016

Teenagers, more than anything, need to grasp firmly who they really are.

They are branching out into scary times of increasing independence. A solid family life can provide the reassurance of stable and intimate relationships. How much more does believing, with strong conviction, that they are a loved child of God help them navigate their interpersonal relationships with confidence?

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The youth who is not sure of his or her identity shies away from…intimacy.

-Erik Erikson

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

-1 John 3:1-2

Andrew Root, in his book, The Children of Divorce, connects losing the stability of the family with the loss of being. Children who have been raised in highly troubled families will consistently struggle with the question, “Who am I?” And yet, even children from more stable families, who have a higher likelihood of confidence in their identity, will still, inevitably, need to work through this, especially during the turbulent teen years.

The answer to the question, “Who am I?” will largely influence the relationships they have and maintain for the rest of their lives!

When I was thirteen, I came to the point in my life where I challenged myself with this question: “Will I go with God here and now for the rest of my life? Or will I go my own way down a path of lonely confusion about what this life is really about?” I drew a line in the sand and have ever since leaned into God.

I resonate with Peter, who said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:68). I am a child of God. Without him, I have nothing and am lost.

Helping adolescents navigate this phase can include:

  • Surrounding with trusted, loyal and confident influences
  • Discussing awareness of true-self and reality versus misperceived assumptions
  • Walking through a course on the topic of identity in Christ
  • Providing service and volunteer opportunities to alleviate overly self-conscious tendencies
  • Engaging in thoughtful and open conversations about deeply held values, beliefs and convictions
  • Allowing increasing freedom of choice and owning responsibility for consequences
  • Teaching that sex does NOT equate with genuine intimacy
  • Increasing the sense of urgency that the church has for impacting youth
  • Surrounding with trusted, loyal and confident influences!

Lord, equip our youth with an understanding and belief of their identity in Christ.





Middle Childhood: Developing Skills

17 02 2016

When adults praise a kid’s…efforts, kids broaden competence.

-Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

-Paul (Philippians 1:9)

Elementary aged children want to master skills. They can be easily crushed with too much harsh criticism, but conversely thrive when their abilities are noticed and encouraged. Help them improve their friendships, knowledge of truth, understandings and ability to love.

You can see it in their eyes. It’s a crucial moment. The time when they’ve been reckless and broken something or used a harsh word or made a mistake causing inconvenience in your world. They’re looking at you and anticipating your response. Send a harsh scolding or berating comment and their gaze will wilt. This reflects their downcast heart.

OR in that moment you can identify with them in their guilt acknowledging your own weakness and struggles with sin. You can show them their error with loving compassion and work with them to plan a better response or choice in the future. Then their eyes will tell it all. They will show understanding of their wrongdoing and then they will reflect the hope that you offer for a better future.

Even better for the long-run is building the habit and rhythm of noticing what’s right, noticing what’s good, celebrating wise choices or praising skillful attempts.

Instead of noticing weakness, notice what’s wonderful!

Notice and celebrate when a child…

  • uses a kind word
  • contributes a positive response in discussion
  • demonstrates creativity
  • shows persistence and doesn’t give up
  • adds value to the group activity
  • remains focused when others are distracted
  • smiles
  • ???

Be on the lookout for little glimpses of growth and make it your mission to add value to the children in your world.

Lord, empower me to equip children in love.

 








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