The following is the second part of our newest blog series, Creating a Gentler Summer in Our Orthodox Home
I teach in a school where many of my students come from stressful environments such as homeless shelters. One of my more challenging students was angry, resentful, manipulative. Even so, I persevered in loving him, while making reasonable demands of him academically and in his behavior. At the end of the year, he wrote me a note: “I love Ms. King, She hug me.” This child still had huge behavior issues and did not usually do what I asked of him, but his heart had opened and my supervisor said he’d improved 300%, all because this precious little boy knew I cared. He felt love and responded in a simple way by suddenly writing me love notes.
We’ve already explored how we can live out Elder Porphyrios’ admonition to be more mild and patient with our children, so now we’ll turn to becoming more loving with them.
Children need to feel our love and as they do, they open up to love us and to love God and others. As parents, most of us are not dealing with the obvious issues that my student presented. Most of us tell our children we love them countless times a day when they’re little, and then we continue to show them we love them with our time, attention, and care for their development both academically, socially, and in sports.
Saint John Chrysostom instructs us that if we truly love our children, we’ll keep our focus on their spiritual development. We want to raise our kids in such a way that they are able to face the challenges and hardships of life. One way of doing that is to provide opportunities for them to serve others through both organized charitable acts and simple kindness to family and friends.
You and your children can:
1. Make cards for children in the hospital or have them donate some of their presents to children in the hospital (http://www.choa.org/Support-childrens/Volunteering/Community-Volunteers/Friends-Volunteers/Generous-Generation/Hope-and-Will-Happy-Birthday),
2. Get together with other families and serve a meal to the homeless at a local family-friendly program church. In Atlanta, you can check out Saint John’s: http://www.saintjohnwonderworker.org/loaves-fishes/
3. Practice simply being kind to each other. Sometimes we’ll say, “In our family we don’t speak to each other like that. Wouldn’t you rather be in a family that doesn’t yell/ isn’t hateful/ doesn’t put each other down?”
Saint John Chrysostom said, “When we teach our children to be good, to be generous, to love their fellow man, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls and reveal the image of God within them.”
Through these words of Saint John Chrysostom, written so many centuries ago, we can find current strategies to help us grow in saintliness and enjoy these sweet but sometimes challenging weeks with our kids.