nancy williams

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Archive for August, 2010

Teach Your Child How to Bounce Back

Living to be 100 years old. Can you imagine? Now, that’s a lot of candles on a birthday cake! It seems as though we are hearing more and more about people who are passing that milestone and still enjoying life to the best of their abilities. When we hear them talk about their approach to life, we find their experiences may vary but their approach is similar. They have cultivated a positive yet realistic attitude, an adventurous love of life, a strong will, spiritual beliefs, an ability to renegotiate life when necessary, and a sense of humor. They know how to put things in perspective as they cope with life’s challenges. They are resilient. And they have challenged us to adopt that same resiliency as we make the rest of our lives be the best of our lives.

The thesaurus gives us a glimpse into this spirit of resilience: it is flexible, durable, adaptable, buoyant, optimistic, proactive, responsive, tough and elastic. Resiliency is an important tool to help us cope with challenges at work, at home, in our relationships, and as we move about in the world around us. How we take care of ourselves and stay focused as we respond to life’s difficulties is largely dependent on our spirit of resiliency—our ability to bounce back.

As adults, our various life experiences have (hopefully) been strengthening our character and cultivating resiliency to help us meet life’s challenges, but what about our children? As parents, grandparents, teachers and others who love and care for them, we can help them develop a spirit of resiliency as they learn how to cope with life’s changes and challenges—how to bounce back. Consider these action steps.

(1) Teach your children how to express emotion, both positive and negative, in appropriate ways. If they know you are facing difficulty, don’t hide your emotions but do control them, modeling how to handle them without burdening your children. If your children see you upset, let them know you’ll be okay. Teach them that with time and attention along with God’s help, people can move through difficult times. Encourage them to talk about their feelings if they are struggling and reassure them of your love and commitment to care for them.

(2) Help children learn how to resolve conflicts. Set a positive example as you resolve conflicts by using good communication tools. Teach them the value of working together respectfully with others to solve problems. And teach them how to forgive and move forward.

(3) Find opportunities for them to look beyond their own needs, desires, and struggles to help others.

(4) Encourage your children to solve problems and make decisions on their own. As they have age-appropriate decision-making opportunities, they’ll learn how to make good choices and to believe in themselves. Don’t rush in to fix every problem too quickly. Show children you have confidence in them by giving opportunity to work things out. When mistakes happen, don’t dwell or be too critical. Instead, help them learn from their experiences.

(5) Draw together as a family when crisis comes, modeling how family members can support each other in difficult times. Include children in family discussions as appropriate, asking their opinions, encouraging them to offer solutions and assuring them that you will work together through the difficulties. Reach out to others for support if needed (church, friends, community).

(6) When difficulties come, model resilient behavior. Continue with normal, routine activities of life as much as possible. Teach children that changes and challenges are a part of life, yet the essence of life does go on.

(7) Pray for—and with—your children.

Remember: you are your children’s strongest advocate. You are their coach and cheerleader as well as their caretaker. Let them know through your guidance, supervision, support and reassurance that they can bounce back from adversity or defeat. Encourage a spirit of self-confidence as you help them foster resiliency to cope with the challenges of today and look ahead with hope to the opportunities of tomorrow. Tell them and show them you believe in them and you love them. Above all, share with them God’s love and His promise to walk beside them along life’s journey.

Experiencing Life With Childlike Wonder

For my granddaughter Eliza (now five months old), every day brings new discoveries. The sounds, the sights, and oh my, yes, the tastes of everything fill her mind (and mouth) with wonder. As she reaches out to grab hold of whatever is within arm’s reach, her eyes twinkle, her giggles explode with joy, and her dimples form pockets just right to capture a grandmother’s kisses. She’s curious. She’s determined. She’s eager to discover all that is within her grasp. Sometimes her gaze is one of excitement, while at other times she studies her surroundings intently, taking it all in. Discoveries come through deliberate effort and also at times by surprise. Her imagination seems to be exploding with desire to experience all that is coming into her little world. And she finds pleasure in sharing life and love with those around her. What fun—for her and for me!

There is such freedom in sharing playtime with a little one, isn’t there? It’s unpretentious. It’s honest. It’s simple. It’s creative. It’s freeing. It’s filled with laughter. And its agenda is clear: enjoy life and share it with those you love. How sad that so often, as we grow older, we feel the need to set aside that childlike spirit of adventure and simplicity, unless we’re spending time with a child. We quickly trade in our creativity and curiosity for the convenience of ready-made, do-it-for-you gadgets.

Somewhere along the line, life becomes serious as we take on roles and responsibilities. Freedom gives way to restraint and inquisitiveness shifts to concern. No doubt, responsibility is an important part of maturity. Yet, if we’re not mindful, it seems to prompt us to set aside playfulness so we can “get down to business” with life. We don’t have time to explore possibilities and our fear of failure may keep us from taking risks. It becomes important to set plans, follow the plans, and fit in with whatever the group is doing. Or perhaps, to make it to the top of whatever ladder we strive to climb. Our carefree childlike nature that prompts us to enjoy the moment fades as we worry about what our future will hold. We seem to be in such a hurry to get ahead, to accomplish our to-do list, and to be sure we are meeting our expectations, or perhaps the expectations of others.

It’s even difficult for some of us to take “time off” from the demands of life to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Time to explore possibilities without the pressure of making decisions or taking action. Time to dream, imagine, and let our creative juices flow. Time to experiment with new ideas without the fear of failure or the pressure to succeed. Time to enjoy the simple gifts life has for us. Time to laugh and play with those we love. Now, I realize we don’t fit into all those categories all the time. However, if we’re honest, we may find ourselves struggling in those areas more than we realize.

This afternoon as I watched Eliza’s excitement at the sights and sounds she explored, I began thinking about how it would be if we—adults—would allow ourselves opportunities to set the demands and expectations of life aside at times and adopt that same sense of carefree playfulness and joy with the gifts we’ve been given. If you could capture a bit of my little one’s curiosity and wonder about life, what would you explore? What would you dream? What would you reach for? What would you cling to? What pleasures of life would tickle your taste buds and what would, perhaps, even make you giggle?

Life is indeed serious at times and we must do as Eliza sometimes does: focus intently with a determined spirit to reach our goal. Let’s also take a lesson from her and reach out with wonder and excitement toward new opportunities. To eagerly explore new possibilities. And as we set out to experience life to its fullest, may we, too, find joy in that journey of discovery. Joy that brings a twinkle to our eyes, a smile to our face, laughter from our lips, and love to share with those around us.

Memories Are Made of This

I just got back from “The Twilight Zone.”

No, I didn’t join Rod Serling for a sci-fi adventure. (Remember the series from the 50s – 60s that was filled with suspense, science fiction, fantasy, horror and often an unexpected twist?). Actually, I visited the towns of Forks and Port Angeles in Washington State. That’s right: all you “Twifans” out there who have been reading the Twilight Saga Collection by Stephanie Meyer or have watched the movies. I did, indeed, spend time there visiting relatives who live in that part of the Northwest Peninsula, where the adventures of Bella, Edward, and Jacob took place. (For the record: I have no vampire or tribal family connections there, in case you are wondering!).

It was quite fun to watch scores of fans pour into the area to visit the places they had read and dreamed about. Local merchants offer all sorts of memorabilia to help fans capture a piece of the Twilight storyline for themselves. And yet, I do hope those that travel to the area take away more than Team Jacob or Team Edward T-shirts, more than a taste of Bella’s mushroom ravioli, more than a visit to the characters’ hangouts, and more than photos of storefronts and welcome signs. I hope their memories also include images of the awesome gifts of nature to be enjoyed on that Olympic Peninsula.

This was my second trip to the region and once again I found myself caught up in the splendor of the landscape in that part of our country. Beautiful reflections of God’s creative handiwork. Stately cedars, firs, hemlocks and alders fill the mountainsides, while ferns and colorful wildflowers grace the clearings. A glorious compliment to the gentle sounds of the rivers that wind their way to the ocean’s edge. The scenery there certainly provides a study in contrasts. Majestic: simple. Old: new. Firm: flowing. Forceful: peaceful.

We enjoyed exploring the area and spent an afternoon at Ruby Beach on the Pacific coast. On the way there, I quietly reminisced about childhood summer times at the beaches on the Mid-Atlantic coastline. Boardwalks. Summer cottages. Carnival rides. Candy shops filled with salt-water taffy. Entertainment abounding. Then my thoughts traveled to Texas, which I did when a teenager, and I began to picture the sandy beaches of Galveston Bay. More open space and access to the gulf waters. Beach houses on stilts. Casual. Calm. (Except, of course, for hurricane season!).

This beach experience, however, was a different picture entirely. Tall trees stood firm near the water’s edge, allowing only limited space for the sand and smooth rocks to create a walking path. Timbers, washed ashore by the tides, stacked themselves in random patterns and provided a playground for the young at heart to test their skills on a balance beam. Just off shore, tall, rugged rock formations stood firm as the ocean’s waves crashed at their base. And colorful starfish nestled among smooth stones that covered the rocky shoreline.

It was a great afternoon of picture-taking and memory-making with family. As I watched my niece’s children and my husband’s uncle explore treasures from the sea, I soon found myself in the center of yet another amazing study in contrasts: the forceful crescendos of waves ebbing and flowing against the rocks, and the gentle hands of curious young children and their great-great uncle as they reached down together to greet the starfish that had washed ashore.

In that afternoon’s adventure, I came face to face with the vastness of God’s amazing creativity. The ocean that stretched to the horizon, the birds of the air and fish of the sea, the plants and trees, the rocks that emerged from the water, the stone and sand beneath our feet, the tide that rolled out to provide space for us to sit and enjoy his handiwork, and his most amazing creation: mankind.

Whether we travel about the country or stay right here at home, may we take time from the challenges and busyness of life to capture a childlike wonder that will lead us to discover, enjoy and care for the gifts God has created for our pleasure. And, may we never forget to thank him for his goodness.