Recently I heard an interesting quote about teens. The gentlemen speaking said that most parents do a great job of celebrating our kids when they are babies. Everyone takes off of work to see the three year old sing, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” However, the older they get the less we show up. They tell us they don’t want us there anymore and we believe them. Yet, as children we have told them to “look to the bleachers,” where we will be cheering them on. We have shown up at the five year old soccer games and told them they were great. Somewhere along the way we stop coming to the “moment, “ while they are still looking to the proverbial sidelines waiting for us to scream their name.
Sometimes with kids it is as simple as showing up. I still am not an avid sports fan, however, I became a World Cup enthusiast when the US got beyond the first round. I thought of the hours that the parents of these players must have spent on the side lines.
However, in the youth ministry world, let’s face it, not every parent we meet is “showing up” much less cheering their kids on. I often grapple with my place in these kids’ lives. Do I become their biggest fan? Isn’t it more important for them to have at least one fan as opposed to no fans? If the parent won’t be there shouldn’t I step in?
Every story is different. Sometimes there is just one parent with multiple children. They are so exhausted with life they forget to cheer. Others believe it when their children say, “I don’t need you.” Backing away is how they are teaching them to grow up. I could sit here and tell scenario after scenario that explains why parents aren’t showing up. Some just feel inadequate as they attempt to “be there.”
This summer as our students prep for the Fall I think the answer is two fold:
I remind the parent’s that their kids want them.
They are saying, “GO AWAY,” with their mouth. They are saying, “BE HERE!” with their hearts.. When I am with parents I pass out easy ways to “show up” in their kids lives. We forget sometimes it is just as simple as making time with our kids. In our house every Friday is “Pizza and a Movie Night.” That’s it. When we don’t have it the kids revolt. Even my teens.
I become the “2nd” biggest fan in the life of my youth.
I find out from them what they want people at. Is there a big game or a show or a recital? I am cheering for the kid I know as loud as possible. For others I am letting them know, “Someone in the stands knows your name.” I try to find parents and sit with them to get to know them and remind them being here matters more than they know.
Our youth are “looking to the stands” for those that will let them know they are worth it. They are listening for their name with excitement above the crowd. They are looking for the adults in their lives to cheer them on. Help parents to succeed at showing up, and youth leaders lets be the second biggest fan. After all even though the US didn’t “win” it must have felt pretty great to still know their loved ones were screaming their names.
What do you think?