Saturday, May 26, 2007

Love Notes: Shaping Your Child’s Memories

When I was about eight years old, I remember climbing my favorite apple tree and looking up through the green leaves toward the sky to imagine the various cloud formations as different animals, toys or novel objects. I loved sitting with my legs propped up by another limb, munching on a green with a tinge of red, Jonathan apple and feeling the sultry wind on my face. I remember thinking I was having the best time hiding from my little sisters and eating my favorite food.

Then the familiar piercing words echoed in my ears, “Jewel get out of that tree at once and remember too many apples will give you diarrhea!” I soon realized my mother could see me from her bedroom window. Within seconds, I knew my little sisters had found my hiding place when I heard their giggly chant, “Jewel get out of the tree before you get diarrhea! Come down Jewel, we want you to tell us a story.” Little did I know that my sisterhood memories and bonding were being shaped that would influence my personhood throughout life. Particularly my childhood has influenced my interest in storytelling. I have told stories to my children and now to my grandchildren.

Thinking about my childhood memories reminds me that family members have extensive power to shape what children will remember about their childhood. The memories sown in the minds of children will not only affect adult lives but generations to come. Creating memories of times with love, laughter, and encouragement become our treasure box that one draws from when forming and continuing relationships, as well as coping with life events.

Creating memories helps children cope with the hard times in life too. Not long ago, I was asked the question, if I could walk up a rainbow and talk to God what would I say. This question was prompted by an eight-year-old when he told his mommy he had made up a poem for his little baby sister, who had recently succumbed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). With his mom’s permission to print it, the poem reads:

“Love Notes For Little Jordan”
Written By
Your Big Brother, Jahvon Taffe

I will always miss my little baby Jordan
She is in Heaven, but I believe she is with me all the time.

If I could walk up a rainbow and
ask God to let my little Angel come back
And play with me just one more time…
I would.

Printed by permission; A. Adams © 2007

Jahvon’s family has changed due to their loss. Yet, they are still a family, but different because their family is learning to live without their beloved baby, Jordan physically present. Creating meaning and honor of baby Jordan’s life has helped Jahvon sow confirming love notes into his memory for him to glean from in the future. This family is indeed, creating a blessed legacy of memories to treasure.

Some things that I have gained knowledge of about creating life-confirming memories for children are to ask the child about what he or she is learning or is experiencing from community or family life celebrations or events. Patiently listen to the child, without interrupting and with your heart open to what the child is saying. This helps the child feel understood and know his or her ideas and feelings are important to the listener.

Talk about the times when events happen that are sometimes sad, scary, or hard to understand. Reassure the child that most of daily life living is loving, fun and encouraging, but there are times when he or she will feel sad or not understand certain events because things happen in life that people cannot always control, but people can control how the event affects them. This helps the child understand unpredictable life experiences are a normal part of life.

Talk about the times when your child asked for help. Confirm that it is okay to ask for help by giving an example such as, when an older brother or sister asked for help or when grown-ups need help sometimes too. This helps the child to understand that he or she does not have to do everything on his or her own.

Follow the child’s lead in what he or she believes they need to do, in order to make sense out of life events and to create life-affirming memories. Children learn about life through their own interests, play activities, and from environmental influences. Some environmental influences are their family home, grandparents or other extended family life events, church, school, or daycare atmospheres. Allow the child to create his or her own memories through expressions of writing, storytelling, drawing, coloring or other child interest activities. This helps the child to develop its own creative abilities and coping styles, and to sow his or her own love notes into their mind of memories.

My encouragement today is to enjoy your best life now by helping your child shape his or her memories, always remembering our lives are creating love notes for generations to come.
Love Notes: Shaping Your Child's Memories
Written by Jewel Sample (C) 2007