The Thrill of Hope: Parent CUE
1. Be a Student of What They are Learning
For 2000 years, Christians have gathered all over the world to celebrate the birth of Christ, & not just as a historical event, but as a powerful reminder that God doesn’t give up on his promises & as God’s children, we always have hope. The Christmas story began with the nation of Israel, a group of people who had good reason to lose hope—they hadn’t heard a word from God in hundreds of years. To the poets, prophets, & priests, it seemed as if God might have turned His back on them. The thrilling nature of the Christmas story is that God didn’t turn His back, & although He had been silent, He had not been still. A baby was coming. God was putting skin on & moving into the neighborhood. Hope crashed into the silence.
2. Be a Student of Your Student
Our kids are desensitized. Maybe that is a sweeping generalization, but let’s be honest: how many times have you heard people talk about the selfishness & lack of empathy in the upcoming generation? To be completely fair, this is probably a label that every generation tends to give the one coming up on their heels. But whether we like it or not—there is a growing body of research which suggests that our young people today are lacking in empathy & sensitivity. Whether because of the media barrage of violence, sexuality & not-so-real reality television shows or simply because of a general lack of education & intergenerational connectivity, more & more people are writing about this next generation’s deficit in empathetic abilities.
An article in Psychology Today (June 5th, 2010) puts it this way:
“Earlier this week, Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, released her results on a study analyzing and comparing empathy among college students over the last 30 years. The results? The ‘biggest drop in empathy’ in recent history. She writes, ‘College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago.’ In related survey research, psychologist Jean Twenge has labeled the current generation of young people the ‘iGeneration,’ or ‘Generation Me.’ In her books she describes how young people today ‘take it for granted that the self comes first,’ and has labeled this time a ‘narcissism epidemic,’ stating that we are ‘living in the age of entitlement.’ Konrath and O’Brien link the self-absorption and lack of empathy together, calling the current generation ‘one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history… It’s not surprising that this growing emphasis on the self is accompanied by a corresponding devaluing of others.’ (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-the-wild-things-are/201006/are-today-s-youth-even-more-self-absorbed-and-less-caring-gener)
These are obviously scary words to read for those of us working with and raising the next generation. But we don’t have to let research like this have the final word! Our job as parents is to foster the values of empathy, listening, putting others first and caring for others that we want to see in our kids for years to come. And a great way to start is to find something that gets your student excited and then channel that excitement into an avenue to serve and help others. Here are some practical questions to ask your student to get thinking about where they might want to give of themselves:
- “What really drives you?”
- “What’s the most fun you’ve ever had helping someone else?”
- “What dreams do you think God has given you?”
- “What can you do that most people can’t?”
- “What ability would you most like to develop? Why?”
- “If God hired you for a summer job, what would you hope it would be? Why?”
The answers to these questions can be the springboard for helping you and your student determine where they can put their talent and interests to work for others. And remember, just because your student isn’t excited by any and every project that comes along doesn’t mean they aren’t empathetic and it doesn’t mean they aren’t a great kid! You just may need to dig a bit more and get a bit more creative in figuring out what really ignites them to serve and see outside of themselves.