23…24…25. Ready or not, here I come. The search begins. If you are playing with a 3-year-old, they are likely in plain sight with their face covered. As kids get older, they become better hiders.
In fact, they become pretty good at hiding in all areas of life. Often, they hide because they’re afraid. The fear of acceptance is a real experience our kids face. The threat of being exposed for who they really are and possibly rejected is far worse than being found in a game of hide-and-seek.
But something powerful happens when we face our deepest fears and find acceptance. This is why tribes are formed, whether it’s the Me Too movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the LGBTQ community. People want to be heard, seen, and valued. When people feel safe they can come out of hiding.
The church and the home should be the one place where true vulnerability, honesty, and healing are real and regular experiences. Here are four steps to creating a family culture where kids can come out of hiding.
Notice Your Kids
A wife gets her hair cut and styled and asks her husband, “How do you like it?” He responds, “How do I like what?” Let’s admit it guys, we’re not the most observant people on the planet.
Your kids need to be seen. I’m not talking about seeing what they do. What’s important is seeing how they feel. It’s easy to see what our kids do and forget that there is a layer beneath that action. When my daughter is quiet and short with me on the way home from school, maybe it’s not about me but about something she faced that day. If I make it about me and how she is being rude to me, then I miss an incredible opportunity to see her heart.
Listen to How Your Kids Feel
When we notice our kids, we are more likely to learn how they feel. If I ask my daughter if she is doing okay, I need to be prepared for two things: She may not want to talk. In that case, I stay committed to patiently waiting for a time when she is ready to talk. If she is willing to talk, she may say something that’s hard for me to hear. In that case, my job is to listen and not jump to conclusions. If we aren’t careful, we can quickly dismiss, silence, or shame our kids.
Let’s say she tells me she has no friends. If I quickly respond with a list of all the people who are her friends, and don’t listen to why she feels alone, then I have bypassed something she needs. She needs to know I’m a safe place for her to share what’s on her heart. She doesn’t need correction at that moment.
Speak Words of Healing
After we notice our kids and truly listen, then we are in a position to speak words of healing. As I’m listening to my daughter express her hurt, I’m considering what words of healing she needs at that moment. Acknowledging her feelings and showing empathy goes a long way. It may go something like this, “I’m so sorry that you feel like you have no friends. That must be so difficult and lonely.”
After empathizing, speak words of healing. “I love you so much and am so grateful that you are a friend that looks out for others. You are so kind.” What my daughter needs to hear is my words of affirmation. She needs to be reminded of my love for her – a love not given because of what she does but because of who she is.
Point Them to Jesus
Ultimately, what my daughter needs is not just the affirmation of her mom and dad, but confidence in the love of her Savior. She needs to know that Jesus hears her, sympathizes with her, and loves her unconditionally. The best thing we can do for our kids is to point them to Jesus and do our best to consistently live out the way of Jesus.
We speak the truth of who He is and what He says about them. That means what Jesus says is actually more real than even how they feel. If they can trust Him, then they can learn to entrust their emotions to Him. They will even learn to surrender their life to what He says leads to flourishing.
When your kids come out of hiding, stay committed to these four things: noticing, listening, speaking words of healing, and pointing them to Jesus. This is about more than affirmation. Our culture often prioritizes affirmation over truth. However, it is also about more than just truth. Jesus came to reach people’s hearts, not just modify their behaviors. Let’s have the courage to keep on “seeking” whenever they go into hiding, and to lead them to the light and love of Christ.