How do you react when a child comes to you in confidence, to tell you their story? It is not easy to stay calm and react in a way that shows unconditional love. We want to protect them and make sure they know we are there for them. How you react is important.
Jumping into protective mode - “who hurt you, I’m going to take them down!” - is not always the best reaction. It may feel right, showing the child you’re willing to fight for them. But that reaction can also be scary, especially if what they are trying to tell you involves someone they love.
The best thing you can do is LISTEN. Let this child tell you their whole story and listen with everything you have, no matter how hard it is to hear. Their pain is not about you, how you feel, your anger or the revenge you want to take. This moment is about a child telling you their story and how you respond will set the tone for the future...
Do you respond with unconditional love? Or does your response feel more like conditional love: “I love you, but I’m too angry about what happened to you.”
We hear it often from the children that come to StreetLightUSA: when it felt like they were getting in too deep, they didn’t share with their parents because they were too ashamed or scared. The fear of what their parents would say, or do, or think was more frightening than the abuse they were suffering. They didn’t feel unconditional love, so they continued down the only path they saw before them.
Be there, unconditionally, any time a child needs to talk. Do they talk your ear off? Great. Let them. It’s better than unconditional silence.