I never really had a dream to write. It was just something I discovered I loved to do. The more I wrote, the more I saw expression of the hidden dreams I’d been holding on to. This year, I have taken on more writing challenges I never would have imagined. I joined Story 101 with dreamfire-builder-life-affirmer, Elora.
Through Story 101 sessions, I also met another wonderful dream-firestarter, Brandy, and somehow, I said yes to being a contributing writer for Wild Goslings, a book on engaging children in the mysteries of God in ways that allow them to experience God without religious constraints. To borrow a term from across the waters in England … I was and still am “gobsmacked.” I never imagined I would have stepped out of my zone of comfort to write on something about which I care deeply and that matters to my soul – encouraging the dreamers to make those imaginative ideas tangible realities. This, my friends, is the essence of how we help our children dream too.
Dreams are the stuff made from soul and imagination. Dreams are those precious jewels we tuck away in the soft pockets of the heart. But what good is a dream if it is not born, coaxed to life, nurtured and pressed into action? It becomes as nothing, and so it is with our children when we hold them back or think of them as helpless babes who need our constant care, meddling, and direction.
In a way, our children always need our direction, but they do not need our smothering. We cannot do everything for them. We must teach them to stretch into who they are made to be rather then forcing them to fit the mold we dream for their lives.
When I became a teacher, I was so idealistic. I was going to change the world and every child in it who came through my classroom doors. Let’s just be real. That didn’t happen, and the idealism nearly became my prison to control or manipulate the idea of what a child could be. It was not my place to do so.
As parents, educators, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents, guardians, and friends we must resist the urge to live vicariously through our children lest we slay the divine idea of God made to be expressed through them. So what then does it mean for us to help kids dream?
Our children have a design, a bent, a purpose and passion that is unique to the fiber of their being. Over the course of my teaching career, I learned to breathe life-giving words to my students. I learned to best act by listening. I learned that my responsibility in helping children dream was to simply facilitate, not control, the process. How? How do we make that facilitation process practical?
I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share with you what it has meant for me to help children dream no matter their age.
- Embrace them – the whole child – as they are and not as you wish them to be. And if you see a hidden talent of which they may not be aware, call forth the gifts like Christ called Lazarus from the grave (John 11). Embracing our children as they are gives us an unfettered view of who they can be.
- Listen. Listen. Listen. No matter how crazy the dream sounds or how unlike the child it may seem, listen. Be the ear, for sometimes, all we need is to hear our voice speaking the real truth that’s been hiding in our hearts. Let children discover their Aha moment by listening because they in turn will learn to do the same for others.
- Don’t laugh, snicker, mock, berate, put down, or make faces. Nothing kills a dream faster than the deadly poison of doubt and disbelief. And nothing kills the reach of being authentic like words that steal the life from a dream.
- Help a child not just plan the dream, but guide them to create real-world, actionable steps to make the dream a reality. We have a weighty responsibility to “train up a child in the way [bent] he should go, [so that] when he is old he will not depart form it” (Proverbs 22:6; NKJV 1063).
- Be a mentor. Wrap your support, talent, insights, and wisdom around children. They don’t know it all yet, but they can benefit from “a word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11-13; NKJV 1068-1069).
- Invite children to accountability. No dream happens in isolation. No dream happens by just hanging around like puffy clouds in the air. They cost us, but they are so worth our effort and intentional investment which means having a rally team, a champion to help them keep moving forward.
We all need a champion – someone in our corner who believes in the beauty of the divine wrapped in us. Our children need our love, our support, our affirmation, our belief that they can, and a shoulder on which to lean when the road gets steep. I may not be a child now, but even I still need all these things to help me dream and to keep making the imagined ideas a tangible reality.
I may have never had a beginning dream to write, but contributing to Wild Goslings and being a part of the Story 101 community has re-awakened a passion for the healing power of the encouraging word. I pray these words help you dream bigger dreams, make them happen in reality, and give hope to another dreamer in need of breath.
For more on Wild Goslings, the book, click here.