Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kindness - The Third Key

Kindness is a virtue often underrated, but when it comes to intergenerational relationships, this third key is one of the most important. Kindness builds warmth and affection, and expresses our love. With imagination and love, we can find so many ways to be kind when it comes to our adult children!

Sometimes it's little things: inviting them over for a meal, or offering child care so they can have a day or an evening out, or it might be an affirming note or phone call, even a gift – something as small as a favorite candy bar or magazine can be a kind gesture that speaks of your love.

Other times kindness is more costly or significant: listening carefully, sympathetically, without offering answers (this one is always hard for me!)

Kindness can be speaking well of, and being considerate of your child's in-laws, her “other family.” Kindness might mean graciously accepting your child's decision to do something different for a holiday, even if it means they won't be home with you.

Sometimes kindness is more about what we don't do. Some problems can't be solved – illness or loss – but they can be eased by the kindness of allowing your child and her family space and time, without hovering, trying to “fix” things. Kindness may mean we listen sensitively or simply spend time together without bringing up painful subjects.

Remember that hospitality is not just for holidays! Kindness is often expressed when we create opportunities for friendship in our family. It is important for us to adapt old family traditions to our new reality of married children, in-laws, grandchildren, and give everyone opportunities to spend time together in a relaxed, loving setting.

When it comes to special occasions or the holidays, be kind: relieve stress for your family. Remember that an invitation is not a command performance. Explain to your family that if it REALLY matters to you for them to come to an event or do something, you'll tell them so they don't have to wonder!Even then, if they can't come, or choose not to come, kindness keeps us from complaining or nagging.

Hospitality is often as much a matter of the heart as it is what we cook or serve. Inviting her over spontaneously for coffee, sharing everyday activities, making a meal together to share, staying in touch with pleasant news and ideas and not just problems and complaints – these can all be everyday ways of showing kindness.

Does your child enjoy it if you just drop by? Be sensitive to this, and if she does, then drop by, either in person or by phone, or note, or e-mail. If she prefers you call first, then call first!

Kindness really involves a giving of yourself, or a giving up of something that matters to you for the sake of the other. A pattern of kindness sets the stage for a good relationship, and helps heal a damaged one.

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