As a young mother with our first little baby gazing at me with trusting eyes, I remember feeling overwhelmed with the thought of raising this child safely in this very scary world. How could I keep her safe from physical and emotional harm? What could I possibly do to ensure that she had a happy childhood and a socially secure and spiritually stable adolescence? So many strong, committed parents of older children had expressed their helpless feelings of horror as their children became involved in drugs, alcohol and early sexual experimentation long before they were aware of it. Statistics proved that the average amount of time children were involved in drugs and alcohol before their parents were aware of it was twenty three months! I worried about how I could possibly be constantly aware of the needs of this little child in a world that was full of cunning and crafty influences that devalued the principles I felt were most important and trampled on the ideals that I held dear.
Looking back now that our youngest child is in college, I realize that there is absolutely no guarantee for keeping a child safe from “the world”! BUT I also know that one thing that we did helped us to stay on top of what was going on in the lives of our nine children more than anything else. This was an idea that someone else suggested and for which I am so grateful: it started with a commitment Richard and I made to go on a date for dinner the first Friday of each month and have only one thing on our agenda…the kids. We called it “The Five Facet Review”. We would head for a restaurant with a little notebook in hand and as soon as we were seated we started our review of the current status of each child. We went through the five facets of their lives as we asked each other how was each doing Physically, Mentally, Socially, Emotionally and Spiritually?
For example, we would first say to each other, “How is Saren doing physically?” Often we would agree that she was fine. But one month, as we were discussing her physical needs, we realized that she may not be doing as well as she could in school as she was capable of because she may not be able to see the blackboard. She had mentioned in passing once that she couldn’t see something at home that she should have been able to see and it had passed by without notice. Sure enough with the help of a good optometrist, we may have dodged a bullet which may have caused her self-esteem to plummet as she bounced back after really floundering in school.
Sometimes we would get through all five facets of one child and really believe that he or she was doing well in all areas. Yet with the next child, we realized that there was a deep-seated shyness that needed our creative attention and another was caving into peer pressure and misbehaving in some way so we needed to figure out a plan to help. Another who had learning disabilities needed his dad to read with him twice a week so that he could really see what he could do to help him with his struggle.
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Now you may say that with nine children and five facets to discuss about each one that we must have had to go to a Chinese restaurant with fifteen courses to get through it all. Not really. When the meal was finished we had only two or three things written in our notebook that each of us had agreed to work on with different children and report back to each other the next month.
As the Mother, I learned things that I didn’t realize I knew as Richard questioned me and we reasoned together about what to do to work out a current problem. As a Dad, Richard learned a lot about what was going on while he was at work. It was a great time for him to be the problem solver and for us to exchange ideas and to really think about each child in detail. I think we caught problems that we would have missed which could have become bigger problems had we not been committed to talking about the five facets of each child each month. I must admit that we sometimes did our “reviews” in the car on trips rather than during dinners and there were months that we missed. But having that as a partnership tradition as we worked together to fill the needs of our children lent a special “glue” to our relationship.
So if you haven’t tried it before, the challenge this month is to have “A Five Facet Review” for your children, whether you have one or nine, whether your child is one or eighteen, whether you are married or single (if you are a single parent, do the review with a grandparent or friend who loves your child or children).
Even though we weren’t able to catch every problem, I think it helped more than anything we could have done to keep our kids as a first priority (next to each other) and to nip a lot of problems in the bud that could have easily gotten out of control. In hindsight, thinking back about gazing into that first new infant’s trusting eyes, I think that this monthly ritual has been an enormous safety net for our children. Good luck!