Quiet moments can give kids space to share their feelings

This is not an original idea; it is just a reminder. Nearly every parenting lecture I have attended has stressed the importance of listening. Entire books present the how-to's and essentials of listening skills.

With my sons Jacob and Avi, listening over all the noise of 10- and 8-year-old boys can be a challenge. However, in the quieter moments, the innocent questions my children ask and the thoughtful statements they sometimes make, are well worth hearing.

So we must create the time for quiet — no television, no video games, no music — just quiet. Then the sound of our children's voices may emerge. Instead of my asking them so many questions, I instead try to let their voices fill the silent spaces. What is on their minds and in their hearts is occasionally humorous, sometimes challenging and often insightful.

Yes, we often listen to the radio while driving to school, soccer, Hebrew school or Bubbe's house. Yet in the quiet of the car one day, after driving past a church and synagogue located across the street from each other, Avi asked, "If God is everywhere, can I pray in a church?"

If there hadn't been silence prior to that question, there was brief silence after hearing a question I had never considered. And so we pondered the answer together.

Then there was the time, upon entering a sukkah, Avi looked up into the quiet night sky and exclaimed, "I can see God, Mama!" I looked into his eyes and I, too, could see God.

During a walk with the boys one afternoon, we passed a dead bird. "Should we say Kaddish?" they wondered. "Yes, we could do that," I replied. So we recited Kaddish, I not knowing if it was truly the right thing to do, and they knowing in their hearts that it was right.

Another day as I prepared Shabbat dinner, Avi sat at the kitchen table doing his homework — or so I thought. Out of the clear blue, Avi exclaimed, "I know why my favorite color is green." I thought he was going to say it's because of his green eyes. Instead he continued, "Because green is a Jewish color. Blue is a color on the Israeli flag and yellow comes from the light of the Shabbat and Chanukah candles. Blue and yellow make green!"

Now, who can argue with that kind of logic?

It's not always easy to make time to quietly listen to my children. But I am always glad when I do. I urge you to do the same. Where else could you have learned that green is Jewish color?