I'm hopefully not just talking about little kids today but adult children as well. No kids at all? Well, maybe this concept will change the way you think about random kids you interact with.
I used to love playing the game "The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." The idea that we're all easily connected if we think about our friendships. I often discovered that I was far less than six people away from others. Today though, I'm interested in the first degree of my child. The people that they interact with and enjoy having around.
My primary thought when interacting with children that are not my primary responsibility is that for that small moment, I'm their mom. Not meaning I take the place of their parent, but I offer them love as if they belong to my clan. I know it's easy to be irritated by small children and just want them to go away. It's also relatively easy to be kind and generous. I listen and engage in conversation. For the time we are together, I become a student of them, discovering who they are and what makes them unique.
When I interact with them, I am not, however, affectionate. You may find that strange that to not give a hug or a touch on the shoulder. I try not to initiate physical contact with a young child. I take their lead on those things. I'm sure all of us have stories of some great aunt that would hug and smooch us until we just wanted to be any where else. Don't be that auntie. I'm also sure that even if we don't want to believe it that some young children have been physically and sexually abused and haven't come to terms with those things and our unrequested physical touch can cause unwanted results. So, unless a child asks me for a hug, I don't go passing them out. High fives are my go to greeting. Special hand shakes also work as well as silly nicknames. This is a general rule of thumb across the ages for me.
Speaking of silly nicknames, it's best not to taunt or pick on children. I know we used to be tough and could handle things like name calling, but it's never been good for moral. When coming up with silly nicknames, go for accentuating the positive or unrelated. Think about Bambi, what was the skunks nickname? That's right, Flower. Imagine what a terror the skunk would have been if his nickname was The Stinkinator. Be kind.
You know who gets the most visits in the neighborhood? The one with the best snacks. Even if that person doesn't have any kids. Keep a stash of chocolate bars on the coffee table and see how often the kids end up in your living room. I know there's a genre of food called kids' food. Don't feel like you have to serve that stuff. Good food is good food. This goes for youth and adults. Granted, adult children are more likely to want actual meals, but I can guarantee, a platter of tasty finger foods will help them linger where they would normally only pause.
One of the amazing things about caring for your children's friends is that not only are you saying I love you to them, but to your child as well. When you accept them without reservations, you're welcoming the choices that your child has made. When you don't judge them, you're providing a safe haven, even if just for a moment. Our jobs as Christians is not to determine who's worthy of our love, the answer to that is everyone. Our job is to love as much as we can. We're never going to run out of it. It's in endless supply. Loving our children's friends only increases our love for our child because it gives us more understanding and appreciation for them as well.
I'm not saying you need to have your home open every weekend to a constant in and out of people. What I am saying is whoever is right there in front of you, that's a divine appointment. You've got the opportunity to pour love into that person, don't worry, just pour.