Being a kid is hard. Friends are tricky. School is tricky. Parents are tricky. And Church is tricky. No matter how you slice it, our kids face some really difficult choices, challenges, and changes. Considering that parents also face choices, challenges, and changes, it is safe to say that this is actually about life as much as it is about being a kid. What this means is the way you train your children to handle life at their age, the better they will be able to handle it when they are adults. If that is the case, then at least some of the things that I do as an adult facing massive challenges, will help my kids, if I can translate it down to their level.
So when I face problems, here is what I typically do.
One: I worship
Worship is about God. It is about telling Him that He is worthy and responding to His worth. A by-product of which is that I am reminded that He is big and I am not. In other words, when I worship, I am reminded about the proper order of things; God first, me second. I have often found that when my faith is failing and I am in danger of becoming overwhelmed, that just standing in worship at church draws me out of myself. There are no problems that God can’t snap His fingers to fix, which means that if He isn’t snapping His fingers, then I must be in the middle of a life lesson. I may not like that, but I know God is a good Father and will turn even evil for my good and the sake of His Kingdom.
If we teach our children to worship when they are overwhelmed, they will learn to face life with proper priorities and perspective.
That being said, worship might be a bit abstract for our kids so what you might want to do, is just let them know that before you tackle this problem together that you want to play some worship music and just quiet your hearts. Or that you first want to write down five things that you are thankful for.
Two: I rehearse Truth
I tend to become overwhelmed with my own thoughts from time to time. I don’t mean emotions, I mean just pure thoughts. Questions without answers. Skepticism towards some of the remarkable claims of Christianity. I border on doubt from time to time and I find this very disconcerting.
In these moments, I have taught myself to rehearse what I know to be True. I remind myself that I can know Truth; why and how. Then I remind myself that there is a God. From there I rehearse how I know that Yahweh of the Bible is the One True God. Finally, I run over the evidence I have for the reliability of the Scriptures. Part of the evidence I have at hand are the times when I have had deeply spiritual experiences.
Now, this may sound a bit neurotic, but for someone who is a thinker, I need a systematic way to order my thinking. The problem is that our children have never been taught how to think. This is why we need books like Keeping Your Kids On God’s Side, by Natasha Crain, the Case for Christ/Faith/Creator for Kids books by Lee Strobel, and my new favourite Cold-Case Christianity for Kids by J. Warner and Susie Wallace, to help our children understand the reasonableness of Christianity before they face a crisis of faith.
When we have rehearsed Truth and have been taught to think carefully and critically, our emotions are less likely to rule our lives. There will always be highly emotional times when we need to meet our kids in their pain and when using logic isn’t appropriate, but I believe that some of those emotional situations might be less severe if they have started developing a capacity for proper thinking.
Three: I remember God’s goodness
There is tremendous power in remembering. The nation of Israel was instructed time and time again to remember what God had done for them. (Psalm 78 is a good example of the power of remembering and the danger of forgetting.) This was partly appropriate in ancient times when the vast majority of people were illiterate, but there is more going on than just that in God’s command to remember and repeat to our children.
When we read we are using the left side of our brain which is significantly slower and less powerful than the right side of our brain. When we remember good times in detail with our children we are strengthening the right of their brain for times of crisis. What I mean is that we can read about the stories where God was faithful to the people of Israel (and we should!) but if our kids have memories where they experienced God’s goodness, those experiences will be very powerful.
What we need to do as parents, is help our kids to identify times when God has felt close, or spoke to us, or revealed something to us, when things are going good so that when things are tanking hard, they have access to a “library” of good memories to draw on. It is next near impossible to remember good times when we are overwhelmed with big emotions and challenges, but if have rehearsed those stories with our children before they get into the thick of it, they are more likely to recall them and that will help pull them out of their misery.
The goal of helping our kids keep a big picture of God when facing problems is to make Him big before the boat crashes! If we do some work today, the choices, challenges, and changes they face tomorrow will all be in perspective.
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