When you think back to your childhood days, does it make you feel warm and fuzzy inside?
For most of us, our childhood memories include fun, stress-free times and happy experiences that usually involved our family, our friends, school events and church functions.
Most of us were shielded from the ugly and heavy burdens of life, especially worldly and political ones. Our parents purposefully kept those sorts of things from us, and back then it was easier to do so. With no such thing as social media or 24-hour news outlets, we could be kids when ignorance truly was bliss. Unfortunately, parents today are reporting their genuine fears with regard to raising well-adjusted children during this time in our culture that feels toxic, anxious and out-of-control.
This got me thinking about this new generation of parents in an entirely different light.
I began wondering how we can maybe offer hope to these families whose fears are very real.
First, I feel we must validate and acknowledge these fears.
Yes, these are extraordinary times. Our children have access to the world through their fingertips on their phones or computers. Scarier still is who now has access to them.
It is very alarming to think about.
How can we help them truly enjoy and relish in this part of life without them parenting with fear as their guide and constant companion?
This topic is of such genuine concern for parents today that I wanted to pose this question on Facebook to see what kind of responses my Facebook friends might have to offer.
I posed my question like this:
“How can parents raise their children to be aware, knowledgeable of their surroundings and privy to the truths of this world WITHOUT making them fearful, untrusting worrywarts who are too afraid of the world to try and conquer it?
“How can we equip them with the proper tools at an early age, to face life’s problems and to handle the many situations and circumstances appropriately when we are scared to death to let them out of our sight?”
Here are a couple of my favorite responses:
This one is from my friend, Missy, who put it simply, “We can do this by living this way ourselves. We must lead by example. Children learn what we show them, not what we tell them. If we calmly address it, they will. If we calmly, but honestly, handle it, they will. If we freak out every time we cannot find them on life 360 for three minutes, then they will. The proper tool is teaching them the confidence and strength that we, ourselves, show them every day. Yes, there is bad out there, but we will not live our lives in fear. We will prepare for the worst…calmly…and then we will go and enjoy our lives!”
My American Ground Radio brother, Stephen Parr, made some insightful points as well and this was one of my favorite ones from him:
“Remember your job as a parent isn’t to raise carefree children. It’s to raise confident adults. What makes childhood great isn’t the stuff you have or even the activities you do. It’s the love you receive from your family. It’s about the way you demonstrate to your children that you love them. That’s what builds a quiet confidence within children that will give them the internal strength to conquer any challenges life throws their way.”
The rest of the comments were centered around trusting God and His plans for each of our lives. And, of course, teaching our children to do the same.
Some commented that we should never allow fear to be the guide of our lives, for that kind of example could be detrimental to our children. They would most likely grow up doing the same thing.
One parent duly noted that kids have access to far more information than we ever had at their age. In fact, they are light years ahead of us in so many ways. But…the bottom line is that they are still kids who simply need the adults in their lives to love and protect them.
There is a story within the chapters of the amazing autobiography, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, that sums up so beautifully what I feel our job is as parents in this world.
Corrie Ten Boom and her family were a deeply spiritual Dutch family who was very active in underground efforts to save Dutch Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland.
Corrie’s father, Casper Ten Boom, was a loving and respected man in their community. He was full of wisdom and had a great and innate love for people.
In this particular memory, Corrie recalls this moment between her and her father on a train ride when she was about 10 or 11 years old. Corrie recalled how she would oftentimes use trips home with her dad to bring up things that were troubling her. This particular time, she asked her father about a poem she had read at school. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” Feeling too shy to ask her teacher about this, she asked her mother only to have her mom blush and unable to respond to her question.
Her father’s response stayed with her forever and it actually greatly impacted my thinking as a parent. I hope it strikes you in the same way.
“And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, ‘Father, what is sexsin?’
“He turned, to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it back down on the floor.
“ ‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ he said.
“I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts that he had purchased that morning.
“ ‘It’s too heavy,’ I said.
“ ‘Yes’, he said. “ ‘And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now, you must trust me to carry it for you.
“And I was satisfied. More than satisfied…wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions. But for now, I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”
Although we are generations removed from that tragic time in our world history, one thing remains the same. As parents, we continue to protect our young from the burdens of the world that we live in. We willingly take on the heavy matters and adult issues until we feel they are old enough, mature enough and properly equipped to handle them. And that, in my opinion, is the right and fair thing to do.
We are ultimately the protectors of our children. We are their voice and we are their greatest advocates. We all strive to provide a safe place for them to live in, love in and explore in. Among our greatest wishes is for our children to forever look back upon their childhood days with the fondest of memories, along with sweet, carefree experiences.
If we stay on task and refuse to let fear be our guide, we can surely raise our children to be confident adults, who are excited about their promising future and their great purpose for this world.
Parenting can be really hard at times, especially during these times of great anxiety and division spilling from our news outlets. But the bottom line is that our children are our most valuable gifts from God and worth every bit of time, effort, and energy we pour into them. The reward is far greater than any outside stressors. You will discover this the very moment they arrive…when their first breath takes yours away.
The journey will be full of love, laughter, pain and tears…lessons, tests and great testimonies. The main ingredient for a good and wise parent is to simply…Keep it Real. 😉
Consistency ~ Consistency in discipline ~~ in love ~~ in the sharing of responsibilities ~~ and mostly in your Christ-like behavior, both in public and behind closed doors.
Trust ~ Trust God; the journey; your gut; and your ability to forgive yourself when you mess up…because you will. Learn to apologize for your mistakes to your children. This teaches humility and allows them to know that we don’t expect perfection. Perfection is unattainable.
Balance ~ Your time; Your efforts inside and outside of your home; Time with your spouse and children; T.V., phone and other hobbies that take your attention away from your family.
Pray ~ Pray for your family; your friends; your enemies; your leaders and those in control of the different facets of life. Pray every day for gratitude, guidance, for discernment, for knowledge and wisdom. And do so in front of your children. Allow them to see your trust in God and His plans for you and for your family.
Be involved ~ Be involved in every aspect of your child’s life. Stay involved even when your children don’t want you to be. You must remain vigilant in who and what has influence over your children’s lives and the decisions they are making in their lives.
Remain firm ~ Remain firm in the ways you already know are right and then continue to educate yourself along the way.
Last but not least, a few words of wisdom by my friend, Allen Hendrix.
He calls these his “best F-Words” for parents during this time in our world:
Faith ~ Parents have to live out a life of faith. It must be daily, not just on Sundays.
Family ~ We, as parents, must do everything we can to stay together. Even if not married, parents must do their best to show love and kindness towards each other, especially in front of the children. As parents, we have to be mindful to work hard at creating the best and most loving experience we can.
Fitness ~ Mental fitness, that is. We must demonstrate to our kids what it means to work smart. Hard work equals success. We also have to help our kids understand what it means to fail. We must lovingly lead our kids to understand that they can learn so much from losing from time to time.
Future ~ We cannot limit our kids’ ability to dream and plan for their OWN future. Sure, we can pave the way and give them the keys to open as many doors as they can. But we should be careful to not drive them down a road or open those doors for them. We have to let them figure it out as much as possible.