Posted by Brooklyn Lindsey
Imagine a parent of a child you know approaching you.
“Can (insert their child’s name) and I speak with you and (insert your child’s name) privately for a minute?”
Maybe this kind of “confrontational” conversation raises your blood pressure? I know it raises mine.
Thoughts spiral and I become anxious:
“What did my child do?”
“How will it affect them?”
“How will it affect me?”
But what if situations like this are the perfect opportunity for us to give something very valuable to our children?
What if the temporary discomfort of having a friendship conversation could lead to a lifelong ability to navigate relationships in a healthy way?
Instead of simply mediating conflict, or avoiding it, we have a chance to coach our kids in lessons of love.
My daughter Mya is all about “friendship benches”—she wrote about it in Kindergarten. She thinks every place should have one. It’s somewhere you can feel “chunterbole” (comfortable) and you don’t have to worry. There’s even a “sign on it so you know it’s there.”
As a parent, you have the opportunity to help your kids sort out their friendships by offering this kind of place where their feelings can be felt and shared. You can be a friendship coach.
So, how do you coach someone you love when they have been hurt or have hurt someone else? What do you say when there is a recurring issue that doesn’t seem to have a solution or resolve? What do you do when the “thing” that happens keeps happening?
The temptation is to remove your child from the situation.
If instead, you coach your child through the situation, they will learn how to navigate through difficult relational experiences and develop lasting friendships.
If we were looking at a map made by pirates (don’t we always?) you would see on the margins phrases like, “Here Be Dragons!” describing the places outside an intended route. It’s a place outside of the comfort zone, the place where danger waits.
Our kids are going to face some friendship dragons, but there’s nothing outside of the comfort zone that you can’t walk through together. You know they’re there, you can avoid them sometimes, but there’s also a way through it if you end up there. You have a developmental map that they don’t have yet and as a parent, you can help them navigate.
Here are a few ways to be a great friendship coach to your kids.
Depending on the phase your child is in, these ideas can become simpler or more complex.
Coach your kid to . . .
Let the relational bumps in the road be times and places for your child to grow the ability to love others as they love themselves. It will take time, intentionality, patience, and probably more coffee than you can make in one pot.
But one day, you might wake up to a child telling you that they are working through something with a friend and they have navigated to a place of healing and truth.
And that, my friends, is the win.
About the Author:
Brooklyn has been a youth pastor since 2001. She has authored numerous books and projects and is a youth pastor at Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, her first priority. Second, she is a speaker who loves teaching from the Bible and leading people to live in response to God’s love. Brooklyn, while named after a city in New York, lives in the sunshine state with her husband, Coy, and their sweet girls, Kirra and Mya.
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT TRAGEDY
Posted by Carey Nieuwho
The news is heartbreaking enough to take in as a parent. Terrorist attacks. Mass killings. Planes blowing up. Beheadings. I know…please just stop right there.
Add to that the political chaos that seems to dominate the headlines, climate change, job losses and more. It’s just too much to take some days, even for us adults.
So as a parent, how do you even begin to engage these topics with your kids?
Well, for starters, you can try to shield them, and that will work for a while. But shielding a child from life won’t actually prepare a child for life. Eventually (far sooner than you’d like, probably), they’ll begin to awaken to the reality of the world around them. You can’t shield them forever. Eventually, they’ll leave home. And long before that, they’ll get a phone, an iPod or an iPad. It’s the world at their fingertips.
Then what do you do? How do you answer their questions?
Here are a few best practices I’ve seen and some guidelines that have helped me.
1. AVOID SIMPLISTIC OR UNREALISTIC ANSWERS.
I know, I know . . . of course you realize simplistic or unrealistic answers are unhelpful. But if that’s true, why do you and I give them so often?
It’s easy to say things like “everything’s going to be okay,” or “don’t worry, God won’t let that happen to us,” or “never mind, that’s not important.”
Wishful thinking isn’t helpful thinking. Kids believe what you say, at least until they learn not to.
I’ve talked to too many adults who still struggle spiritually because when they were little and they lost their mom, someone told them that “God must have needed your mom more than you did.” Talk about how to wreck a kid’s headspace. . . and heartspace.
That’s a simple answer, but it’s not a true answer.
If you don’t know what to say . . . just say you don’t know what to say.
Related: The Face of Grief
2. EMPATHIZE WITH THE STORY AND YOUR KID.
The news actually is heartbreaking. It’s actually okay to come alongside your child’s emotion and say something like,“That actually is heartbreaking. I’m very sad about that.” Or “Yes, that’s scary. Sometimes grown ups get scared too.”
If you’re engaging a teenager, you can be appropriately honest. Telling your child you don’t like the political situation either is actually okay.
Validating an emotion is the first step toward dealing with an emotion. Even if you can’t change the emotion, which you can’t. Or shouldn’t. Terror and death should never become normal.
3. TALK ABOUT A HOPE THAT GOES FAR BEYOND YOUR CIRCUMSTANCE.
Being truthful and expressing empathy is no a reason to leave your kid without hope, though.
Just because you see life for what it really is doesn’t mean you can’t also see God for who He really is.
The truth is, we have a God who is bigger than cruelty, who is bigger than terror, who is more powerful than any politician, and who is writing a bigger story. And—here’s the amazing part--we know how to story turns out. We’ve read to the end: good wins and God wins.
The thrust of scripture (which is frighteningly realistic about human nature and human history) points us again and again to this truth—we have a great big God we can trust no matter what. As in no matter what.
So why do we stop trusting? Why do we get too scared, disoriented or numb to give our kids hope that’s anchored in truth?
Too often what you and I look for in the news and in our personal lives is evidence . . .
that our circumstances are going to improve.
that we’ll be safe.
that none of this will happen to us or the people we love.
that we’ll find a job, or won’t get sick, or have even a little more money.
But the God of scripture isn’t a vending machine. Prayer isn’t a button to be pushed. It’s a relationship to be pursued.
Even more than that, our hope isn’t in our circumstances. It’s in God.
Our hope isn’t in our circumstances. It’s in God.
And God is bigger than our circumstances and he’s better than our circumstances.
If somehow we can convey the essence of truths like this to ourselves in times like these and ultimately to our kids, we’ll have reasons to believe when everyone else has stopped believing and reason to hope when everyone else has stopped hoping.
And when you watch the news (and shudder), you’ll be able to point to a hope that no human can ever destroy or threaten.
That’s something worth talking about. And that’s something worth sharing with the next generation.
About the Author:
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his latest book, "Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow." Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.