THE OTHER PERSON YOUR CHILD NEEDS
Posted by Sherry Surratt
We’re miles apart connected through cell phones, but the smile I feel in her voice sinks into my bones. With me, through moves across the country, career changes, moments when I was feeling sorry for myself, and times I needed to celebrate, Sibyl always had the words that hit the spot. She’s never shied away from saying what was hard (she once told me to get off my butt and get started). But her words mattered because they were spoken from someone who knew me and loved me.
We know as adults we need these voices in our lives, but there’s someone who needs them even more: your child.
Wait a minute, your child has you, right? You’re the awesome parent who loves them more than anyone else in the world.
Exactly. You see your child through parent eyes, filled with hope and an achingly deep love that wants them to always try their best, always step into that next opportunity, always get that A, because you know they can do it. You were there the moment they made their grand entrance. You’re the one with the naked baby butt stories they beg you not to tell.
No way can an outside voice ever take your place, but they can fill a different seat at the table that you can’t.
Let’s face it. Somewhere between Lululemon and man buns, you’ve lost your coolness (okay, you haven’t lost it, you just can’t find it at the moment). You’re still essential, but now, there’s more your child needs. They need an additional, I-know-what-you’re-feeling voice. Here’s why:
They need a listening ear that’s not you, because sometimes it’s about you. Geesh, I don’t want my child talking to someone else about me! Actually, you do. Remember that time you made your daughter march back to her room (okay, she stomped) because the shorts she had on didn’t cover the essentials? She felt like you had ruined her life. When she talks to her friends about it, they’re on her side, which isn’t always helpful. When she talks to another wise adult she trusts, they can help with the why behind the what and help her see you’re on her side too. Which is incredibly helpful.
They need someone to sit with them at ground zero. As parents, we want to get them past what hurts and help lift their eyes to tomorrow. But when something hurts, it hurts today. Your child needs someone to talk to that remembers what it feels like to sit at the lunch table alone, left out of the Friday night party, or dumped by their best friend. As parents, it’s tempting to talk them out of feeling sad. It’s okay, there are lots of other parties. But often, they are not ready for this conversation yet. This is where an outside person can “sit in it” with them and help them process their feelings, giving them time for perspective to seep in.
Some things are too itchy for a parent’s ears. We want our kids to talk to us about the hard stuff. Pornography, sexting, what their best friend got arrested for last night, that decision they made that turned out to be a terrible one. But this is where an outside person can be extremely valuable. They can listen without freaking out, bring some wise words and help your child see why they do need to share it with you. A wise outside voice they trust who also reinforces your family relationship and your family values is like gold, and it keeps your child from feeling isolated with things that feel too big to talk about.
If your child already has someone they can talk to that you trust, like a teacher, coach, small group leader, mentor, let your child know you’re okay with it. Be supportive of their conversations, letting them know they can share what they talk about, but don’t force it. And honor the relationship by allowing time for it.
But what if your child doesn’t have an outside voice?
Ask a leader in your church or at their school if there are any young adults they know well who may already be volunteering and would be willing to mentor or be a big brother or sister. Relationship is key here, so make sure it’s someone your kid can connect with.
If your church has small groups for children and students, encourage your child to join. Remember, that other voice doesn’t always have to be one on one. Sitting in a group of kids the same age with a great leader can be an incredible start.
Wherever you find the other person your child needs, get to know them, invite them to have coffee, and thank them for investing in your child.
About the Author:
Sherry Surratt is the Executive Director of Parent Strategy for Orange. She is the author of several books including Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears, and Just Lead! A No Whining, No Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church. A shoe freak and coffee lover, Sherry resides in Denver, Co with her husband Geoff who is Pastor of Church Planting at Southeast Christian. She has two grown children and two incredibly gorgeous granddaughters.
How to Respond When Your Child Asks You Questions You Can’t Answer
by Carey Nieuwhof
So your kid comes up to you and asks, “Dad, how do we know there’s a God?”
And you . . . freeze.
You say something like “Because I believe there’s a God,” or “We just know,” or “Because there is,” or “Because the Bible says God exists.”
Then your kid does what every kid does: he asks you another question.
A tough one. Like Why?
The little-kid routine of asking why seventeen times in a row can really expose how little you know as an adult.
Then, in your mind, you fast forward a couple of years, and your middle-schooler is asking about dinosaurs, the Big Bang, and Confucius, and you start to have a nervous breakdown.
So, how do you respond?
Here are five principles that have helped me navigate faith and questions not only from my kids but also from my experience as a pastor of a local church:
1. Don’t assume curiosity is skepticism.
One of the impulses every Christian parent feels is that questions automatically lead to disbelief.
No, they don’t. Not automatically.
Actually, great questions can lead to deeper belief.
But it’s just way too easy to assume that curiosity is skepticism.
Curiosity is not skepticism. It’s curiosity.
2. Don’t dismiss the question with trite answers.
One of the worst things you can do is answer any faith question with a simplistic answer like, “Well, we just have to believe,” or “Because it’s true.”
I’ve done that before. Not helpful.
Your eight-year-old suspects two things when you answer that way:
Christianity doesn’t stand up to questions or advanced thinking.
There are actually no answers to his question.
Both are mistakes.
3. Don’t over-answer the question.
An equally bad response is to show up the next day with a dozen theology textbooks and a scheduled Skype interview with one of the world’s foremost Old Testament professors.
That’s a bit of overkill for your eight-year-old or even your teenager.
So, what should you do?
Answer the question at the level the questioner is asking it.
Your daughter may just want to know that you believe, and an honest, “You know honey, there are a lot of reasons to believe in God—I’ve experienced Him myself, personally…and that’s one of the reasons I believe,” might be a great response.
Your daughter might just say, “Thanks.” Or she might ask another question, which you could then answer.
In the teen years, you might do a Bible or book study together.
Don’t under-answer a question, or over-answer it.
4. Don’t assume answers will satisfy the questioner.
I have a seminary degree. And a law degree. I can research things half decently. And I’m an okay preacher.
I’ve done sermons where I have researched my head off and preached my heart out on the subject of why a good God allows bad things to happen, only to have someone ask me a few days later “So…why do you think God allows bad things to happen?”
In those moments, I want to scream.
But those moments teach me something.
Often, people aren’t actually looking for an intellectual answer.
Instead, their question is coming out of their personal story.
So, flip the conversation. Question the questioner as Ravi Zacharias says.
Ask them why they ask.
The person asking the question might tell you his wife is sick and they can’t find a cure.
Or your third-grader son might say, “I want to know why that one kid in our class gets picked on all the time.”
Then go have a conversation about that.
5. Make your home a great place to raise doubts.
Remember that your kids will eventually have doubts.
Because you do. Because I do. Because we all do.
Faith is not the absence of doubts. It’s the presence of belief in the midst of doubt.
In her research, Dr. Kara Powell has discovered that the biggest reason kids, who grew up in the church, leave the church is not doubt. It’s unexpressed doubt.
If you make your home a place where questions aren’t welcome, your kids are going to take their questions elsewhere.
And where will they take them? Probably to a place that won’t give them the answers you’re hoping for.
So, decide ahead of time as a parent that you won’t freak out when your kid questions you and questions God. Or your teenager tells you that Christianity isn’t different than any other religion.
Thank them for the question. Explore it with them. Ask them questions. And reach out to a wider circle of influence that can help them process what they’re going through.
Make your home a safe place where doubts can be expressed. You just might foster belief as a result.
Those are five things that have helped me navigate the tension every parent and every church leader feels.
What’s helped you? Let us know in the comments below!
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.
Four Words To Help Grow Your Family This Year
by Greg Payne
It’s January. It’s a time when we change the calendar and see that another 12 months have passed and think we should do the things we said we’d do the last time we changed the calendar. I know, because last January that’s what I did.
Where I work there’s this gym. Every time I park my car I see people going into the gym where I assumed they work out and get in better shape. I went into my office and sat down. Sometimes I could see them out the window. I thought if I joined THOSE people I’d have to make a huge lifestyle change. Last year a friend invited me to make a little change. Keyword there – LITTLE. He told me that if I would just go into that gym and move for 20 minutes, three times a week, it would change my life. I thought it would take hours a day, but my friend was a marine so I listened.
The first few months, I made every excuse to not invest those minutes. But I went. It was a little change in my life. I had 20 minutes three times a week. After half the calendar pages were turned it got easier. It became a habit. I started to … ahem … enjoy it.
Now I’ve changed my calendar, and I’m in a better place than I was last year at this time. Because of a little change to my schedule I’m feeling better physically. I’m able to do more things without the aches and pains of what I used to blame on growing older. Some big changes happened in my life because of a consistent LITTLE change.
In this episode of the Parent Cue Live podcast, we want to help parents think about being a spiritual leader in their home. It sounds like a huge change. It sounds overwhelming. It sounds like it will take a lot of time. I don’t know any parent who feels like they’re really an expert at it. We all feel like we’d have to rearrange our entire life to make any difference in our kid’s lives. The truth is, little changes over time make a huge difference. It may take a little change.
You can use four little words – Hear, Pray, Talk, Live – to help you make a little change that has huge results in your family.
Little changes this year– a prayer, reading a story, specific time set aside to talk, and committing to a regular time to worship… Any of these will make a huge difference for you and your family before you change your calendar again.
About the Author:
Greg Payne is a creative writer, video producer, and performer for Orange and 252 Basics. He has been married for 21 years. He has two daughters, a grill, a motorcycle, and a strange sense of humor. His dog loves anything from the grill. His daughters like his motorcycle. His wife tolerates his sense of humor with grace and mercy.