By Whitney Hopler
Your kids discover every day how much life can hurt. Maybe they’re excluded from a party or betrayed by a friend. Perhaps they got bad grades in school despite hard work, or didn’t make the sports team or band group for which they’d tried out. No matter how much you want to try to protect your kids from life’s blows, it’s impossible to do so in our fallen world. But if you choose to trust God to help your kids, and if you teach your kids to trust God, too, then your kids can overcome any disappointment or crisis they encounter.
Here’s how you can help your kids when they’re hurting:
See problems as opportunities. Rather than looking at your kids’ problems as something to try to avoid, recognize that problems are actually great opportunities for them to learn how much they need God’s love and power in their lives. Teach your kids to face their problems instead of trying to run from them.
Deal with disappointment. When your kids encounter disappointment, give them unconditional love so they know that their worth as people isn’t connected to their performance. Try to identify the reason for their disappointment and help them evaluate the situation to learn from it. Choose to think positive thoughts and speak positive words about the people who have disappointed your kids. Plan ways for your kids to improve their skills (tutoring, extra sports or music practices, concentrating on a character issue, etc.) so they’ll be better prepared to try again. Urge them not to give up.
Evaluate words that hurt. Help your kids process words that are harsh, judgmental, or critical through a series of questions. Consider who spoke the words and whether or not that person has your son or daughter’s best interests at heart. Ask what the person’s character is like and whether or not the person was under stress when he or she spoke the unkind words. Consider why the person might say those words. Finally, ask how the words line up with biblical truth and how Jesus would likely respond to them. When you respond, guard your thoughts and words to avoid sin and stay positive. Rely on God’s help to forgive the people who have hurt or wronged you. Use their comments to shed new light on your life and improve it however you can.
Overcome fear. Let your kids know that it’s always okay for them to express their fear in any situation. Encourage them to be open and honest about it. Have an action plan figured out for situations that make them feel afraid. Urge your kids to move past their fear and do something they’re afraid of anyway. Then, once they do take the risk, don’t rescue them in the middle of the challenge. Give them plenty of affirming words (like “I’m proud of you!”). Pray with them and teach them that God is much bigger than anything that scares them.
Manage anger. Create a safe environment where your kids can safely express their anger, and let them know that you value their thoughts and feelings. Ask them questions to help them evaluate the situations that make them angry. Show your kids how to submit their own wills daily to God and trust Him to do what’s best for them.
Invest in their strengths. Identify your kids’ core talents and give them opportunities to develop and use those strengths to the fullest. Urge them to compare themselves only to themselves – not to others – and keep trying to do their best.