When Our Kids Struggle
Childhood is full of new ideas, feelings, emotions, places, and people. And while this big, God-created world is beautiful, it can also feel overwhelming for our kids. We know one of the reasons children require so much sleep is because their brains need time and space to process all the things they are taking in.
It is exhausting being a kid for a number of reasons.
So what do we do when our kids struggle in this world? What do we do when we have kids who are sick and we can’t figure out why? What do we do when our kids’ emotions seem uncontrollable? When our children struggle at school? When our families fall apart and our kids are hurting?
There’s an internet meme I see often that reads “That horrifying moment where you’re looking for an adult but then you realize you ARE an adult. So you look for an older adult, someone successfully adulting. An adultier adult,”
But what if that’s you? What if you’re the adult and you seem so unprepared? First of all, welcome to the club. Second of all, this:
Find a community.
Isolation comes in many, many forms, but believing your struggling kid is somehow different than everyone else’s can feel crushing. But it is also untrue; we are all made in His image and He created each of us with a purpose and a fierce love. Our children are not accidents.
Do you feel overwhelmed with the toddler years? Find a mom’s group like MOPS. Do you feel worn down by a child with high needs? Places like Access Ministries can feel like coming home. Joining a small group with people in your same stage of life can be a safe, healthy place to talk about kid struggles and feel supported. We all struggle. Please do not do it alone.
Help kids with their emotions.
Quick check: how many times have you told one of your kids to calm down because they are overreacting to something? Has it actually ever worked? Huh, me neither. Maybe that is the wrong time to work on emotional health, when my kid is in the midst of an irrational breakdown.
How do we teach patience, love, kindness, grace, compassion, and helpfulness to our kids? First by our actions. Asking my kids to behave in a way they never see me behave will not work. Second, we do it in small doses when it is easy. Allowing our kids tiny successes and opportunities to practice the Godly virtues we want them to model means they will be more likely to do them when bigger stuff comes along. But really, the best way to show our kids how to handle big feelings is by showing them how we handle big feelings. They are watching. Our actions always speak louder than our words.
Communicate in age-appropriate ways.
As adults, we have to be careful about what we give our kids. Too much sugar, too much TV, and too many adult problems are not good for them. One way we can help our children struggle less is to make sure we are not giving them adult issues too soon. Providing a safe, loving environment for our kids to ask scary questions is always encouraged, but our children don’t need all the information you have on every topic or struggle. Our job as parents is to protect our children’s hearts and sometimes that means not sharing things with them. Sometimes that means letting them guide the conversation. Sometimes that means answering that something isn’t for them to know right now.
Remember you’re the parent, not the friend. Communicating in healthy ways can lovingly guide and correct our children. It can also set up a good foundation so when big stuff comes up, our kids will be more likely to share it with us.
Allow safe adults to love your kids.
Sometimes, especially as our kids get older, they do not want to engage with us as much. This is, more than likely, just for a season, but we can prepare for it ahead of time by encouraging our kids to get involved with clubs, sports, and student ministries so when they decide you are no longer cool, they will have other Godly, wise adults to turn to. The teenage years can be tough for a lot of kids, setting our kids up for success by building them a community of adults who love them can make the transition easier.
The volunteers and staff members who work with our children’s ministry programs are great places to start if you want to begin growing safe adult relationships. Showing up regularly for life groups, Sunday school, or Bible Bowl are great foundations to build on.
As parents, we do the best we can for our children. But this side of heaven, we cannot be perfect; we all bring our own struggles and baggage into our parenting whether we choose to or not. And sometimes, sometimes we just need help. Sometimes we just do not know all the answers. One way to support our struggling kids is to set them up with a Godly counselor, someone who is trained and equipped to handle the minds and hearts of kids.
Many of us know adults who struggle with depression or anxiety and for many people, those things started in childhood. If we can acknowledge our kids might be struggling, refuse to blame ourselves for it, and then speak up for their mental health by giving them tools to handle these heavy parts, we can equip them with the skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Prayer always and forever, amen.
Nothing brings me to my knees faster than parenting my children. Often when we feel lost as parents, we need to go to our Father who cares for our children in ways we cannot even fathom. Prayer is a powerful game-changer, a way to cry out for help and peace even in the midst of troublesome times.
Some verses to pray over our children:
Joshua 1:9, The Message
Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.
Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Romans 15:13, The Message
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace; so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Can we all agree that raising kids is hard? Amen and amen.
Maybe your kids are not struggling right now. But they will sometime in the future. Maybe your kids are feeling too much, struggling too much, hurting too much, and it is breaking your heart. Wherever you are at right now, we need you speaking up for your kids, sharing your heartache or knowledge, and living boldly in a community that can support you and your family in whatever season you are in. We are in this together; they are all our kids; they are all God’s kids. Let’s love and support them well.