Parenting Through the Tough Questions

** The following article was copied from www.desiringgod.org.

The other day, our family was out for an evening stroll along our usual route. We went down the sidewalk from our home, past a few shops, across a street, and over to the local college.

On our return, we walked past the large cemetery next to our neighborhood, where a couple of men were preparing a gravesite. As we walked by, my 5-year-old son asked one of those questions parents often dread: “Dad, what are they doing?”

What should I do? Was he too young to hear the truth? I could shrug the question off — perhaps by redirecting his attention to the sunset or a passing car. But I decided that my inquisitive little guy deserved an answer.

Gospel at the Graveyard

I stopped and sat on the cemetery wall, stood him in front of me, and began my best attempt at an explanation: “Buddy, at the end of each person’s life, they die. When someone dies, they put the person’s body in a box, they dig a hole in the ground, and they put the box inside the hole.”

He responded, “Do we have clothes on when we go inside the box?”

I said, “Well, they put clothes on the person’s body when they put them in the box. . . . Did you know that Jesus died? They put his body in the ground, but three days later he came out of the ground because God raised him back to life. If we believe in Jesus, we will go to be with Jesus when we die. And one day, when Jesus comes back, our bodies will come out of those holes all brand new, and we will live with Jesus forever and never die again.”

“I hope I still get to wear my clothes. And I’m going to keep my eyes open inside that box.”

“Okay, buddy.”

Patterns of Honesty

Obviously, my son was pretty lost on the whole dying-and-being-buried thing. But I was trying to establish an important precedent with him. When he comes to me with honest questions, I am going to give him honest answers. He may not fully understand the answer, and I may fumble through an awkward reply, but one thing is certain: I’m not going to ignore his earnest inquiries.

“When my son comes to me with honest questions, I want to give him honest answers.”

My hope is that the patterns of communication my wife and I are establishing early on with our children will continue to equip us as parents. With God’s help, each question we choose not to punt on gives us more wisdom to handle the next. If I feed my kids little falsehoods now, thinking, “They’re too young for the truth,” I’m not only hindering their growth in wisdom and stature, but also my own. They may be too young for certain details, but there’s a way to lovingly answer their specific question truthfully. If I can’t give my 5-year-old the truth, what makes me think I’ll be ready to do it when he’s fifteen?

These years — when the kids are young and the questions are of little consequence — are practice for later. Right now, we’re learning to field basic queries like “Is Santa real?” or “How big is God?” But one day the questions might become “My best friend just told me he’s gay — what should I do?” or “Why would a good God let them die like that?” As we step up to the plate now, while they’re young, we trust that God will teach us how to handle the questions that will be more difficult to answer later.

Children will satisfy their curiosity one way or another. If we do not give them the truth, they will find it elsewhere. Establishing an early pattern of open communication will hopefully help to avoid heartache later on. No parent wants to discover too late that their kids have been going online, to their peers, or to even worse places with questions they don’t trust us to answer to their satisfaction.

On top of all this, it’s important that we treat our kids according to their God-given dignity. They are little people made in the image of God. They deserve the truth.

Every Conversation Captive

My son’s question, which threw me off guard at first, turned out to be a great doorway for the gospel. That evening in front of the cemetery, I could have shuffled the family along, avoided the topic, and given some vague answer like, “They’re just digging a hole.” But when your child asks you pointedly about a graveyard, is it really to his benefit to avoid the issue of death altogether?

“If I can’t give my 5-year-old the truth, what makes me think I’ll be ready to do it when he’s fifteen?”

Surely God envisioned these exact conversations when he commanded us, “You shall teach [these words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). At the breakfast table, on the summer walk, and from the bedtime pillow, our children probe us for the truth spurred on by their own curiosity about the world around them. These are the perfect times to teach our kids about God and his gospel.

Be on the lookout. Many of our children’s toughest or most embarrassing questions can turn out to be perfect opportunities to talk about the good news of Jesus. Take those conversations captive. Sit and talk intentionally and honestly with your children. Are we going to bumble through our answers, have awkward transitions, and make absolutely no sense sometimes? Of course. But my kids are young — they won’t know any better! Maybe yours are older. They will likely still appreciate your candor, and God will help you grow over time. It’s never too late to start telling the truth.

The Truth Our Kids Need

If you have been in the habit of dodging your kids’ hard questions, you may need to ask for their forgiveness. Children become exasperated when Mom and Dad fail to be the primary truth-tellers in their lives. Paul tells us the solution is to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

As we grow in faithfulness to instruct our children in the truth, we trust the Spirit to grant us more wisdom to point them to Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Why Kids Need the Sufficiency of Christ

** The following article was copied from www.gospelatcenter.com.

One of the greatest lies we believe is that something we own, can gain or obtain will make us happy. We confuse the gifts with the giver of the gifts. This starts early for us. We chase after many things, often good things. But we often do it in a way that can lead us from Christ rather than to Christ. Someone once said that we don’t know that Christ is all we need until Christ is all we have. The sufficiency of Christ is the understanding of the reality that all things come from Christ that he is our single pursuit in life. That every good and perfect thing come from him. That we can rejoice in times good and times bad because we have our prize already we have Jesus. That He gives us what we need when we need it not what we want when we want it. Our kids need to know this.

Our kids need to know that Christianity is the only religion that gives material things their proper place. We can enjoy them as gifts from a God who is a good father and loves us with an unending love. We don’t think things are evil, although they can be. The best way for us as parents and family ministers to convey this to our kids is to remind them over and over that Christ is enough that His sacrifice for us was enough. We have to point our kids to the sufficiency of Christ because it is the truth that will hold them when life fails them.

Throughout life, we can come to see the sufficiency of Christ by accident or on purpose. There are so many things in this media-saturated, social media frenzied life we live that lie to us and our kids. We hear “if you only had me you would be enough.” “If you only had this or that then you would be enough.” The sad reality is far too often we spend the best years of our lives chasing that lie. What we need and our kids need is a life that is lived enjoying the substance of life rather than languishing in the shadows pretending that we are satisfied with them. At some point, the things we put our hope in will let us down and we will be confronted with the sufficiency of Christ that we will have to embrace or reject. I came to my understanding of Christ’s sufficiency on accident. I want my kids to see the sufficiency of Christ on purpose. I want them to see Christ as enough as kids.

How we demonstrate the sufficiency of Christ to our kids

  1. Don’t mask your pain – Kids don’t need to know and shouldn’t know everything their parents face, but they should know enough to know How God met the needs that your family has.
  2. Regularly worship together – It can look however it looks for your family. Regularly seeking God when there are no major problems in your family show your kids God is not a panic button we push but a sovereign God who is enough in every season of life.
  3. Practice the discipline of thankfulness – When God comes through for you do not pat yourself on the back, thank God in front of your kids. That they will know that it was God who rescues. It is God who provides. It is God in whom we find all that we need.
  4. Talk often about the cross of Christ – It is at the cross that Christ supplied for us the solution to the graves condition of mankind our separation from Christ. When we talk about the price that Jesus paid. We love him more. When we see Him as ALL sufficient rather than sometimes helpful He takes his proper place on the throne of our hearts.

Our kids need to see Christ as ALL sufficient rather than sometimes helpful.

5 Things You’ll Never Regret

** The following article was copied from www.theparentcue.org.

Yes, it really was a bad idea to give your six-year-old access to the finger paints while you did the laundry. Or to let your fourteen-year-old son stay overnight at his friend’s place without triple checking to make sure his parents were home.

And maybe it wasn’t all that wise when you had that fight heated conversation in the kitchen when the kids were watching cartoons.

We all have regrets.
But the flip side is also true.

We all have things we’ll never regret doing as a parent. And if you think about doing things you’ll never regret, you can actually do them more often.

Here are 5 things I think you’ll never regret as a parent:

1 – TAKING FAMILY VACATIONS

It can be so hard to find both time and money to get away, but it’s been one of the best things we’ve done as a family over the years.

While staycations can be decent, a vacation moves everyone out of their native environment. There’s no grass to cut, no clutter to clean up every three hours, no video games to play for hours and hours and hours, or friends who want you to come over (again). All of you move into new experiences and new environments together. 

Even if you don’t have a ton of money, borrow someone’s house for the weekend (we’ve done that), and change up the scenery.  Moments away will become some of your kids’ fondest memories—and yours.

2 – PUTTING EACH OTHER BEFORE THE KIDS

You’ve probably heard it as much as I have: One of the greatest gifts any parent can give a child is a healthy marriage.
It’s as important for your child to know you love each other as it is for your child to know you love them.

So take a date night. Hire and sitter or enlist the grandparents and go on a weekend away. Your friends will be envious (we haven’t been away together without the kids in seven years!!!), and you’ll have so much fun you’ll think you’re dating again.

Here’s something else I’ve discovered. Eventually the kids move out (really…no lies!), and all you have left is each other. It works way better when you’ve built up your relationship to the point where you actually still like each other. 🙂

3 – CREATING TRADITIONS

My wife is so good at this. She knew early on that family traditions are a great thing.

For example, on Christmas morning, we eat desserts like chocolate covered apples for breakfast. (No, Christmas and breakfast chocolate aren’t related, but don’t spoil things here). I don’t know how that tradition started, and I don’t even know that it’s a good idea, but we love it. And to this day, we can’t wait to dig into chocolate and stuff that really isn’t good for us in honor of Christmas.

We’re not big into baseball as a family (although I’ve always loved it), but every year I took my boys to a Blue Jays game. Now they insist on taking me. It’s a tradition.

We also go back to the same place every year for a week every year in the summer. That spot is now filled with two decades of family memories.

4 – INCORPORATING GOD INTO THE RHYTHM OF FAMILY LIFE

Yep, life is busy. And talking about God can be . . . well, awkward.

But figuring out a way to make God a natural part of the conversation is a great practice to establish early. The baby and toddler years are perfect places to start with morning and bedtime stories and prayers.

In the elementary years, meal times are great places to talk about God and life.

And even in the teen years, driving around in the car or hanging out after dinner are great times to talk about faith.

If you do this well, having conversations with your kids into their college and adult years won’t be that difficult.

5 – SETTING BOUNDARIES

So much of the conflict that happens between parents and kids, and between parents, happens because boundaries aren’t clear.

Boundaries and limits are something we both crave and resist. We think freedom resides in having no boundaries and limits, until we have none. Then we crave them.

Kids are masters at pushing the boundaries.

If you can set and agree on boundaries ahead of time, life becomes so much simpler. Then you have a solution to a problem (like curfew) before it arises.

Sure, if you have healthy limits for your kids as they move into their pre-teen and teen years, you too will be inducted into the Worst Parent Ever In The History Of Parenting category by your darling child, which is exactly where every parent enforcing a boundary will find themselves at some point.

But secretly your kids crave boundaries. And one day, they’ll thank you for setting them. Okay, I said one day . . .

So those are five things I’ve never regretted doing as a parent.

10 Parenting Hacks to Make Life Easier with Little Kids

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org

“I don’t know what to do with all this time on my hands,” said no parent ever.

Once you become a parent, finding time to do the things you want and need to do is similar to catching Harry Potter’s golden snitch—nearly impossible, but incredibly rewarding when you do (a special shout out to all the Muggle readers who caught the Quidditch reference). It’s an odd thing, time—it feels like your kid eats it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and their afternoon snack.

You’ve probably got a list of things you do to help you have some semblance of being in control of your life and schedule, but here are some of my favorite parenting life hacks:

1. In lieu of birthday gifts, ask for free babysitting from family and friends. You don’t need another Amazon gift card (though, those are always nice). What you really need is a chance to eat your meal in the way it was meant to be consumed—hot and without little bites taken from it. For your birthday, ask your friends and family for the gift of time to watch your kids so you can have some much needed “me time.”

2. Zippers and more zippers. No one has time for buttons and snaps, especially when you have multiple kids and wiggly ones at that. When my daughter was a newborn, I found zippers super helpful and efficient when I needed to get her dressed quickly in the middle of the night.

3. Consolidate and minimize. Having a lot of clothing options for your younger kids means more to you than it does to them. Take an honest inventory of what they really need and wear and get rid of all the rest (check out some documentaries on minimalism for purge inspiration). You’ll have to find something else to do with all that time you used to spend doing laundry.

4. Online grocery shopping with curbside pickup. I was not a believer in this at first. I felt lazy and a contributor to the demise of brick and mortar establishments. But man, is it helpful and quick to do your grocery shopping online! I tried it for the first time a few months ago and I’m a believer. I’m the type to go to multiple grocery stores to find the best deals, so this has helped me avoid my hubby’s “But you’re spending more gas this way” lecture advice.

5. Stop folding baby/toddler clothes. Guess who doesn’t care about the wrinkles in their onesies? The kid you’re holding who just learned how to control their own neck. I stopped folding and hanging up my daughter’s clothes, and instead keep things organized(ish) in a hamper.

6. Do as much prep the night before. With kids, there will always be a cause for tardiness, even for the promptest of folks. Do as much as you can the night before—prep the diaper bag, lay out clothes, and prepare lunches, not only for your kids, but for yourself, too.

7. Commit to a bedtime routine. It may seem too rigid and might cause the older generations to roll their eyes, but getting your kids used to a bedtime routine puts time back in your day. When you use a routine to signal bedtime, they go to sleep a lot faster.

8. Get kid-sized cleaning supplies and make cleaning up a fun activity. For now, at least, one of my daughter’s favorite things to do is help me clean the kitchen. Her grandparents bought her a miniature cleaning set—which includes a toddler-sized broom, dustpan, mop, and more—that she uses whenever I start to clean. Pro Tip: Place painter’s tape in the shape of a square on the floor and ask your kids to sweep debris into the square. This turns sweeping into a game and reduces how much time you spend doing it.

9. Shop consignment sales for kids clothes. I’ve recently joined the world of consignment shopping for my daughter’s clothes. At consignment sales, consignors sell their kids’ gently used clothes at a fraction of their original cost during certain seasons, usually March for summer clothes, August for winter clothes. It’s nice to get the bulk of your clothes shopping for your children out of the way while being mindful of your budget.

10. Sign up for a food subscription box. At the end of the day, sometimes you don’t have enough brain capacity to figure out new dinner recipes. Sign up for a food subscription box to take the thinking out of this task and potentially cut down on food waste (and not to mention eyerolls from your family when Taco Tuesday becomes Taco Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). Most of these subscriptions offer the first box for free.

Need More? : 23 Parenting Hacks for Parents of Little Kids

Special Needs

As we dive deeper into helping parents with children with special needs, we’ll be sharing ideas and resources on this page.  Check back in the coming weeks as we populate the page.

Raising Strong Sons

Click the red circle to listen to the clip below or click here to listen in SoundClouud.

Click here to go to Dr. Meg Meeker’s Podcast

Even Toddlers Can Memorize Scripture

** The following article was copied from www.familylife.com.

If toddlers can memorize favorite songs and stories, why not help them learn the Word of God?

One night our son Isaac, age 2½, decided that he wanted to be continually thrown into the air. He would run over to me and say, “Do one more.” In his world this means I should scoop him up and throw him up into the air. After catching him and putting him back on the ground, he would run “flying” around the room.

As we were playing, my wife and I decided that Isaac should recite one Bible verse each time before I would throw him into the air. It was unorthodox, but he engaged and we were able to go through seven or eight verses that he had been working on over the past several weeks.

So have you ever thought about helping your toddler memorize Bible verses?  Don’t be afraid to start working with them at a young age. Toddlers are a lot smarter than what we give them credit. They can master their favorite songs, repeat stories from their books, and understand the entirety of the word “No.” Why not help them learn the Word of God?

Memorizing Scripture is an important step to gluing the Word of God to a child’s heart. In the Bible, Israelite parents were instructed to teach the commands of God to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7). The same principle applies to us today.

Like planting a seed in good soil, teaching a child the Word of God at an early age will help prepare a firm rooting with plenty of nutrients for life. It can be done.

My wife and I decided to start teaching our son memory verses around his second birthday. It was difficult at first, but the moment I heard Isaac recite his first full Bible verse made me the proudest dad on the planet.

We started with Romans 12: 9-10. Admittedly, it was a little haphazard at first. Isaac would goof around or act like he wasn’t paying any attention. But finally after a few weeks he remembered the verses in their entirety.

Here are a few tips I learned from our early stages of teaching our toddler to memorize Bible verses. Feel free to try them out for yourself or add your own unique style. The key is just to be intentional and let your toddler take it from there.

1. It takes two.  Technically, a child can learn a Bible verse with the help of only one parent, but it goes so much better when both Mom and Dad are actively engaged in the learning process. Understandingly, Mom may have a more active role because she may have more time with the kids, but this doesn’t excuse Dad from the process.

Be intentional. Your toddler needs to see both parents modeling a discipline of Scripture memory. Both parents don’t need to be present when practicing, but it is helpful to create a memorization plan that the family can work on together.

2. Don’t dumb it down. The Bible is full of words that are difficult for toddlers to grasp (they are even difficult for adults). After all, it wasn’t written as a children’s fairy tale. The words are rich and teach  us what it means to follow Christ. This is not an easy process, but I believe it would be an injustice to our kids to water it down. Remember, they are much smarter than what we realize.

For example, look at Romans 12:9, “Abhor what is evil.” Abhor is a funny word. Maybe it is only funny to me because my wife teases me for how I pronounce it. The meaning of it is also hard. I guarantee abhor was not the first word on your mind this morning. It means “to regard with extreme repugnance or aversion.” A toddler feels that way about taking a nap. Teach your kids the hard words. If you don’t know what it means, take the opportunity to learn for yourself while teaching them. Our families don’t need a watered down Bible, they need the full Truth.

3. Repetition is important. A major way people learn is by repeating an action over and over and over and over. Repetition doesn’t mean boring, however.

Memorizing Scripture can be done in creative ways. It works better for some families to practice at a specific time every day. Another option is to make note cards of each verse and put them on your table. At every meal you can work on it as a family. Or you could make a memory verse part of the bedtime routine. Kids thrive on structure; why not add a verse in with brushing teeth, goodnight hugs, and prayers? The more we practice, the easier it will become.

4. Repetition is important.  A major way people learn is by repeating an action over and over and over and over … you get the idea. Okay, point made, moving on …

5. Use your arms and legs. Add motions to the verse you are trying to memorize. Kids love motions and if your child is anything like mine, he is constantly moving anyway. So why not use this to your advantage? Make up silly hand, arm, leg, head, or body motions to help describe what you are learning.

And do the motions with them. Toddlers are copy cats. This is a great way to get the whole family involved as you dance around on the living room floor reciting the verse.

6. Mark it on your wall. Most kids, and adults for that matter, are visual learners. Finding a creative way to put the verse in an everyday spot is a big help. Here are some creative ideas: Frame a verse and put it on your wall. Or write it in chalk on décor in your house. Write it on the mirror with a dry erase marker. Scripture templates are available online for you to print and display in your house. My wife, Emily, created a subway art canvas of Romans 12 on Shutterfly to hang on our living room wall. This has been a great reminder for our family.

7. Join the fun. Who said memorizing Bible verses has to be boring? I think kids grow up thinking the Bible is boring because of the attitudes they see from their parents.

The key is making it fun.  And it’s not fun unless the whole family is involved.  It’s up to us, Dad and Mom, to make the Bible come alive to our children.

An Unexpected Gift: Raising a Child With a Learning Disability

** The following article was copied from www.familylife.com.

As parents, we never want to see our children struggle in school or in life. When we send our children to school we have hopes and dreams for them that we don’t often verbalize. We want them to “fit in”, get good grades, behave, pay attention, have good friends, and enjoy school. Our expectations grow as our children pass through elementary, middle and high school. But what happens when your child begins to struggle academically, socially, or behaviorally at school or in the home?

Last November, our family went through the process of determining what was going on with our youngest son, Matthew. He began grade 2 with enthusiasm and energy, but that quickly faded as October rolled around and the work became more demanding. We began to notice that he had a tummy ache every morning and that he was complaining of headaches. His reading and math skills were not progressing. His teacher and I became concerned and we began talking regularly. Referrals for Learning Assistance and Speech and Language Assessments were sent out, but Matthew was not considered “low enough” to enter our school’s Learning Assistance program. Yet, Matthew continued to struggle in class.

The symptoms persisted: can’t follow directions, has a hard time focusing in class, works slowly, reads slowly, is easily distracted, and on and on. We knew something was wrong but we couldn’t put the pieces together. We had a giant jigsaw puzzle dumped on the floor with no box top to follow. We just didn’t know what we were looking at. How could we help him if we didn’t know what was wrong?

As a mom and dad, we were aching for Matthew. We felt helpless because we didn’t know where to start. Being trained as an elementary school teacher, I felt frustrated that we would have to go outside the school system to have Matthew assessed. What I was not prepared for was how God turned this whole situation into a beautiful gift.

At first, both Ken and I struggled with a million questions. Would Matthew succeed in school? What does all of this mean for his future? How can we help him? Did we do something to cause this problem? How is he going to feel? Why does it have to be Matthew that struggles? However, after extensive testing through an educational psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, and an audiologist, a wonderful picture of our son began to develop.

It was as if we were unwrapping an incredibly precious and rare gift. Each testing day brought new insights into how Matthew learns, how he takes in and processes information, and how his amazing brain is able to compensate for weaknesses in one area by developing other areas. Through much dialogue with the professionals involved and his teachers at school, we were able to bring to the school some concrete ideas that when implemented would make a world of difference for Matthew, and probably other children in the class. As a teacher, I have always looked for different ways to engage students in the learning process. I recognized that each child brings to the classroom differing learning styles, but through this process, I was blown away by the incredible detail God designs into each of our children.

Our children are a wonderful gift from the Lord, and it is in His infinite wisdom that he creates our children uniquely. I will never read Proverbs 22:6 the same way again. “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Every child can succeed if he/she is trained with their unique style in mind. They can succeed in school, in relationships, in their spiritual life and in their family life.

10 Ways to Support Your Child Who Is Struggling in School…

  1. Remember: God has specially chosen you as your child’s most important teacher.
    You are their first and most important advocate in the school system they are in. You are capable of communicating vital information with those who will teach and interact with your child. You know your child the best.
  2. Build a great relationship with your child.
    Take the time to talk to your child regularly about what is happening in school. When you have an open line of communication, concerns, struggles and stress can be identified early. When an area of concern becomes known, you have a natural forum to begin to process it with your child. A great relationship takes BOTH quality and quantity time.
  3. Become a student of your child.
    Take a front row seat in the life of your child and learn about their personality, their learning style, how they deal with stress, their strengths, and their preferences.
  4. Build good communication with your child’s teacher.
    Do not wait to bring concerns to the teacher. Early intervention into learning issues is to your child’s advantage. There are many amazing teachers in the system, who are more than willing to partner with you in helping your child succeed. Excellent communication between home and the school can alleviate a lot of your child’s stress.
  5. Listen to your instincts.
    If you feel your child is struggling, gently but firmly pursue assistance for your child. (Remember, honey catches more flies than vinegar.)
  6. Make sure your child understands and knows their strengths.
    You continue to help your child build confidence and the ability to take risks when they are encouraged and supported in something they are good at. Consider things like team or individual sports, music, art, etc.
  7. Build a network of people around you who can provide information, strategies, and support for you and your child.
    It is amazing the connections you will make once you start asking questions and talking about your concerns. Many professional services are covered by extended health plans.
  8. Pray, pray, and pray some more.
    Pray that God will give you the necessary insight and wisdom to help your child succeed. Believe me, some days prayer was the only way I could hold it together. Pray that God will bring the right people into your child’s life.
  9. Communicate regularly with your spouse.
    It is critical that you are both on the same page when it comes to your child’s development. You both need to know what is working, and what is not.
  10. Learn from your child.
    Learn to see life from their perspective. Matthew has taught us how to look at the simplest of things and to be able to admire the color, the shape, or an interesting detail.

There were so many blessings wrapped up in this unexpected gift that God gave us. The first was the recognition of Matthew as a unique individual. Through the reports we got, the individuals involved in testing and assisting Matthew, and his teachers, we were given specific and vital clues to tap into the way that Matthew learned and processed information. Now that we are using strategies that match Matthew’s strengths, he is flourishing. He has found new wings and is once again taking risks in learning and in social situations.

The second gift is that Matthew’s stress level has come way down. The first day he went back to school after the results of the testing came in, he did not want to go. He was worried, he was feeling stupid and he was frustrated. I explained that what was happening to him was not his fault – he was not dumb. I expressed to him his strengths and explained that there was part of his brain that needed to catch up to the rest of him. I told him that his teachers knew what the problem was and that they wanted to help him. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Mom that’s perfect; I don’t have to worry any more.” (My eyes were not dry either.) He walked out the door and I have not heard another word about him wanting to miss school.

Lastly, God has brought so many people into our lives with whom we’ve been able to share our journey and suggest some good resources to. Matthew’s teachers have been absolutely amazing as well. I have called one of them Matthew’s personal angel for the past year. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God places people into the lives of our children at critical moments.

It has been a year of both challenge and blessing and I don’t believe our journey is over yet. We will keep unwrapping this precious gift that God has given to us. Some days it seems like Matthew has to work harder than any of our other children to accomplish normal school work, and other days his imagination and creativity just shine. I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for him in the future. I’m sure I will be amazed at how God is able to use all of this for His glory.

3 Easy Ways to Impact a Middle Schooler’s Identity and Faith

** The following article was copied from www.justaphase.com.

11, 12, 13. These are the awkward years. You remember right? Greasy hair, frizzy hair, don’t care. Weight gain and weight loss. You feel like an adult but everyone treats you like a kid.

Life for a middle schooler is rough. Forget trying to figure out who you are in Christ. Preteens are hanging onto the struggle bus for dear life.

Of course you now know that middle school drama, like everything else, won’t matter in a few short years. With the right approach you can help preteens focus on things that really count.

What is a Middle Schooler, Anyway?

The next time you take in an all-star performance from a middle schooler—complete with tears, of course—consider this: behind those emotions is a brain hard at work analyzing, processing and planning the next move.

What we’re talking about is a duality of sorts—the middle schooler you see and the middle schooler you don’t see.

The Middle Schooler You See 

    • He’s growing like a weed and eating all of your groceries.
    • She’s happy one moment and crying the next.
    • He’s embarrassed easily and often by you.
    • She knows everything.
    • He lies and argues more than ever before.
    • She wants to be with her friends. Always with her friends.

The Middle Schooler You Don’t See

    • He loves to learn and be challenged.
    • She wants to know if you care.
    • He needs to talk about his feelings, even when his face says otherwise.
    • She wrestles with decisions big and small.
    • He’s starting to view the world through the eyes of others.
    • She longs for non-parental adult influence.

When it comes to helping these complex creatures understand who they are in Christ, you have to remember the middle schooler you don’t see. The engineer inside needs to know that God can do anything. That He can overcome impossible odds to rebuild what is broken, bring stability, restore peace, resolve doubt, give hope, and redeem everyone—including themselves.

Read More: A Dynamic View of God: Helping Kids Connect with God at Every Phase

Impact Their Identity and Faith

Make some big assumptions.

You wanna shock a preteen? Treat him like he’s made in the image of God. Tell him he’s smart enough, strong enough and important enough to take on a new responsibility or make a big decision. Give him a chance to prove you right.

Because of how God created us, we all have the potential to lead, believe, imagine, love, care, relate, trust, reason and improve. When middle schools understand they are made in the image of God, they begin to look at the world and themselves in a whole new way.

Connect the dots.

Engineers use both physics and design to solve problems. A middle schooler’s brain works the same way. They’re looking at more than a decade of learning to try and find ways that everything fits together.

This is your chance to show them how the overarching narrative of scripture connects not only from Genesis to Revelation but to their very own life as well.

Read More about the Brain of Middler Schoolers: Important Mental Changes That Happen at Every Phase

Encourage questions.

The time has come for you to make a big decision. Will you be shocked by hard questions, touchy subjects and doubt? Or will you make room for the process that a middle schooler must go through?

Middle schoolers are smart. They may notice, for instance, that a loving and all-powerful God allows good people to die. They will wrestle with doctrine and faith and cultural norms. This is okay and normal.

You won’t always have the answers but you can affirm their journey. Help middle schoolers anchor themselves to what is constant by sharing stories about your faith and pointing them back to Jesus.

You know who they are in Christ—a child of God, alive, free and set apart—but, really, the goal is for each middle schooler to understand and embrace this truth for himself. Help middle schoolers reach this truth by making some big assumptions, connecting the dots and encouraging questions.

Children Need a Crisis of Faith

** The following article was copied from desiringgod.org.

My wife and I have five children. Our oldest two have exited childhood and are adventuring into the uncharted territory of their young adulthood. Our younger three are navigating the tricky waters of adolescence. As parents, we have the sacred, marvelous, daunting, and sometimes painful privilege of sharing in all these unique life-journeys.

As a rule, I am slow to offer parenting advice. We are still too much in the thick of it to be qualified experts. Most of the time we’re looking to receive, not dispense, counsel.

And one wonderful new source of counsel we’ve discovered is our (now) adult children. Their experiences of childhood and adolescence, and the good and not-so-good ways we parented them, are still fresh. But there’s sufficient distance for them to maturely reflect on their experiences and enough trust between us (thank you, God!) for them to share with us honestly. It’s precious and humbling when your child matures into your counselor.

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS FOR CHILDREN

Recently, my wife was sharing with one of our adult children some of the spiritual wrestlings and questions of their younger siblings. Our adult child replied, “That’s where it all begins.”

This was the wise reply of one whose wisdom was hard won. They spoke from experience, having endured difficult and sometimes dark seasons of profound spiritual struggles during their own adolescence. And they discovered in these seasons what nearly all saints discover sooner or later: the Light of the world shines brightest in the darkness — in our own darkness (John 1:5). Coming to really see, savor, treasure, and trust Jesus Christ almost always begins in a crisis.

And this has unnerving implications for Christian parents: if our children are going to see the Light, they very likely must endure darkness. Which means we will endure it with them, and experience a powerlessness over the outcome we find hard to bear.

As parents, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to protect our children from the forces of evil and sin in the world, which we should. And we try hard to point them to the gospel so they escape the horrible slavery of their own sin, which we should. We comfort, reassure, and counsel; we admonish, reprove, and rebuke, which we should.

But all the efforts we pour into protecting and teaching our children can make us susceptible to the deception, even if we know better, that if we do our job right, our children will sail from young childhood into adulthood on untroubled seas, arriving with a robust faith in Christ. We forget that this wasn’t even Christ’s own experience in “parenting” his disciples. It was on the troubled sea, not on tranquil waters, where the disciples began to grasp what faith really means (Luke 8:22–25).

Our children may have to ride on a violent sea, one we fear will swallow them, before they really learn to fear and trust Christ. As parents, then, we must prayerfully prepare for when those sea billows roll, because it will be a scary ride for us too.

FAITHFULLY PARENTING

While I’m reluctant to give parenting advice, my wife and I have ridden enough waves with our children to share some lessons, not as an expert on parenting through a child’s faith crisis, but as a fellow sojourner sharing from my experience — my own faith crises, as well as my children’s.

1. EXPECT YOUR CHILD TO EXPERIENCE A FAITH CRISIS.

Actually, do more than expect it; pray for it. By “faith crisis,” I don’t mean the loss of faith — a period of apostasy — though for some that may be what a crisis looks like. What I mean is whatever event(s) God knows is needed to call forth real faith in our child — a season or set of circumstances when they are faced with a crisis that forces them to exercise their own faith and experience for themselves that God exists and is the rewarder of those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Praying for our child’s faith crisis sounds strange, I know. But if we want our child’s deepest joy, we will pray for the testing of their faith (James 1:2–4).

2. EXPECT YOUR CHILD’S CRISIS WILL BE DIFFERENT FROM YOURS.

God has taught you to walk by faith, and not by sight, in particular ways. But it’s likely that he will deal differently with your child. They may struggle in ways and over issues and questions you haven’t. The unfamiliar may seem frightening. But it’s not unfamiliar to God.

3. EXPECT TO FEEL SOMEWHAT HELPLESS.

There comes a point when God decides to use means quite apart from us to teach our children to trust him. He doesn’t typically inform us in advance when he begins. We just rather suddenly find ourselves on the periphery of our child’s struggles, not allowed the same access or influence we used to have (or thought we had). We’re unsure where this car is going, and it’s not in our power to steer it. We must resist panicking or the urge to try to seize the wheel, both of which only tend to make things worse. Such a moment often becomes a faith crisis for us too, where we must learn to trust God with our children in whole new ways.

4. SEEK TO BE A SAFE PLACE IN A CRISIS.

During one point of crisis, one of my children confided that they didn’t feel safe discussing with me certain theological questions they were wrestling through. Their dad was a ministry co-founder and bi-vocational pastor at our church. It felt like there was only one acceptable place to land.

Since then, I have tried to share with all my children more of my own faith journey, crises and all, that brought me to where I now am. And I’m seeking to be more explicit with my children that, while I hold my theological convictions sincerely, I do not expect them to uncritically adopt them from me, or necessarily arrive quickly in adolescence where it’s taken me years, and plenty of testing, to reach.

We can’t always control whether we are perceived as a safe place to our children, but as much as possible, we must seek to be a safe place for them to discuss hard questions and to be in process without judgment. It’s not easy for an invested parent. But we must strive to be (especially) quick to hear and slow to speak.

5. DO NOT MISTAKE A CHAPTER FOR THE STORY.

We must try to keep our child’s faith crisis in perspective — no matter how long. We are not God. We do not have foreknowledge. We must not assume we know how the story will end. Most biblical characters had life chapters that looked like their train was going off the rails at some point.

6. AIM FOR FAITHFULNESS.

We are not the authors of our children’s story. Neither are they. God is the Author. God does not call us to determine the outcome of our children’s faith. He calls us to “dwell in the land [of parenting] and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3). Our aim is to follow Jesus faithfully, speak what he gives us to say faithfully, and to love the children God gives us as well as we can, come what may.

7. PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.

Part of faithfulness is not to cease praying for our children to be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3) and filled with the knowledge of God’s will with all spiritual wisdom and insight (Colossians 1:9).

8. TRUST GOD.

This is the beginning and the end of parenting our children, whether on stormy waves or still waters. We want our children to reach maturity in Christ. “For this [we] toil, struggling with all [God’s] energy that he powerfully works within [us]” (Colossians 1:29). But we do not trust ultimately in our toil; we trust ultimately in God’s power. And when our children endure various crises of faith, we “wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS

So much more can and should be said. I’m very aware that our children’s faith crises, and what has precipitated them, and how long they last, are as varied as people and experiences vary. I know as parents these can be frightening moments because, for some, a crisis results in the rejection rather than the realization of faith. But even then, it’s not the end of the story.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the heart of faith, the one for whom God is the strength of their heart (Psalm 73:26). He is the author and perfecter of our faith — and our children’s faith (Hebrews 12:2). As the great cloud of biblical and historical witnesses remind us (Hebrews 12:1), often, when a crisis hits, that’s where it all begins.