On The Parent Network Podcast we connect with parents and friends who can help equip and encourage us along our parenting journey. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. We release a podcast twice a month.
** The following article was copied from www.allprodad.com.
Most dads think of Father’s Day one-dimensionally. We tend to look forward to kicking back, enjoying a few guilt-free hours watching the US Open on television. A Father’s Day gift guide might include a nice card or two, a needless tie, and maybe a day-off when it comes to active parenting, policing the drama that goes on around the house. But the foundational idea of Father’s Day is that of celebrating the relationship, not catering to the dad. We are dads so that we can do dad things that mean something, and we have the best celebrations when stuff happens that draws us closer to our kids.
With that in mind, consider setting the agenda for Father’s Day this year and actually putting some ideas out there that will help solidify what to get for father’s day. Here are some suggestions, the 10 things you should ask your kids for this Dad’s Day.
If you’re a dad, you’ve already done the math. You know it’s going to be no time at all until they head off and live the rest of their lives. Do what it takes to grab some memories before they grab the car keys.
It’s a fact that we can’t love what we don’t know. Make it clear to your kids that your love wants to know more than it wants to judge. It’s the love that heals, not the disapproval.
3. Advice (theirs)
Father knows best? How’s that working for you? How about asking for “Kids (might) know best?” Trust them enough to let them in to your open-ends and loose-strings. You’ll be surprised how much they already know.
4. A one-page note of their favorite memory
Get the kids writing and sharing stories and remembering good “Dad moments.” These are golden, and good for both dad and the kids.
It doesn’t matter how old the children are, hugging dad should never go out of style. Be proactive on this one. Ask if you have to, but get it done.
6. Big ideas
Ask the kids to share their vision with you. This is a little different from advice, it’s “big picture” stuff. Ask your kids things like, “How would you solve world hunger?” Ask them what they think about big ideas such as space travel, world peace, and racism. Then listen.
7. A gift with staying power
Ask your children to think about a Father’s Day gift that won’t disappear in a day or two. Or ask them (for example) for one hour every Sunday afternoon for the next three months so you can pick their brain. Ask them for the commitment to walk a mile with you three times a week. You can even ask them to read you their favorite comic strip every day for a month. Ask for gifts that don’t end the moment they leave their hands.
8. A fresh start
We all need a little redemption. How about coming clean with your kids and asking for a fresh start? Maybe you’ve been harsh… Or maybe they’ve been consistently disrespectful… Maybe you’ve lost ground…Whatever is going on, try to model humility and see where the relationship goes.
9. A glimpse into their world
Prepare a list of ten “I’m too old, I don’t get this!” questions and have a Q&A session with your kid(s). Maybe they can respond with a list of their own. Who knows, you may end up communicating!
10. A dinner date
You may have to help pay for this one. But dinner out, one-on-one with each child, can be the most fun and the most productive parenting experience.
Check out this great podcast from our friends at The Parent Cue celebrating Father’s Day and dads everywhere.
* The following article was copied from www.crosswalk.com.
Single parenting is not for the weak. Everything, yes, that’s right, everything falls on your shoulders… especially when your kids are young. Here’s some to name a few: all the meals, the bills, the laundry, the homework, the after school activities, the bath times, the bedtimes. And, y’all that’s just the easy stuff! Then comes the responsibility of actually raising a Christ-loving productive member of society. It can seem overwhelming.
When I was a single parent, trying to do everything on my own left my spirit totally depleted and my nerves on edge. My children and I were having daily meltdowns like ice cream cones left out in the July heat. We were a sticky hot mess. I had to change. So, I learned it was impossible for me to survive without the supernatural peace and strength of Jesus. I leaned into the Word and applied it to my everyday life. It didn’t mean our lives were perfect; it just meant that we weren’t on our own. These verses helped me through my single parenting journey.
Acceptance: I didn’t dream of becoming a single parent when I was little girl. But, sometimes life happens and we don’t get a say in the roads we take. Instead of fighting my circumstances (a losing battle I should say), I had to learn to accept it. I couldn’t change the fact that I was a single parent, but I could control how I responded to it. I learned to find joy through Christ in the midst of a difficult situation.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13)
Guidance: To parent well, we have to guide and shepherd our children’s hearts. That responsibility is heavy for married parents, but when you’re single parenting it can seem almost seem impossible. Every night, I would repeat the day’s conversations and interactions with my children over and over again in my head. Did I handle that right with my daughter? Was I tender enough with my son? Have I scarred them for life? That’s just in one day! I had to recognize that the Lord purposefully chose me to be my children’s parent, and He is guiding me every step of the way.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)
Speak Love: Being a single parent can make the most patient person lose their entire jar of marbles. When we are pulled in a trillion different directions and little Sally just took a drink out of your sweet tea with her green runny nose, we can say things we don’t mean out of sheer exhaustion. Our words have so much power over how our children see themselves and relate to the rest of the world. I know we all make mistakes, but let’s try to lift our children with our words, and not crush their little spirits.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)
Protection: Becoming a single parent wasn’t an easy journey. The children and I were emotionally bruised and battered along the way. So much so, I had become conditioned to chaos. After the dust settled, and we had this new “life”, I was always waiting for some other kind of traumatic event to happen to knock us off our feet. Every phone call caused anxiety because I didn’t know what kind of news it would bring. But, living life in high anxiety didn’t work for me. I knew the Lord was in control, but I had to put my trust in His protection.
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (Psalm 3:3-6)
Strength: We all need strength being a parent. But, it seems that in being a single parent, we need supernatural strength. We need strength physically for the everyday needs. But, we also need strength for the emotional attention of the long talks before bedtime with the teenage daughter, the loving hug that can cure the skinned knee, and the sheer will that it takes to make eye contact with a toddler that is telling you a story that is amazing to them, but all you can think about is that bar of dark chocolate that you’ve hidden away. Finding strength in the present is the investment in our children that will reap a beautiful return in the future.
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:27)
Faith: My children were raised in a broken home. They have seen and felt things that no child should. But, just because life has been hard doesn’t mean that God is not good. Yes, we went to church and Sunday school, but the Christian walk is so much more than that. I felt a deep desire and responsibility to intentionally guide my children to Jesus in the everyday situations. You know, I can’t make them choose to become believers, but through my personal faith, I hope to share His unfailing love.
“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)
Finances: For me, I used to worry about money constantly. We were barely making ends meet on a good month, but throw in a sick visit or a school fee… and well the budget was blown to smithereens. I found I was putting my security in money instead of the Lord and it was making me all off balance. The Lord had always met all of our needs; what would make Him stop now? Me worrying about it didn’t do anything but cause a few extra wrinkles and a whole lot of gray hair.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
Written By Shannon DeGarmo; speaker; author of The Bounce Back Woman; Featured Contributor of Keep the Faith radio; Contributor of LifeWay’s HomeLife Magazine. Check out Shannon’s website (www.shannondegarmo.com) and visit her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The following video is a Ted Talk from Rita Pierson.
** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.
Hi, My Name is Brandon O’Dell.
I am a husband and a father of three young children.
I am a writer, an actor, and a Christian.
And I suffer from clinical depression.
Let me give you some background. I was a happy kid, raised in a Christian home by two loving parents. I did well in school. I made many friends, some I still have to this day. When I was going into college, my guidance counselor asked where my greatest area of stress was, and I replied that I didn’t have any stress. I was carefree.
In 1993, my sophomore year at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, my mother died of a brain tumor. And yet, I immediately accepted her death as part of God’s grand plan. I did not mourn. I did not let it stress me out.
And then, a year and a half later, the proverbial poop hit the fan.
A friend of mine invited me to hear her sing in an on-campus recital, which I agreed to attend. I did not attend. She confronted me in the school’s dining hall that evening, and wracked with guilt, I broke down and cried. I cried all the way back to my dorm room. I cried because I had let my friend down, but not only that. I cried because people in the world let people down all the time. I cried for the state of humankind. I cried for what seemed like that entire year.
I had no idea what was going on. I thought I was going crazy. And I knew that I was the only one who felt the way I did, so I had no one to talk to. No one who would understand. It wasn’t until I had an emotional breakdown in front of my father, that he encouraged me to get some help.
Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time helped me put a name to what I was going through—major depressive disorder. I realized then that not only was I not alone, depression was fairly common. People just didn’t talk about it. Because they were ashamed for some reason. Or embarrassed. But for me, learning I wasn’t crazy was the first step to understanding my illness, and that was a good thing.
Time has passed. Depression comes in waves, like the flu season, though without the predictable change in the weather. Sometimes it lasts for a few weeks, sometimes months, and currently I’m in a season that has lasted two and a half years.
Everything I do is hard. Work is hard. Being a dad is hard. Getting out of bed is hard. Writing this blog has been hard. I have to force myself to do everything, even things I might normally enjoy. In fact, I desire nothing. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I hand in work late or when my wife has to pick up a lot of the slack around the house. But even so, I refuse to be ashamed to talk about my depression.
I decided a while back to be open and honest about what was happening to me. You see, I still believe there’s a purpose in this. That God has a plan to use my depression somehow for His glory. There’s meaning, even if I never discover what the meaning is.
As far as my children are concerned, I don’t lie to them and pretend everything’s okay. They know that Daddy has depression and that sometimes he’s too tired to play. I want them to see me weak and broken. Then they can see God at work in me. And if my children ever go through something like this later in life, I want them to be able to recognize it, talk to me (or someone else) about it, and deal with it without shame.
I’ve been reaching out on Facebook to friends and acquaintances who have had a similar experience. I’ve had several lunches, texts, and phone conversations with people who I barely know but who KNOW me because of depression. This is how I can love others. It’s a small thing, but in depression the small things often seem insurmountable.
If you’re a parent struggling with depression, I don’t really have answers for you. But I can tell you that you’re not alone. And I can tell you that you are created by a God who loves you. And no matter how messy it gets, I believe God is at work in your life telling a story of restoration for you and for your family.
For me, the past few weeks have seen some brighter moments. I’m on some medicine that seems to work for me. It may not work forever, but today, right now, this moment, I’m doing fine. And that’s enough.
** The following is the transcript of an audio message from www.desiringgod.org. Click on the link to hear the message.
Happy Friday, everyone. Today, we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of a question, we’re going to attempt to encourage one particular listener, and many like her, in the form of a letter.
This is a letter from Pastor John to a mother he knows personally — a mother who wrote him because she needed strength in the great calling she carries. She’s been caring for a disabled son for over twenty years, a son who cannot talk, cannot dress himself, cannot feed himself. He just turned twenty.
Most of us can only imagine the enormity of the burden this mom carries as his primary caregiver for now over two decades. So, Pastor John, what did you say to this amazing mom in your letter? Share your thoughts with us here on the podcast.
I’m sure this mom would not want me to lift her up as a hero, make her name public, or her situation known, so I won’t. But I know that she wouldn’t mind if I took this public occasion to share with others the kind of encouragement I wanted her to feel. There are thousands of moms — and not just moms, of course — who quietly carry huge burdens for their disabled children and for other relatives.
I am sure that they often feel like this is one of the loneliest jobs in the world, with little or no public recognition or reward. How do you laugh? How do you keep on, so quietly and out of the way, bearing so much weight? How do you press on?
I’m going to make enough changes in this letter that I wrote to this mom, to encourage her on the birthday of her disabled son, so that she won’t be given away. I’m going to call her son John. That’s not his real name. I chose my name because it’s what I would want somebody to pray for me. So I’ll stick my name in there. I hope the basic message comes through and that all those who have the relentless job of caregiving will take heart.
Letter to a Mom of a Disabled Son
Noël and I remember being at your dining-room table, talking about this new little one who had just been born. You were just beginning to come to terms with his disabled situation, and you were wondering about how to think about healing and prayer. Now, here we are over two decades later, and your world has been forever changed.
My birthday wish and my prayer is that John will be able, in some way, to show you love, and that you will be strengthened in the depths of your soul. Or as Paul says, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you [may be] rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:16–17).
Prosperity Is Coming
I would love to share with you my most recent effort to grasp the psalmist’s meaning when he says in Psalm 1 that the man — or let’s say the mom — who delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night, will prosper in all that she does.
Really? I mean, I know and the psalmist knew that there are dozens of things believers experience that do not make them feel like they are prospering. We know he knew it because he said so in Psalm 44:20–22.
I can imagine you feel this day in and day out. But here is what I think he meant, since he knew as well as we do that there are horrible days for the worshipers of the true God. When he said, “Everything you do prospers if you delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night,” I think what he meant that there is a day coming when our Redeemer will arrive, and he will snatch futility and death out of the hands of Satan.
As it says, “He will bear all our iniquity” (see Isaiah 53:6). So he’ll cover all our sins, and we’ll obtain grace that is so powerful and so pervasive that it turns every disappointment and every frustration and every pain in the path of obedience to Jesus into a final triumph.
In other words, he will pay the price — this Redeemer who will come. He will pay the price to purchase for us the reality that it will all work for good (Romans 8:28). Everything is going to work for our good, and he’s going to make that come true because he bought it for us.
Repaid by God
Here’s why I think that’s what the psalmist is getting at when he says that in everything you do, you prosper in caring for your son. Paul said, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8).
In other words, not one expenditure of effort in the service of your son will go unrewarded. This was spoken to slaves who probably were only rewarded in this life with pain for doing good things.
In other words, in this life, it regularly does not look like the things we are doing are prospering; they’re not being rewarded with good. It doesn’t look like all the expenditure, energy, effort, and care is prospering. But Paul says, “In the end, every good deed will come back with great reward from the Lord.” In other words, in the long run you will prosper in all of it.
Paul makes it even clearer. I love this text. I had never seen this in this light before. Paul says, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Now that’s a negative way of saying something. What’s the positive way of saying, “Your work is not in vain”? Isn’t the positive way of saying “not in vain” to say that your work will prosper? It will.
The therefore at the front of verse 58 makes this promise the outcome of the resurrection. In other words, the sting of death is sin, the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory — yes, victory through Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Therefore, everything you do will prosper.
So when Psalm 1 says, “You will prosper in all that you do,” I don’t think the psalmist is naïve. He was prophetic. Jesus came; he paid our debt; he defeated Satan and death. He secured our future. He takes note of every good deed, writes them in a book, and he will make them prosper. He will reward us in due time.
Let’s just put one more promise on the table to make this crystal clear. Jesus said, “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14).
Your son cannot repay you. Even if there’s some wonderful, deep longing in his heart that he could do it, he can’t. His disability is too profound. You spread a feast of love for him every day, and he cannot repay you. Yet you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. I don’t think I’m going too far beyond Scripture to say that your son himself will join the Lord on that day in active, joyful repayment.
Happy birthday to you both — to John, who cannot respond, and to you, who makes his life possible. May you and he know, deeply and sweetly, the love of Christ. May you be strengthened with the promises of your merciful high priest, who is always there with mercy and grace to help in time of need.
** 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.”
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).
** 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
** 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.