Fortnite: I’ll Pass On the V-Bucks

The Saga

If you have any contact with a kid over age 8, I’m sure you have heard of Fortnite. If not, simply say that word around a kid and you will get a reaction. Especially boys. It is the latest and greatest in the App Store, Xbox, Switch, gaming craze. How do I know this? Well, I live with two boys and we have had our own personal Fortnite adventure over the past several months.

Last winter, my boys asked to get Fortnite on the Xbox because you know, “All my friends have it.” After working to earn the money for the game, I allowed them to download it. To say they liked it is an understatement. It seemed harmless enough. And hey, at least they were interacting with other people, right. A few times, they would earn a little extra money and ask if they could buy a “skin”. They’d give me the money, I’d load the amount on the Xbox and the gaming would continue. This went on for a few months. And, like every gaming fad, I was sure this one was almost over.

In April, I was sure my bank account had been hacked. But, as I talked to the lady at the bank she did not start in with her typical speech that was supposed to go something like this: “You’ve obviously been hacked. We will take care of it.” Instead she asked if I had a Microsoft account. I’m not going to lie that once I finally connected all the dots after finally tracking down all the charges, I was extremely grateful that my children were at school. I was so irate that it was best that they were far, far away from me. I finally sat down and really prayed. I asked God to give me wisdom to know what to do in order to punish them appropriately.

When the boys came home from the bus, I asked them calmly if I could talk them upstairs. (My kids tell me that calm mom is way more frightening that angry mom). I sat them down and explained that I was trying to pay our bills but I was so sad to find that I could not pay them because someone had stolen over $500 from my bank account. They look so surprised and genuinely upset and protective of their mom. I mean who would do this to us? Then, I continued, “Imagine my surprise when I found out it was my two boys who stole from me.” I recapped the story of my day tracking down the charges and no one said a word. One of them broke down in sobs and the other had quiet tears running down his face. (I’m not going to lie, there was a little relief in at least seeing the remorse.)

The boys tried to tell me they thought they’d found a hack. They’d purchased a few V-bucks (aka Fortnite dollars) at first, and it looked like it “wasn’t even really costing” anything. After a day of the little things, they started in with the bigger purchases. I mean, if they’d found a hack, why not “hack” the big bucks. Right? I don’t know if that is really what they believed or if they convinced themselves that was what was happening. But, the punishment was going to remain no matter what.

After our little talk, I calmly explained that the Xbox was gone for 6 months. In that time, they would have to do any and every job that anyone offered to earn money to pay back every penny they stole from me. In addition, when they finished paying the money back, they could start saving up to purchase the Xbox from me. It would cost them $350, because that is what it costs in the stores.

For the next 4 months they worked for me, for my mom, for my dad, for my neighbor, for our church. They did any job they could find. They did finally pay back what they owed, plus earned enough to buy the Xbox back. But, it was hard work.

What I Learned From the Saga:

1. Parents, be aware of what your kids are doing online.

I have every software check, balance, safety system in place . . . and yet this happened. I didn’t realize my debit card info had been stored in the system after one of my small, approved purchases. That was the open door to mindless charging. (Needless to say, my boys now have to earn money, buy an Xbox gift card and that is the only way they can purchase anything.)

2. Your kids are going to mess up.

I believe with all my heart they need to have appropriate consequences that are hard and fast, with a huge dose of love and grace. My kids needed to understand how serious this was. Not only did we talk about stealing things in cyber space (that sounds so futuristic) but, we also talked about the consequences of credit cards. They hated working for 6 months to pay for something that was long gone. I explained that is exactly how credit cards work. In our house, we have to live on what we have. Life is just simpler that way.

3. Parenting is hard.

Parenting is hard. It is so hard. We need each other. We need to share our stories and show our scars. I had to share this story with my friends and family so that they could help me and possibly learn from my mistakes. I was embarrassed that I’d let this happen. But, I’m so glad I told them. My friends and family jumped in to give the boys work when they needed it to pay off their debts and speak truth and love to them to make this a teachable moment.

Our counselor and friend, David Thomas, wrote a great article on Fortine that helped me. I hope it helps you too.

What I didn’t tell my boys . . . and I am saving this for their graduation or wedding rehearsal dinner . . . is that Microsoft refunded the money. (Shhhhhh!)

Helping Adolescents Work Through the Rising Tide of Anxiety

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

Lately I’ve noticed a growing alarm about anxiety in our culture. It seems to be wreaking havoc in our lives. I’ve seen this trend in my counseling practice, in questions I get when I’m speaking at churches and organizations, and in what I hear in my day-to-day interactions with friends and neighbors.

Anxiety feels like a virus spreading quickly through our midst. We’re now anxious about getting anxious.

As much as we see this chatter offline, there is an even more deafening presence online, as social media interaction and article after article emphasize the impact of anxiety among the American population, and more specifically among high school and college-aged young adults. In the last several months alone, multiple publications have run stories on anxiety. The New York Times Magazine prominently featured a piece entitled, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?.” A few months earlier, the Times ran an article proclaiming that anxiety has become an “everyday argot”. The Atlantic published articles in July, August, and September looking at anxiety, connecting it to our use of smartphones and social media.

I could list many more, but you get the point. Anxiety is on the rise, and it’s having devastating effects, not only on the American population as a whole, but more specifically among younger Americans. One author writes, “Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem.” 

Perhaps it’s time to pay more attention.

Anxiety in Context

It is important to gain perspective on how anxiety may impact the work you are doing in your context, whether that’s as a parent, teacher, pastor, mentor, or friend of a teenager. For example, if you are a teacher in middle school or high school and you look out at your classroom of 25 students, statistically speaking, somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 students are suffering from an anxiety disorder. If you are a youth pastor and you look out at your youth group of 50 high schoolers in a Wednesday night gathering, somewhere around 17 students are struggling with an anxiety disorder.

And what about college students? One story in Inside Higher Ed sums up anxiety’s growing impact on collegiates, “More than half of the college students who visited their campus counseling centers during the 2015-2016 academic year reported symptoms of anxiety, … This marks the seventh year in a row that anxiety has been the top complaint among students seeking mental health services.”

The average age of onset for anxiety is 11 years old, which matches my own debilitating struggle with anxiety. In 1981, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and by the time she passed away in 1986, my anxiety ballooned into full effect. I began stuttering after the trauma of her death. Two weeks after she passed away, I went back to fifth grade and discovered I could no longer read out loud in class. Instead, when I was called upon I froze in an anxious panic. This continued all the way through high school and into college. It was only then that I decided to face my anxiety, and later in my thirties, through the help of a couple of therapists, I really began not only to understand my anxiety, but also to make serious progress with it.

I know from personal experience how frightening anxiety can be, and that’s why it’s a topic we must all learn to understand better in order to offer help to those who struggle.

Practical Strategies to Help Young People Face Anxiety

Through my work with anxiety both personally and as a therapist, I have found some specific responses to be helpful, so I want to pass these suggestions on to you. You have a vital role in helping teenagers who are struggling. As a first word of caution, however, there are circumstances where anxiety is so severe that someone must be hospitalized or put on medication. What I’m going to share with you here are ways to help those who are anxious but not in need of immediate medical care. As you work through this guide, hopefully the exercises will help give you the confidence to discern when you can help and when you need outside assistance.

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1. Create space and give permission to talk about anxiety

When it comes to adolescents and anxiety, you may be a first responder on the front lines. How you handle anxiety when it arises may set the trajectory for how that adolescent works through anxiety, or if they choose to do so. For most teenagers, talking about their anxiety is a very scary thing, and depending on how they are being raised and the culture they inhabit, there might be all kinds of barriers to talking openly.

Here are some specific ways you can create space and give permission to adolescents experiencing anxiety:

  • Start with: Begin by communicating that it’s okay to have anxiety. I encourage you to literally say to an adolescent, “I am creating a safe space for you, and giving you permission to talk about your anxiety.” This kind of permission can be a key to unlocking a lot of the negative assumptions and fears teenagers hold around anxiety.
  • Advanced tactics: Normalize anxiety by sharing your own struggles or inviting others in the community to share stories about their anxiety. If you have a hard time finding someone to share, I recommend bringing in someone from outside your ministry like a local therapist to help break the silence.

2. Help identify the roots of anxiety

My mentor, marriage and family therapy pioneer and Fuller professor Dr. Terry Hargrave, helped me understand very clearly that anxiety is typically a response to a deeper underlying feeling. Anxiety is less of a feeling, and more about how we cope with feelings that we are often unclear about, or too afraid to confront.

Distinguishing anxiety as a coping behavior rather than a feeling is critical. Don’t get stuck focusing on the symptom (anxiety), but help the adolescent explore the underlying issues that may be perpetuating anxiety. It’s when you identify the root issues that true healing can begin to take place.

Here are some specific ways you can help an adolescent with anxiety identify the underlying root issues that cause them to respond with anxiety:

  • Start with: Sometimes teenagers need help finding the right words to articulate what they are experiencing. Use a handout of feeling words that you can give an adolescent to look through and see if they can name more clearly what they feel. This identification helps them understand themselves better, as well as helping you understand their experience, which increases a sense of safety and trust in the relationship.
  • Advanced tactics: Take a stack of 3×5 cards and write down one feeling word on each card. You will want about 20-30 cards. Lay the cards down on the ground, spread out from each other at a good distance (ideally a foot or more). Invite the adolescent to walk around and through the cards and pick up which ones they resonate with the most (i.e., which ones create the feeling of anxiety in them as they look at or walk by the word). Then use those words to help open up a conversation. The physical movement and tactile nature of this exercise can be very helpful.

3. Provide tools to help manage the anxiety

Normalizing and identifying anxiety are important first steps, but adolescents also need tools to assist them in managing anxiety. And though tools are vital, I often have found that adolescents (especially younger ones) have a hard time using tools on their own, especially if they are too complex.

Self-care is an important tool in the management of anxiety. For example, when an adolescent is doing something physically, it helps release positive chemicals in the brain, offsetting some of the more negative ones. When an adolescent is emotionally connected, they tend to feel less isolated and alone, and there is less of a chance they will have to deal with anxiety by themselves. When an adolescent finds something positive to mentally engage, this can be helpful in finding purpose and in switching focus from the negative messages of anxiety. And when an adolescent takes care of themselves spiritually, they are often able to place themselves in a larger narrative than their own, which is key to keep from being swallowed up by the focus on self that anxiety often perpetuates.

Here are some specific and easily-accessible tools you can recommend to or use with adolescents experiencing anxiety:

  • Start with: Breathing exercises are probably the most underrated of all anxiety tools, and might be the most important. The Latin root for anxiety implies a “choking off,” or a “closing/shutting in,” so with anxiety it can actually feel like the person can’t breathe (i.e., a panic attack), or that their world is falling apart around them (i.e., existential crisis). So, restoring a calm breathing pattern is essential. You can help a teenager start by practicing a technique such as “box breathing.”I also highly recommend the app Headspace and its “Anxiety Pack.”
  • Advanced tactics: Sit down with an adolescent and perform a self-care assessment by drawing four columns on a piece of paper. Label them from left to right: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual. One column at a time, help the adolescent identify as many things they could be doing to foster each area of their life. Look at the list together and narrow it down to just one activity or practice in each column that they feel the most excitement or energy to focus on. Meet weekly to help keep them accountable and inspired to work on self-care and soul care.

4. Reframe anxiety as an opportunity to grow

Most teenagers I work with have been raised to believe that anxiety is a bad thing, something to be avoided at all costs. Many great thinkers on anxiety from Søren Kierkegaard to Rollo May have argued that though anxiety can have debilitating effects on our lives, ultimately it can also provide us with great insight and lead to transformative change. Kierkegaard has written that “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” And what possibly produces more anxiety than being in adolescence and having to navigate all the freedom and choices new to a young person’s experience?

  • Start with: Take an adolescent through some of the stories in the Bible where the journey through anxiety (whether implicit or explicit) seems to be a major tool for shaping and growing people (e.g., wandering for 40 years in the wilderness; Jacob wrestling with God; Mary giving birth to Jesus; Jesus praying in the garden.) You might ask the adolescent, “What anxiety has God brought you through that has really shaped and helped you grow as a person?”
  • Advanced tactics: Try leading the young person in an exercise where they interview their anxiety. There is no “right” way to do this, but the act of depersonalizing anxiety away from themselves and asking questions of their anxiety like, “Why are you here?”, “What do you want from me?”, “What can I learn from you?” “Where is God in the midst of this anxiety?”, are super helpful in making it friendlier, and the process itself can sometimes lead to answers and next steps for the adolescent.

5. Practice working through the anxiety

I have come to realize more and more in my work as a therapist that insight alone is not enough. It’s not enough to simply know that we are anxious, or that a certain underlying feeling is the trigger for anxiety. We have to take that insight and put it into practice, and when we do that, I believe we will see the transformative change we are looking for. Psychologist Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance, describes the role “deliberate practice” plays in cultivating change. I have seen that when adolescents practice working with and through their anxiety, they experience more victory over it.

[Read more about Grit from FYI, and why it may matter more than grades.]

Here are some specific ways that a teenager can practice working out their anxiety:

  • Start with: Help an adolescent identify a specific area of life where they have anxiety. Then explore with them if there are some specific and tangible “baby steps” they can take to face the anxiety head on. Plan those steps out together, and encourage them to experiment with each one. For example, since anxiety can be socially isolating, I might encourage something like this: 1) Walk through a busy part of campus (hallway, cafeteria, etc.) and simply notice what they feel and think. Don’t do anything else for a couple of weeks. 2) Then I might encourage them to find just one person they know and strike up conversation with them. Try this over a few weeks. 3) Then as that friendship develops, I might encourage them to share just a little with that friend about what they are struggling with in terms of anxiety. You could go through a progression of steps like this with many topics, such as anxiety around giving a speech, or trying out for a team, or for feeling overwhelmed with homework. The more you know a teenager, the more you will be able to speak specifically into their experience. The key is to keep the teenager from isolating themselves and letting anxiety take over their day-to-day experience. Instead, look for small, achievable experiences that work in helping the adolescent face and work through their specific anxieties.
  • Advanced tactics: Teach the young person to walk through these steps when they feel anxious: a) Say what you feel: e.g., “I feel inadequate.” b) Say what you normally do: e.g., “I normally become anxious.” c) Say your truth: e.g., “The truth is that I’m capable and have what it takes.” d) Say what different action you will take: e.g., “I am choosing to face my fears and have this difficult conversation/apply to that school/end this relationship/try out for this team.” This practice brings awareness to the automatic processes in our brain and body, and by bringing attention to these processes, helps us emotionally regulate and position ourselves to make a different, healthy choice. (And again, I’m indebted to Terry Hargrave’s restoration therapy model for developing this process).

Rising above the tide

I have spent a majority of my life struggling with anxiety, and it is through these key approaches that I, and those who I counsel daily, have found freedom.

It’s not that I am no longer anxious, but rather I now see anxiety as a voice within that helps give me direction when I experience anxiety. Is this anxiety here to crush me? Should I avoid it? Or can it be a tool for growth? Is there something I need to pay attention to in my current patterns? Could this anxiety act as a helpful guide to me? For example, the anxiety may simply be an indicator of fear that is keeping a student from trying out for a part in the school play. Or perhaps it is keeping a student from making new friends in school. This is where anxiety might be saying, “We need to work through these fears in order to live in freedom.”

Sometimes we do sense that anxiety requires more than the practices described in this toolkit. For example, if you encounter a young person whose anxiety is so overwhelming that you fear it may endanger their life or the lives of others. Or perhaps the adolescent’s anxiety is impeding their ability to set healthy boundaries or make wise choices. This is where anxiety may be saying that it’s time to see a therapist, to see a psychiatrist about medication, or to look for inpatient options to help treat anxiety’s debilitating effects.

Kierkegaard declared that “anxiety is our best teacher.” And it has been through the loving care of those responders in my life—a thoughtful college chaplain, two insightful therapists, a helpful mentor, a loving wife, and a faithful God—that I have been able to see anxiety as a teacher in my life, and to use it as an agent of transformation.

I believe you too can be that caregiver who helps a young person transform their anxiety for good. You can be the guide who helps an adolescent best understand the role of anxiety in their lives, and discern what to do with it. Then instead of being overcome by the drowning waves of anxiety, teenagers in our lives can see the tide when it’s rising and step to higher ground.

It Takes a Circle

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

I grew up in a small church where the congregation’s youth group consisted mostly of me and my sister, Cathy. Seriously.
Instead of sitting with my parents through the sanctuary service, I spent most Sunday mornings watching the pastor’s kids in the nursery. That was my church experience as a youth.

At 23, I got married in the sanctuary I’d avoided during my teenage years, and I began searching for a different church for my newly-formed family. Goal: a huge youth ministry. After all, future Daniel and Traci would have a child, and I wanted him to have the youth group I never had. That’s what parents do . . . give our kids what we wanted and never had.

However, when Thomas was nine years old, we decided to pursue a nomadic life on the road. Yes, that’s right. Before our son could enter the amazing youth group at our church—the one we’d purposely picked before his birth—we whisked him away in a 38-foot bus with us.

Instead of forming long-lasting relationships with peers and engaging with experienced student ministry staff, our boy had to trail behind a 38-year old anxious sales guy and a 35-year old insecure introvert. What could possibly go wrong?

The first year spent on the road was bumpy and bruising. As camping newbies, Daniel and I took on roles and responsibilities beyond anything we’d ever known. The learning curve for all-things-RV was steep, and there were new simultaneous stresses, too.

Daniel left corporate America to become an entrepreneur, and I exchanged the role of Room Mom for full-time teacher. And, instead of three people sharing a few thousand square feet of house, we occupied 350-square feet 24 hours a day, every day.

Learning to share space—and one family computer—while launching a business, educating ourselves on homeschooling, and remembering to enjoy the journey was challenging. Thomas’s nuclear family was sometimes indeed nuclear.

The adventurous life both rewarded and exhausted. We loved all the family time, but as the first year of travel came to an end, Daniel and I realized what we had sacrificed. No, we realized what Thomas had sacrificed.

The fun-loving little boy who’d left Indiana now reflected his parents, anxious and insecure. That hadn’t been our plan. If something didn’t change, I was convinced Thomas would end up on Jerry Springer someday.

On a break from traveling, I had coffee with the youth pastor at our Indiana church. She was a close friend, so I shared my concerns and fears including the part about Jerry Springer. Pastor Mandy assured me that Thomas would be okay, but she encouraged me to plug him in with his peers and youth leaders. The connections would be good for all of us.

Her words reminded me why we’d chosen the congregation we did: Doing life in isolation is hard.

Humans were designed to live within community, but I’d let my desire for adventure interrupt the foundational relationships my son would need, the very ones I’d wanted for myself as a teenager.

Youth group involvement became a priority for our family. We still traveled from time to time, however, Thomas never missed a work camp or youth convention. His small group leaders, youth pastors, and other adult volunteers became an ever-widening circle of influence.

The impact and evidence struck me in 2013 during the semester Thomas would graduate from high school. “If you ever needed something and your dad and I were unavailable, who would you call?” I asked. Thomas named a few people. “Yes, but if you had a crisis and couldn’t reach us, who would you go to for help?” Thomas named more people.

My boy was listing his circle from church. Small group leaders. Youth pastors. Thomas listed one by one many of the adult volunteers he’d come to know, those who had for years poured into his life.

Instead of the traditional high school graduation open house celebrating his accomplishment, Thomas invited his circle to a Gratitude Brunch to honor their contribution to his accomplishment. This is what he wanted to say:   

Thank you for caring for me.
Thank you for encouraging me.
Thank you for challenging me.

It’s said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I would say that village is shaped like a circle.

Building Wisdom With the Weight of Your Words

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

When you become a parent there’s a phrase you start throwing around: “My parents did __________, but I will never do that.” My parents said ___________, but I’ll never say that.

I’ll never yell.
I’ll never try to cut bedtime short.
I’ll never say, “Because I said so”

But then the strangest thing happens. You’re lecturing your child about needing to eat their vegetables if they want to grow big and strong, and all of the sudden, you hear your mother’s voice coming out of your mouth. Or your kid is relentless with the questions about why you have to wait thirty minutes after eating to swim, why shooting nerf guns at your brother in point blank range is a bad idea, why not drinking a full glass of water before bedtime will be a decision they (and you) will regret later and without even thinking, you say it. With no effort at all, it comes out of your mouth.

“Why? Because I said so.”

When I heard that as a kid, I thought it was a cop out. A way to shut down a conversation I knew my parents didn’t want to have. Now that I’m a parent myself, I sure that’s exactly what it is. It absolutely is a chance to hear no more talking. To stop the questions. To get a breather.

The problem is, it’s lazy parenting and though it buys me a few minutes of peace and quiet, I’m also pretty sure I’m not doing my kids any favors.

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul writes saying, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one need and bringing grace to those who listen.”

I’ve always heard this verse and focused on the first part of it: Don’t say anything unwholesome. Or to say it another way, nothing distasteful, nasty or unpleasant. It’s good advice, but if that’s the only standard for what I should say, that sets the bar pretty low.

But the second part of that verse raises the bar. Paul writes that we should only say what is helpful for building up. That paints a different kind of picture, doesn’t it? Now my words are tools, possibilities for creating something, or tearing something down. Basically, no word is neutral. So the question becomes what are our words accomplishing?

Interestingly, in ancient Hebrew the word “wisdom” came from the root word “to build”. Paul didn’t write his letters in Hebrew, but he would have known it, and I wonder, as he wrote to the church in Ephesus about building one another up, if he didn’t have in mind this idea of building as it relates to wisdom. Of how we ought to use our words to build wisdom into one another—for us as parents, to coach our kids in discovering wisdom. Suddenly, that makes my words weightier. And conversations with them even more important. And that fallback, “because I told you so”? Way less helpful.

I want to be careful with my words, not just to build my kids up, but to coach them in how to discover the right thing to do and the wise thing to do—on their own—without my voice ringing in the background to do just do what I said, because I am their mom and that makes me the boss, so stop asking questions.

If we are builders with our words, and we are architects of our children, we need to be teaching them not only with the words we are speaking aloud, but also with the words we are choosing not to say. Sometimes the building is teaching them to draw their own conclusions. Sometimes it’s engaging in longer conversation than we would like, sometimes it means we stop saying, “because I said so”, and buckle down for more words than we expected, because when it comes to learning how to be wise, this is what it takes.

I’ve found so much of parenting, more than I anticipated anyway, to be making a decision between taking the easy way, the short sighted way, and the way that envisions a future version of my kids that I want to be around. Kids who have grown up and grown into the type of people I am proud to be responsible for. When it comes to the words we speak, I have to parent with the long game in mind. I have to build and construct and instruct my kids towards becoming wise.

Our words are powerful. They are powerful in what they can do for others, but also in what they require of us: intention, time and care. And though they sometimes ask more of us than we like, I think we’ll find they do more for us long term when we put in the necessary time to use them as tools in shaping our kids and shaping their future into the best possible one.

 

What Parenting Taught Me About Life

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

As parents, we are tasked to train our children and prepare them for the world . . . but sometimes those roles are reversed. Our children become the teachers, exposing us to our own weaknesses, allowing us to grow alongside them as we navigate the unknown together.

Before I had children, I lived a very sheltered life. Under the comfort of my parents and great grandmother’s wings, I was surrounded by strong individuals who set the pace and direction of my life. While this was good on one hand, it handicapped me on the other. You see the world around me that I was being “protected” from was the same world that I would need to face one day alone. In this environment, my battles were fought for me and I didn’t have many opportunities to stand up for myself. I was lost in my own world, trapped in the bubble of a loving environment that was doing more harm than good.

I matriculated through life as a peacemaker. The girl that could get along with everyone but at the same time no one. The student who was academically successful, but socially awkward. The woman who could multitask at work, get the job done, but be used and walked over by her boss. The wife who was afraid to lead for a fear of failure, so neglected her position of helper and left her husband to fend for himself.

Next, I became a mother and the responsibility of caring for a life that was not my own became motivation for me to grow up, be bold, and lead.

I became an advocate . . .

Advocate: “to plead, support, or speak on behalf of another person … the pursuit of peace.” (dictionary.com)

Then something clicked here recently. One of our children dealt with bullying. Although, it was painful for me to not be there for her physically, I had the privilege of walking alongside her (step- by-step) teaching her how to advocate for herself. It wasn’t easy by any means, but through teaching her, I was learning myself.

Now I am becoming . . .

A mother that willingly ventures into the hard places . . . understanding that it is in those places, we are formed.
A mother that cares for my children and empowers them to care for themselves.
A mother that strives for excellence and supports the journey of struggle and mistakes along the way.

Through parenting, I have become more intentional about how I live my life and the example I set for my children. This has changed the direction, pace, and purpose for me. Not because I wanted to be someone else to them, but because I wanted to be the best me for them.

What lessons have you learn through parenting?

 

The Parent Your 18+ Kid Needs Now

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

This fall, we sent our youngest daughter of three to college. You’d think I’d have this transition down by now.

I didn’t.
I cried like a baby.
At the most unexpected times.
Over obscure memories.

Parenting is not for the weak.
It’s courageous.
Gut wrenching.
Beautiful.
Death-defying.
Life-giving.

As my wife and I drove away from our daughter’s new dorm-home, we hugged.
And gave each other a fist pump.

We made it.
We did it.
Empty nest.
Add “empty nesters” to our parenting resumé.

But our new status doesn’t really mean that our parenting is over.
It’s actually a new beginning.

[Some parent-readers are gasping right now. Hang in there with me.]

It occurred to me that my tears were not just about my daughter’s transition
But about my transition as well.

I need to change.
And my daughter needs me to change.
What she needs from me is to be her dad today, not yesterday.

In my experience and our research at the Fuller Youth Institute, we’ve recognized that eighteen-plus kids launching into to work, school, military, or gap years need their parents to pivot, too.

In order to be what your eighteen-plus kid needs you to be today and going forward, consider these three crucial parenting pivots:

PIVOT 1: Come to terms with your past parenting and work on future parenting.

When our kids graduate or move out of the house, it can start to feel like we’ve run out of parenting time and chances. We wonder . . .
Did I set them up for success?
Was I too tough on them?
Too easy?
Too naïve?

In these moments, many of us try to cram too many pieces of advice into the final days and hours of their departure.

But here’s the truth:
You are an imperfect parent.
You did what you could.
You rocked it in some areas
Blew it in others.

You didn’t have enough time to do it all.
That’s not because you’re a bad parent.
It’s because you’re human.

Accept the good and bad elements of your parenting.
Ask for forgiveness where you need to.
Celebrate and forgive your past, parenting self.

You can’t go back.
But you can go forward
Have courage to try again.
Take small steps.

Here’s the great news. Research on parents’ relationships with their post high school kids suggests that it gets better! Don’t let your past parenting hold your future parenting.

Pivot from trying to make up for the past and instead start living into the kind of parent you can be for them today.

PIVOT 2: Change your language to shift your parenting role.

Out of habit, it’s interesting how parents and kids default back to old roles and patterns. Especially with our communication. Changing my parenting starts by changing how I talk with them. If I speak with them differently, the relationship will follow.

In high school, I’d ask them:
Did you get your homework done?
What are your plans for the weekend?
Who is Danny?
Are you going to church?

My questions and language demanded that they keep me updated on their responsibilities, plans, and relationships. For an eighteen-plus person trying to strike out on their own, these conversations sound odd to them. Worse, it communicates to my daughters that I’m treating them as teenagers not as emerging adults.

I’ve made that mistake.
I didn’t mean it that way.
Old habits die hard.

But after experiencing their resistance and frustration, I realized that the parent they needed, needed to talk with them differently.

So my questions pivoted to:
What are you learning these days?
How is your weekend shaping up?
Tell me what you appreciate about some of your new friends.
What’s it like to find a Christian community?

Pivot the way you talk with your eighteen-plus kids by speaking to them as the emerging adults they are becoming, not the teenagers they were.

PIVOT 3: Be interested and interesting.

What our eighteen-plus kids need from us more than anything else is to see our own progress.

Many of our parent peers express the void they feel when their eighteen-plus child moves on. We’ve spent two decades loving, worrying, and dedicating our lives to launching them and often don’t prepare for the period beyond this point.

It feels strange.
A second post-partum.
Disorienting.

It’s time to invest in your second half of life.
What will you learn, try, read?
What bad habits might you break and what healthy ones will you replace them with?
How can you reinvest in your marriage or friendships?
How might you deepen your connection with God?

This is more than a pitch for self-improvement. I’m convinced that what eighteen-plus kids need is for their parents to not only be interested in them but also interesting.

When you ask them what they’re learning, you can share your discoveries.
When you ask them what they’re doing, you can share your activities.

Some of my best conversations with my daughters stem from us exchanging books we’re reading, current issues we’re wrestling with, ideas we’re trying on, or experiences we’re trying to make sense of.

When we work to be interesting ourselves, we have a chance to engage our eighteen-plus kids as peers who are growing together. We also show them that life never stops being interesting!

Pivot from not only being interested in them to being interesting yourself.

Beginning again.

We have a lot of history with our eighteen-plus kids. We also have a lot of history yet to make. Let’s become the parents our emerging adult kids need today (and each day) by pivoting our role, our language, and our interests. This is our new beginning.

Become a Role Model Worth Following

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

As we strive to be role models for our kids, there will be plenty of times we fail. Our children have a funny way of calling us out when we do something that is inconsistent with what we are teaching them. For example, it’s a bit of a wake up call to have your children stop you mid-sentence because you’re talking with your mouth full at the dinner table after you’ve told them they shouldn’t.

If you desire to be a role model, who is worthy of following, here are 6 areas in your life that need to be evaluated and changed accordingly.

Your Language

Watch what you say. Whether you think your kids are listening or not, they hear you. Be careful not to call other people names, gossip, or curse if you don’t want your kids doing the same things.

Your Tone

How you talk to someone is just as important as the words that are used. Be careful to speak to your spouse and others with respect.

Your Attitude

Negativity breeds more negativity. Have a can-do attitude for your child to be prepared to take on the world. Sometimes even the smallest attitude adjustment can go a long way.
Are your elbows on the table? Do you hold doors for women when out in public? Your children will be little gentlemen and little ladies only if you model it yourself.

Your Confidence

Exhibit confidence to your kids in doing what is good. Always do the right things for the right reasons.

Your Forgiveness

We all make mistakes. Are you modeling the father’s forgiveness for your children? And do you apologize when you are in the wrong?

Your Love

The greatest gift that you can give your children is love. Be a model of love to your kids. Show and tell your children that they mean the world to you. They will learn to love the way you do.

Speed Kills

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

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. –Job 3:25-26

The pace of life is killing the soul of families. It makes good people act crazy and makes otherwise healthy individuals become vulnerable—vulnerable to sickness, vulnerable to broken relationships and vulnerable to sin. The old adage “speed kills” no longer refers only to drivers on the highway.

Today’s family is dangerously tired. We are too busy and too distracted to find much hope unless we undergo drastic “family surgery.” The soul of a family is at risk when the family is overstretched and overcommitted. In my book, Creating an Intimate Marriage, one theme I focused on is the idea that when couples are overcommitted, they become unconnected. Doesn’t this hold true for families as well? What happens when our families run too fast for too long? The hurry and busyness of life can be the great destroyers of an otherwise healthy family. A philosopher in the previous century put it this way: “Hurry is not of the Devil; hurry is the Devil.” Decades later Richard Foster wrote, “Our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied.”¹

Let’s face it: everything is more dangerous at high speed. When we are overly tired, we tend to become numb to what matters most in our life. We settle for mediocrity in our primary relationships with God, our spouse, our kids, our extended family and our friendships. The saddest part is that many of us are just too busy to care. When we are overcommitted, we postpone or cut short what matters most. Our to-do list seems necessary and unavoidable. We feel like we can never escape the persistent presence of bills, schedules, and other responsibilities. This ever-increasing pace of life turns even the best people into machines and greatly reduces our general level of happiness and fulfillment.

Choosing to cut back from the busy pace we live our lives can be difficult and involves tough choices. It requires the courage of your conviction that cutting back is in the best interest of your life and those of your family, even when doing so is contrary to what we so often see as the norm in today’s culture. Today, go against the flow. Slow down!

GOING DEEPER:
1. What do you find most difficult about the concept of cutting back?

2. How might reducing the pace of life bring healing and wholeness to your family?

FURTHER READING:
Psalm 23:2; Mark 6:31

5 Ways to Help Your Kids Make Wise Choices

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

Any of these sound familiar?

Dad, can I ride my skateboard down the driveway and into the street?
Mom, can we jump off the roof into the pool?
Mom, can I slide down the banister?
Dad, can I jump on that beehive right there?

When you hear questions like that you want to scream, “NO!”
That, or run crying into your bedroom and hide under the sheets until your kids grow into adults.

Let’s face it, some decisions are easy to make. Clearly, the beehive should be left alone.

Others? Not so much. Sliding down the right banister can actually be pretty fun.

As parents, we’ve (hopefully) figured out how to make a wise choice over time. Our kids on the other hand are just starting their journey to discovering wisdom, and unfortunately, choices aren’t always cut and dry. As our kids grow up they’ll soon learn that the decisions they’ll have to make are not as black and white as we might wish.

Helping kids understand that is often easier said than done. How do we help our kids learn the importance of wisdom and making the wise choice?

1. MODEL YOUR OWN DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

Kids are concrete thinkers, and often that means they need some connections made that are intuitive to you. As you walk through a decision such as what to eat for a healthy snack or how to respond to a neighbor’s barky dog, verbalize what’s normally just inside your head. Invite kids into the process and ask them their opinion. If it’s a big choice that you’re praying about (like buying a car or new home), pray with them about that decision as you ask God for wisdom. When your kids see you make wise choices, they’ll be more likely to make the wise choice themselves.

2. TELL STORIES

The Bible is full of people who both succeeded and failed at wisdom. Read those stories together and talk about the consequences they experienced. And not only the Bible, as you’re reading (or watching) anything with your children, pause and talk through the decisions you’re seeing played out in the storyline. Use these as teachable moments to help kids discover more about wisdom.

3. GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE THE WISE CHOICE

We often think it’s easier to make decisions for our kids. And let’s be honest—it usually is. But when we consider the end in mind for our kids, this isn’t the best thing for them. Rather than give them the answer to decision, we can guide them through the process making the wise choice. Ask questions that walk them through the sorts of ideas they should consider when making a decision. Eventually, they’ll start asking themselves those same types of questions. They may still not make the choice you wish they’d make, but at least they’re thinking through it. And who knows, they may surprise you and consider something that you hadn’t.

4. LET THEM MESS UP

Like or not, we often don’t learn without messing up once or ten times along the way. As much as you’ll want to step in and fix it, resist the urge to rescue your kids from the consequences of their choices. It’s hard to watch of course, but sometimes we need to let our kids touch the proverbial stove in the short-term choices to help them gain wisdom that will help them win at the rest of their life. And if they do mess up (and they will), don’t take away their responsibility. Let them learn from their mistake and get back at it. Show them that you can still trust them even when they mess up. This will help give them confidence to get back at it and grow in wisdom.

5. CELEBRATE THE WINS

When your kids make the wise choice, let them know you noticed. Celebrate them with a high-five, a hug, or slip a note into their lunch box. You don’t need to throw a party to celebrate they chose to finish their homework before playing video games all week, but showing appreciation will affirm those choices and reinforce to your kids that it was worth the effort to make the wise choice.

When it comes to wisdom—finding out what you should do and doing it—it’s important to remember that parenting is a marathon sport. Over time, the conversations that you have about making decisions will influence your children to consider the value of wisdom. Giving kids a strong foundation of wisdom is important. Let’s equip them to face down whatever choice they may face in the future.

10 Dangerous Video Games Your Teen Might Be Playing

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

“Just one more level!” they plead. Late night, playing video games with friends, it seems they’ve been on for hours. You know where your kids are. But do you know what they’re playing?

Many of us grew up playing video games. But we’ve come a long way since Pac man, Atari, Donkey Kong, and the early days of Super Mario Bros. The truth is, gaming has changed, along with technology and all of the other influences in the world. Never has there been a generation so attached and wired to a constant influx of media messages every single day. The gaming industry is big. And immensely profitable. Though studies have been debated over the years about the potential negative effects of violent video games for teens, indicators seem to suggest, it’s not all “just a game” anymore. Gaming has progressed down a more dangerous pathway, and parents would be wise to learn more.

While most would probably never allow their kids to eat a constant diet of junk food, or see a steady stream of R rated movies, many teens are playing hours upon hours of video games every week, with mature, suggestive, adult content, profanity, and graphic violence. So what’s the difference? The lines seem blurred; kids receive mixed messages of what’s OK, and what is not. We are affected, by what we choose to watch, focus on, listen to, and even by what games we play.

Recent statistics show:

“The global market for video games is expected to grow from $ 66 billion in 2013 to $ 79 billion in 2017. This forecast includes revenue from dedicated console hardware and software (both physical and online), dedicated portable game hardware and software, PC games and games for mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablets, music players and other devices that can play games as a secondary feature.”

In our nation alone, “8.5% of youth gamers (ages 8-18) can be classified as being clinically ‘addicted’ to playing video games.” 

A nationally representative study found that the average 8-12 year old plays 13 hours of video games per week, while the average 13-18 year old plays 14 hours per week. Total that up and within the ages of your child’s growing up years, they could be logging upwards of close to 10,000 video hours.

While some top selling games promote learning and encourage positive messages and themes, there are many other games to avoid. The ratings, content, and reviews alone can give you much information. This is by no means an exhaustive list; there are many games that could be discussed here. Often, you will find a combination of several key characteristics they hold in common:

1. Graphic, bloody violence, real, vivid images which research indicates that over time, can lead to overall desensitization of violence or suffering, as well as increased aggression in dealing with conflict, and lack of empathy.

2. Inappropriate sexual content, overall disrespect, and violence towards women.

3. The idea that “killing” should be rewarded. Though it’s all part of the game, the lines between reality and make-believe can sometimes become blurred, and the disregard for human life seems all too real.

4. Player adopts the role of first person shooter, actually looking down the barrel of a gun, demolishing the enemy, thus making it all more real and vivid.

5. Game success is often measured by negative behaviors which promote criminal activity, theft, disrespect for authority, drug and alcohol use, and other things that parents would not likely want their kids to emulate in real life.

Ten Dangerous Video Games for Teens:

Grand Theft Auto V
Genre- Action/Adventure, Shooter
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Mature

When a video game sells $800 million worth of software in a single day, it says a lot about our culture. This game is rated “M” for many reasons. It is not a game intended for kids or teens. Violence, deviant behaviors, foul language, and graphic, sexual content abound in this game.

Diablo III
Genre – Role-Playing, Combat, Horror/Suspense
Platform – PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
ESRB Rating – Mature

As its title may suggest, this game is full of demonic images and monstrosities. Its graphic, violent content is disturbing and raw.

Wolfenstein: The New Order
Genre – Shooter, Combat, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

This first person shooter game takes aim at Nazi Germany forces and allows players to take on the full effect through extreme battle images. Blood, gore, intense violence, strong language, use of drugs, and strong sexual content abound through it all.

South Park – The Stick of Truth
Genre – Role-playing, Combat
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB rating – Mature

This is no innocent cartoon series. It is crude, rude, and full of graphic sexual content and foul language.

Assassins Creed IV – Black Flag
Genre – Action/Adventure, Combat
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, WiiU, PC
ESRB rating – Mature

In following the pattern set by other Assassins Creed games that came before, this version is also high in violent, graphic content, sexual themes, and profanity.

Mortal Kombat
Genre – Combat, Fighting
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Mature

Fighting game of unprecedented violence. This one game led to the establishing of the entertainment software rating board, and is still, quite possibly, one of the most historically controversial games ever.

Watch Dogs
Genre- Shooter, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

This game is all about a hacker seeking revenge, but it gained the “M” rating for extreme violence, strong language, and strong sexual content.

Dead Space II and III
Genre – Shooter, Horror/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

Extreme violence, blood, and gore typify this game which launched its initial ad campaign this way: ”It’s revolting. It’s violent. It’s everything you love in a game, and your mom’s gonna hate it.” Many moms may have been thankful for that heads up information. And quite possibly they forgot, that Moms are often the ones who choose which games to buy, or not to buy.

Mafia II
Genre – Action/Adventure, Shooter
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

Real view of the mob world, including gangsters’ devaluation of human life, drugs and alcohol, and mistreatment of women. Foul language abounds and Playboy centerfolds are scattered around the environment for players to find and collect.

Naughty Bear
Genre – Role-playing
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Teen

The Teen rating may fool many, but this is a violent and disturbing game about a sociopathic bear who spends his time beating his peers until they commit suicide. It is basically a game that encourages imaginative murder.

The popular mindset of our culture may have a strong opinion of what they think is right. But you have the freedom to choose what you believe is right for your own family. Here’s what you may hear:

“It’s really not that bad.” 

The truth is, it really is.

“Everyone else is playing it.” 

The truth is, everyone is not.

“The parental controls make everything safe.” 

The truth is the games still contains graphic, mature content that can’t be fully controlled, and some allow for modifications to be set, where players can add extra material, characters, or plots twists that actually change the game.

“We don’t buy “M” games, so they’ll never see them or play them anyway.” 

The truth is that even though you may not buy them, many of their friends probably do.

“It’s just a game, it’s not real and they know it’s not.” 

The truth is, real or not, young minds are still affected by what they see, play, and hear. Older minds are affected as well. Young minds are still being wired and influenced by all they’re taking in from the world. And the experiences a teen has, even virtual ones, can have a huge impact on their core beliefs, values, and attitudes.

As parents, we can form our own conclusions about what we feel comfortable allowing for our kids. But if you’re like me, maybe you haven’t known enough about what’s out there and the full content that a game actually contains. I encourage you to do the research. Talk with your teen. Ask questions about what they’re playing or what their friends are playing. Keep communication open. Keep computers and games devices in common areas of your home. Make the choice for your family of what is allowable and what is not.

Most importantly, there’s One voice that rises above all the rest. More than what your teen wants, or what their friends are playing, more than varying opinions of what research says, or what the top selling games trends are. His voice reminds us to take care of what we allow in, to guard what we think about, watch, and do. And that’s really the most important thing to impress upon our kids as they grow. The one truth – that what we do – that what we choose – it matters.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).