5 Simple Ways to Help Teens Cope with Anxiety

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

Spring can be a tough time in the world of a teenager. Yes, the flowers are blooming, the trees are getting greener and the air is filled with the sweet scent of spring flowers. But many high schoolers are experiencing the stress of finals, sitting for AP exams, taking or re-taking the SAT or ACT, navigating the college application process, and of course, preparing for prom. And if those tasks aren’t already anxiety provoking, let’s not underestimate the power of peer approval. School has become somewhat of a social minefield for teens, and acceptance from their peers is imperative.

And those are just a fraction of the stuff that concern teens this time of year.

Rising academic standards, increased competition for colleges, extracurricular activities, and bourgeoning romantic interests are all aspects of being a teen that can lead to feelings of failure and rejection… which can then open the doorway for anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal and unavoidable part of life, especially when experiencing something new or transitioning to a new stage in life. For teens, anxiety can show up in a number of ways: shortness of breath, picking of skin, feeling overwhelmed, or feelings of sudden panic are just a few. Anxiety can even show up in one’s thinking patterns such as in “what-if” thoughts about being judged or criticized, and persistent worries about the future.

The way you acknowledge and respond to a teen showing signs of anxiety is critical in helping them to foster a sense of competence. What can parents do to help teens manage high anxiety periods? Here are five simple strategies to consider:

1. SPENDING QUALITY TIME.

Adolescence is often characterized as a stage of waning parental influence as children begin to slowly distance themselves from the values of their parents. While there is truth to that theory, it does not tell the full story. Years of experience in education and mental health has taught me that while parent-teen relationships are not always peaceful, they can be pivotal. Teenagers need their parents and other loving adults to guide them as they develop and mature. There are studies that even suggest that teenagers need more quality time from parents than toddlers! Open communication and support can buffer some of the turbulence of adolescence. Making yourself available physically and emotionally—even when you feel pushed away—during stressful periods outweighs any previous conflicts. Impromptu conversations during family meals and while driving to the soccer field really matter. Over time, both parents and teens will balance the need for independence and closeness.

2. ENCOURAGING A TECH BREAK.

Due to the pervasiveness of technology in our society, teens—and adults—find it difficult to unplug. A student recently shared her experience with a one week “Social Media Detox” challenge posed by her English teacher. While the thought of giving up Instagram and Snapchat was initially terrifying, she observed how immensely freeing it eventually became. Most teens are connected to technology each day and more so for social reasons rather than academic ones. The challenge for parents is that it is nearly impossible to limit access to most forms of technology, and you may not even desire to. However, guidance and supervision is still important, even in the teen years. Focus on moderation rather than prevention. Participating in a self-imposed break can help to reduce the feelings of pressure in an already overwhelmed teen. For those reluctant to detox completely, offer up a compromise of deleting saved bookmarks from their internet browser, or turning off email notifications on their smart phones . . . at least for a weekend.

3. SHARING YOUR EXPERIENCES.

Adolescence is a time for identity formation. With the increasing pressures of academic achievement and fixations around appearance, it is no wonder that teen anxiety is on the rise. Despite mounting pressures, one comforting fact is that teens respond favorably to, and learn from anyone to whom they feel a personal connection. One parenting tip that I frequently offer is to reflect about a time when you faced a similar challenge as your teen is facing or experienced debilitating anxiety. Aim for a 10-15-minute conversation with your teen while in the car or when taking the dog for a walk. Before doing so, ask yourself the following: What did you wish your parents had done to help you? What would you have wanted to hear? What did they do that you valued and respected? Respond to your teen with empathy and share how you successfully managed the issue. Or, how maybe you weren’t so successful initially. Then allow your teen to explore his or her own thoughts and feelings related to what you’ve shared.

4. OFFERING PERSPECTIVES.

Journeying from childhood to adulthood is difficult. In just a few short years, teens go through a significant number of physical and emotional changes. Also, decisions such as where to apply to college or who to ask out for prom may seem exciting to onlookers but may trigger feelings of dread for a teenager. The reality of independence can be terrifying. Teens often feel the pressure to be all things to all people. Remind your teen that who they are is much more important than their SAT score or who they date. Encourage your teen to view their worries about their future as a normal and natural part of growing up. Parents can take concrete steps to help their teen better understand their unique experiences through journaling, reading short stories, and watching films that celebrate the adolescent journey. Yes, some choices about the future need to be made now, but it is okay to not know everything and to continue to explore. Offering perspective and repeatedly reminding your teen that they are fully accepted just for who they are, goes a long way towards enhancing self-esteem and decreasing anxiety.

5. GETTING PHYSICAL.

Teens need both challenge and involvement. The teens that I work with often describe anxiety as “. . . wanting to jump out of my skin.” Anxiety can be both mentally and physically draining. Teens are often short on energy because of too little physical activity. Balancing the pressure of a rigorous academic load with aerobic activity can alleviate stress and anxiety which can be stored in the body. Even if your teen isn’t particularly athletic, help him or her to find ways to slow down, have more fun, and seek a more balanced lifestyle. Bowling, skating, or simply reading a good book are great ways to decompress. Engaging in fun and relaxing activities such as art, dance, and music can elicit positive emotions and social bonding.

The emotional, mental, and physiological symptoms of anxiety can be very frightening and confusing for teens. The good news? Anxiety is very common and quite treatable. And, yes, it can also be overwhelming. If your teen is struggling, it may be helpful to speak with a family physician, school counselor, or a licensed therapist. Finding the right strategies for your teen, along with a healthy dose of patience and compassion can work wonders.

Parenting in the Power of the Gospel

** The following article was copied from core christianity.com.

All Christian parents desire the spiritual well-being of their children. We want our children to be Christians, to get saved, to know God; however we express it, we want our children to be part of the company of the redeemed. We yearn for the blessing of God’s covenant grace to be on our children. This longing to see one generation follow another in knowing God motivates the training and instruction of our children. Psalm 78:3-7 (ESV) captures it:

Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and teach to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

We declare God’s mighty acts to the next generation (Ps. 145) because we long for our children to know the grace we have known. We teach God’s ways so that our sons and our son’s sons will follow God (Deut. 6).

Moved by this passion, Christian parents also long for assurance that their children will grow up Christian. I have been asked hundreds of times all over the globe, “If I do all the things you teach in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, will my children grow up to be Christians? Doesn’t the Bible teach that if we raise them right, our children will walk in God’s ways? Doesn’t God’s covenant guarantee they will be saved?”

How can we think about these things? Why do some children raised in Christian homes grow up loving God, while others, sometimes from the same home, turn away? In answering this question, we must identify two issues that have an impact on the persons our children become: the shaping influences of their lives and the Godward orientation of their hearts.

Shaping Influences

Shaping influences are those events and circumstances in a child’s developmental years that prove to be catalysts for making him the person he is. There is a clear biblical warrant for acknowledging the lifelong implications of early childhood experience. The major passages dealing with family (Deut. 6, Eph. 6, and Col. 3) presuppose the importance of shaping influences they include your faithfulness as a parent, the consistency of correction and discipline in your home, your nurture, your teaching of Christian truth, your family times in God’s word, even the ways you demonstrate spiritual vitality before your children.

Your children interact with every shaping influence you provide on the basis of the Godward orientation of their hearts. Here is what I mean: your children are covenantal beings. Humanity is essentially religious; no one is truly neutral even our children worship either Jehovah or idols. All of us filter the experiences of life through a religious grid.

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us that the truth of God revealed in creation leaves all mankind without excuse. All human beings respond to this revelation in creation; they either worship God or, in the words of Romans 1, they “exchange the truth for a lie and worship and serve created things.” Fallen humans refuse to acknowledge and submit to the things God has made plain in the creation. Paul further observes that when people know God in the creation and do not glorify him, they fall into futile thinking that leads to idolatry.

The Godward orientation of the heart ultimately determines how your children will respond to the truth you teach them. If they bow before idols rather than God, they will reject your best efforts at training them in his ways.

Proverbs 9:7-10 shows us that there are two different ways children respond to correction, rebuke, instruction, and teaching. One is the response of the wise or righteous child. He loves his instructor; he grows wiser; he increases in his learning. The other fellow the mocker, the wicked child responds with hatred, insults, and abuse. What accounts for the difference? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Wisdom determines how a child responds to correction. Your children are never neutral in response to your parenting but always active. Whatever they do with God, whatever they determine to worship and serve, will determine how they respond to your parenting efforts. Two children from the same home may respond in very different ways to the same parenting style. That’s why it is not possible to provide a guarantee that if you get it right, children will respond with faith.

The desire for such assurances is easily understood. From the time your first child is born, you realize you will never have a happy day if your child is unhappy. The parents’ love creates a longing for their child to thrive and flourish. That desire takes on eternal significance when we think of our children’s immortality. The idea that they could go into eternity without God is unbearable for any believing parent. So we long for assurance that there is something we can do that will guarantee their everlasting joy and happiness in the presence of God.

I recall how sobering these thoughts were to me as a young father. I realized that as a fallen man I had passed on to my young children a nature that is fallen and corrupt, but I could not pass on to them the grace of forgiveness and new life in Christ. I remember thinking that each day as I taught my children the Scriptures I gave them the truth that would either be their salvation or increase their accountability before God, for to whom much is given much will be expected.

Child Salvation by (Parental) Works?

We cannot save our children. We don’t like to face that. We long for some guarantee, some assurance that if we do the right things they will turn out all right. But in some ways, it is a relief to face that reality. If you think of it, the idea that we must save them through our good works is a pressure no parent can bear. It hinges our children’s eternal destiny on our ability to perform.

We have to be able to represent God in all his glory, teach them adequately, be a vibrant example of true spirituality, and we have to do it all flawlessly or our children will be forever lost. The fact is that I failed as a parent. Too often my pride and self-righteousness got in the way. I personalized my children’s sins as if they were sins against me and not against God. I was inconsistent, sometimes capricious, too busy, too concerned about me, too blind to the idols of my heart.

What Are We to Do?

Then why bother? If I cannot be assured that good biblical parenting will produce saved children, why bother? Why work so hard at the parenting task? Why read books on parenting, why work so hard on the ways we structure family life and the effort we put into things like family worship, faithfulness in church, and careful, timely, appropriate discipline?

We do these things because it is our calling as God’s redeemed people. Ephesians 6:4 says we should bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6 says that God’s words are to be upon our hearts and impressed diligently upon our children. We do these things out of love for God. It is our delight to obey God and to teach his ways to our children. His grace makes us delight in him and his law in our inmost being (Rom. 7:22).

Parents often ask, “What hope then is there for my kids, if I cannot get them into the Kingdom by my faithful parenting? What’s my hope?” Our hope is not our fidelity to the law of good parenting but to the power of the gospel. Our hope is the wonder of grace. Our hope is that God has placed our children in our home and has given us the one true answer for our kids’ most profound needs.

God has put them in a family where they are confronted with their sin and the goodness of the One who came into the world to save sinners. Every day I am bringing grace to my children. I have the opportunity to model the grace of the gospel by honestly confessing my own failures and responding to their failures with gracious discipline and discipling. They daily hear the word of God. We know that faith comes by hearing.

Each week we gather where the church sings God’s praises, and they hear God’s people pray and listen to the word of God preached. They are confronted with the vibrant reality of the worshiping church, interpreting life through the lens of Scripture. Historically, God has used these means to bring people to faith, and so I pray week by week that God will, through these means, shine his light into their hearts, giving them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).

There was a mother whom I was privileged to serve in the church. She prayed for her son’s salvation. She prayed for fifty-eight years without giving way to unbelief, but she died without seeing him come to faith. Within several years of her death, however, God brought her son to see his need for grace and to embrace Christ and his saving grace. Her prayers were answered even though she did not live to see the answer.

This hope will seem insufficient to the one who is looking for performance guarantees. But this is a realistic hope that keeps me on my knees before God, beseeching him to do in and for my children what I cannot do myself. It keeps me humble in prayer, asking God to use the means he has appointed. It keeps me casting myself on his grace and mercy. It makes me a humble supplicant before the sovereign God of grace. My encouragement is not that I can get it right but that God is a willing, able, powerful Savior of sinners.

Avoid Arguing With Your Kids

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

You can’t effectively discipline your teenager if you continually find yourself in the middle of an argument with him. When disciplining, conversations may become heated, so use good communication skills and agree to walk away until you’ve both calmed down. The best way to avoid an argument is by refusing to engage in one.

When she was younger, one of our daughters could win most arguments in our home. She was dynamic and articulate and could argue either side of an issue. Sometimes I think she would argue simply for the sake of arguing. There were times when she was just exhausting. One day a counselor friend of mine gave me two words of advice: quit arguing. He encouraged me to hold my ground and refuse to argue with my daughter.

Learning to resist arguing with a child who is pushing your buttons isn’t easy, but here are three sayings I’ve found are helpful to diffuse potential arguments with teens:

“I FEEL YOUR PAIN.”

If your child knows your expectations and they break them, or if they suffer consequences from their poor decisions, let them know you care and that you feel their pain. You have empowered your child to make healthy decisions, but when he doesn’t do that, you can show him empathy while holding him accountable. In a HomeWord parent podcast, John Rosemond shared what he told his own kids: “If I was your age, I’d feel the same way. The answer is still no, but you are doing a great job expressing yourself.”

“NEVERTHELESS.”

This might be the most important word in the English language to show our kids who really is the leader in your home. Yes, we do feel their pain and we are listening; nevertheless, the consequences are going to stay. Adapting John’s words to his kids, a parent might say, “I can understand how you feel, and I might have felt the same way when I was your age. Nevertheless…”

“LIFE ISN’T FAIR.”

The sooner your child understands that life isn’t fair, and that whining and complaining won’t get her what she wants, she will quit trying to play the ‘make-it-fair’ game. Whenever you can, let reality be the teacher for your kids. If whining and manipulating works for a child even some of the time, it is the parent who has to live with the consequences.

Here are some more wise words John Rosemond shared in one of our parent podcasts: “Parents should not agonize over what a child fails to do or does if the child is perfectly capable of agonizing over it himself.” [i]Whatever your teen’s age, it’s about time he learns the truth that life isn’t always fair, but it sure can be good.”

Overcoming Prodigal Paralysis

** The following article was copied from ncbaptist.org

Luke records the well-known parable of a father and his two sons. Jesus tells the story of the younger son asking his father for his share of the estate. Without hesitation, the father divided his property between the two boys. With his pockets full of money, the younger son leaves home to live a life consumed with selfish independence (Luke 15:11-13).

In his commentary on this passage, pastor and author David Guzik describes the family drama by saying, “The father clearly illustrates God’s love. His love allowed rebellion and in some sense respected human will. The father knew that the son made a foolish and greedy request, yet allowed him to go his course nonetheless.”

Unfortunately, far too many families are experiencing this parable firsthand in their own homes. Countless Christian parents suffer with emotions ranging from hurt and confusion to disbelief and shame. Thankfully, helpless, hopeless and disgrace are not words our Heavenly Father uses when it comes to prodigals. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

God understands prodigals
The Lord has had experience with prodigals for thousands of years. Prodigals like Adam and Eve, King David, the entire nation of Israel, and a host of others head up a long list. However, the prodigal lifestyle is no match for God’s grace. A prodigal has never stopped Him from loving and waiting on those who truly belong to Him. We can rest assured that the Lord cares deeply for every prodigal.

Practice tough love
Sometimes the prodigal lifestyle is messy. You may have to practice tough love and let your child sleep in the bed they have made. When their lifestyle has produced less than ideal fruit, you have to allow them to struggle or perhaps suffer the consequences of their choices. Their suffering may be what awakens them and brings them to their senses (Luke 15:17).

Leave the door open
The Bible is clear when it comes to our relationship with others. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV). Let your prodigal know that although you will not compromise your biblical beliefs or enable their lifestyle, your door is always open to them (Luke 15:20).

Be transparent
Do not allow Satan to deceive you into thinking that you are the only family dealing with a prodigal child. You are not alone! In your church, there are most likely several families agonizing over a similar situation. Therefore, share with fellow believers, trusted friends, extended family and church staff what is happening with your child. The Lord never wants us to live in isolation. You need the encouragement, wisdom and prayer of others.

With the increasing darkness overshadowing our world, many parents feel hopeless. They desperately want to know the answer to this most pressing question but are almost afraid to ask: “Is there any hope for my prodigal?”

Even in our growing anti-Christian culture, I will be the first to answer with a resounding, “Yes! There is hope!”

As long as the Godhead is in place, there is always hope for a prodigal and their family.

Parenting Adults

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

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s a marathon of endurance to parent through each age and phase. Just a few decades ago I had the pleasure of being called “Mom” to four kids, ages six and under. I quickly learned that this parenting had questions that books or blogs couldn’t answer. Life came early and some times all night with little ones.

Some days I thought, “I’ve got this. ” Other days, I prayed for mercy to help me parent one more day. Parenting is a long-term commitment to raise the next generation. At times, the future can be blurred at the urgency of the moment. Day to day, simple tasks can become mountains to climb.

Take laundry, for example. If there was an Olympic medal for laundry, I feel I could have taken gold. During these same years of preschool and laundry, I worked part- time. It gave me a chance to speak some “adult” to others, and offered a creative outlet to serve others and use my gifts in some way.

Fast forward a few short years, we were deep into parenting four teens (gulp).

I’m confident this phase can bring out the best and worst in all of us as parents. I learned to carpool like a boss and sit on bleachers for hours, cheering for each team my kids were on. We learned to pray for wise choices. We learned through the school of hard knocks that emotions ride high on many things. As I look in my rearview mirror, I’m grateful my husband chose the late shift to wait for the kid with the car to arrive home safely in the driveway.

Fast-forward and I have the pleasure of enjoying my kids as adults.

Spoiler alert: your kids personalities and gifts are lifelong. And there is a Master design in each of them! We watch as they navigate life as an adult. We have the vantage point of seeing them embrace and navigate faith in their own lives.

I’m still mom. A mom who knows these kids made some great adults despite parenting faux pas. At times, we are now advisors when invited in. We get to be part of crazy amounts of fun when we are together. These four still enjoy being together. We stay in touch on our group text threads through the week. We get to listen when life takes a turn. It’s all part of the ride. We have exchanged the responsibility for raising them, to being there for them.

I have been to the future. And if I could give my younger Mom-self some tips, this is what I’d say:

Remember each kid is different in the way they view love and navigate life.
Listen when they speak.
Never grow weary of fighting for the heart each at every step . . . so they trust in God with every breath they take.

CUE: Think about your kids and your world today as a parent. Fast forward to the future. While we don’t know what it holds, you will always have a role as a parent of your kids, teens, adult kids and grandchildren. What can you do now with that end in mind?

Why our children are less patient, more lonely and more entitled than generations before?

** The following article was copied from yourmodernfamily.com

Study after study proves what we have guessed…

It’s the scary truth that our children face.   It’s more real than ever, this downhill slope that our kids are facing.  As a teacher and play therapist, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many children over the years, as well as many parents. . In that time, I’ve watched children’s social and emotional skills get worse, along with their academic behavior.  Children today aren’t prepared for life the way that they used to be. Now they are expecting more but doing less. They are coming to school but struggling to learn and stay focused. They are wanting to do more, but have less focus.

 Lonelier, Entitled, Less Patient … why?

There is a reason:  Our current lifestyle choices have impacted our children. All of the latest technologies, the modern trends, the most recent advancements. While we all want what’s best for our children, it has sadly led them down a path that has left them less-prepared for their own lives.

1. The SCREEN TIME dilemma:

Too much screen time. Giving our children electronic devices can easily backfire. Technology & screen time take time away from reading and playing. It decreases attention span, sets up the need for immediate gratification, and leaves children open to challenges in school and at home.

They lose the ability to focus on things and listen attentively because they have become accustomed to watching things in a fast-paced, fun, always-exciting way.  Children have a hard time coming back to reality, after being in virtual reality.

Take this story from PsychologyToday.com about a little boy on his video game, during a family gathering:

After being on his handheld electronic game for an hour, “A perfect storm is brewing. His brain and psyche become overstimulated and excited — on fire! His nervous system shifts into high gear and settles there while he attempts to master different situations, strategizing, surviving, and defending his turf. His heart rate increases and his blood pressure rises — he’s ready to do battle.  The screen virtually locks his eyes into position and sends signal after signal: “It’s bright daylight out, nowhere near time for bed!” – he’s ready to fight or escape!”  

The story goes on to say that his little sister came over and put her hand on the game. He hadn’t noticed her walking towards him because he was so involved in the game. Due to his elevated feelings, he screams at her and runs to his room. His mother follows him and tells him to get off of the electronics and get ready for bed, which makes him feel frustrated, as well as physically and emotionally angry.   He was ripped out of his “fun” virtual world and put into a “boring” real world.   Kids just can’t adjust so quickly.

2. The “Don’t be bored” dilemma

We are all so busy these days and to help our children stay busy and not be bored, we end up giving them a tablet, a phone, an iPod.  The problem?   We are doing our kids a disservice.  We are taking away their ability to entertain themselves, to come up with a solution, to be creative.

In turn,  we end up spending less quality time with our kids (sitting on the sofa while you are both focused on individual sources of technology is not quality time).   We are not connecting with our children.  Our children are relying on electronics to keep them from being bored and they are forgetting how to keep themselves entertained, or to just let their minds be still to daydream.

3. The “LET ME MAKE YOU HAPPY” dilemma

“Families [overly] centered on children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children. We parents today are too quick to sacrifice our lives for our kids. Most of us have created child-centered families, where our children hold priority over our time, energy and attention.” ~Code, Wall Street Journal

We, as parents, have the best intentions when we make these decisions, to do whatever we can for our children: giving in to what they want so often. We want our children to be happy, we want them to feel loved, we want to see them smile. Unfortunately, by doing everything for our children and giving them everything that they want… we are creating people who will not be happy in the long run.

As a therapist, I often hear parents say things like “She doesn’t like vegetables, so I don’t even try to give them to her anymore” or “If he went to bed when I wanted him to, he would be up too early” or “She doesn’t like to hold my hand in the parking lot.”

The problem?   Kids are kids- they aren’t old enough, mature enough, or knowledgeable enough to make these kinds of decisions for themselves. We need to make them and enforce them because we know the consequences. Without vegetables, our children will not be healthy. Without enough sleep, they will be grumpy, tired and unable to focus in school. Without holding your hand in the parking lot, our young children could run off and be hit by a car.  These are real consequences of our “Let the children decide” dilemma.

4. The “Let me rescue you” dilemma

“Children and young adults are pretty resilient and resourceful when we let them be. Unfortunately, most of the time, parents are afraid to loosen the reins and let them be. It’s time for that to change.” – Jennifer Harstein.

  • Our children need to learn that they can save their allowance to replace the cell phone they lost.
  • Our children need to figure out how to talk to the teacher about the forgotten homework.
  • Our children need to learn that if they aren’t helping with the laundry (or putting it where it needs to go), they will not have their favorite outfit on the day they want to wear it.

It’s not easy to watch our kids fail. It’s not easy to watch them be sad, frustrated or upset. We want what’s best for our children, and we do everything with the best intentions, but it teaches them the wrong lessons.    Yes, show them that you are kind and helpful, but also let them experience things and let them fail.

It is easier to let them fail with these little things now (like forgetting homework and losing recess time at school) instead of failing when they are adults (like forgetting a mortgage payment and losing their house.)

5. The lack of real face-to-face INTERACTION dilemma.

“We know from lots and lots of research that spending time with other people in person is one of the best predictors of psychological well-being and one of the best protections against having mental health issues.” – Audie Cornish

Time on social media “may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives,” a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says.    Today’s teens and children are just not spending as much time with their friends in person.  They aren’t going for a walk outside or meeting up at a friends house. They aren’t playing games together.  In turn, they aren’t learning to read each others’ emotions or give support.

These social skills are so valuable, in fact, that study after study proves they are the key to a prosperous future. Excellent social skills, combined with intelligence, are now considered to be the key to having a high-paying job. “Leadership requires you to be socially adept. In fact, your social skills may be just as important as your intelligence when it comes to achieving success, according to new research published in in the Review of Economics and Statistics.

6. The “REWARD” dilemma

My brother, sister-in-law and I were talking about this one day. My brother, Tim, has his Ph.D. in education and my sister in law, Jill, has been a middle school teacher for many years. I am a play therapist & elementary school teacher, so our conversations often turn to children and education.

In trying to understand the “why” behind children’s behaviors, children’s lack of attention and children’s increasing behavior problems in school, we figured out one thing: Children want rewards, all of the time. I am ALL FOR REWARDING children, but not constantly. Not only does it lose it’s ‘shine,’ but it sets our children up to look for external rewards instead of internal rewards.

“What will you give me if I get all A’s?”
“What do we get to do if we sit quietly in the assembly?”
“What do I get for cleaning the garage?”

The only problem is that while it’s better (for us) to have our children do these things without complaining, their boss/landlord/spouse isn’t going to be so accommodating.  They won’t get a bonus or time-off because they did their work on time. They won’t get a month off of their mortgage payment because they paid it on time. Yes, it’s hard to teach them these lessons, but I’d prefer that they learn from me that life isn’t ALWAYS fun, but it is what you make it.   

Yes, children are lonelier, more entitled and less patient than generations before them… but we can help them.  There is a solution.

When our son was an infant, and his muscles were extremely tight (they had been trained to be tight due to lack of space & fluid in utero), our neurologist gave me the best piece of advice I’d ever heard: “You can retrain his muscles.” He told me that I could train his brain to help his muscles. It was going to be a long road, but in the end, it worked. This situation is not much different.

We train our kids to use the bathroom; we train our kids to brush their teeth in the mornings, we train our kids to sit patiently through a church service. These are learned skills, not skills that they are born with, but skills that we have taught them through repetition and consistency.

1. Ten Minutes a Day.
Reconnect with your kids.  Have one-on-one time with each child for ten minutes a day.  NO electronics, NO iPads or tables, NO television.  Let your child be your guide (They pick the activity).   This time alone is going to eliminate any guilt that you feel (because we all feel guilt) and it is going to allow you to connect you with your child.
Get back to what we did before phones (back to what our parents did when we were young), spending time playing games with our kids.

2. Let Them Be Bored.
What if instead of trying to keep our kids busy and keep them from feeling bored, we just LET them be bored. What if we said, “Oh- you’re so lucky to be bored.”
Don’t offer an electronic device to keep them busy, don’t offer to take them somewhere. Just let them be bored.
-Watch your child’s mind becomes quiet and watch his interests take over.
-Watch as it leads him to create his own fun.
-Watch as his need or instant gratification fades away.
Boredom is the path to learning about one’s self.  

3. Swap out external rewards for intrinsic rewards.
I used to race the clock when cleaning my room:  creating my own fun.
I used to pretend to be the teacher when doing my homework: creating my own fun.
Teach your kids to do this.  Let them think of ways to turn dull tasks into fun tasks and let them reap the reward of knowing that they did a great job because this is the kind of “reward” that will motivate them throughout life.

4. Talk.
Spend dinnertime talking, spend car time talking, drop everything that you are doing when your kids get home from school to TALK to them for a few minutes (learn what is going on in their lives… academic, social, emotional).  Make dinner without having the TV on, the phone close by, or the tablet tuned into something.

5. Give Responsibilities. 
Chores are about so much more than just cleaning.  Responsibilities increase their self-worth.  It teaches them how to work.  It teaches them to take care of things.  It teaches them how to be part of something bigger than themselves.
“To develop a high self-esteem a person needs a purpose. A key component to high self-esteem relies on how you view yourself regarding contribution. In other words, in the child development process, chores are a big role in a kid’s self-esteem.” ~Impact Parenting.com

6. Set Boundaries. 
Have a set bedtime.
Have set snacking rules (no snacks before dinner, or only one piece of junk food a day.)
Have a set reading time (You could have ‘D.E.A.R. time’ before bed –> Drop Everything And Read.)

7. Set Electronic Boundaries. 
We have a simple rule: No electronics throughout the school week UNLESS it is a show that we are all watching together on the TV.   This means No laptop usage (unless it’s school-related), no tables, no iPods, no phones, no videos.   If we finish getting ready for school quickly in the morning, we might watch a show together. If My husband and I are watching Jeopardy or Planet Earth, they are welcome to join in.     (Most kids have a LOT of tech time at school – they don’t need it at home.) 

        They are permitted to use them: on Saturday morning, on Sunday morning (if they are ready for church and have time before we leave), on long car-trips (vacation, etc…).

       Exceptions: Doctor’s offices,  all day sporting events, Car-line (school pickup can sometimes be 45 minutes.  Our youngest child sits with me while we wait to pick up her siblings.  She is allowed to have her Leap Pad in the car line to watch learning videos or play an educational game.)

8. Have Open Communication: 
Let them know that you are there for them.  “If you are ever feeling sad or left out about something and it becomes too big for you to handle easily, come to me.”    I remind our kids that I am always here for them, to talk through problems, just listen, pray for them, give them advice… or not.  “I’m here… for you… all the time.“  Remind them often.

9. Put down YOUR phone. 
Make a rule with yourself that you will limit YOUR online distractions when your kids are home. Set a time that you can put electronics away (for our family – it’s 3:30, when they get home from school until 8:00, when they go to bed).
Kids need to feel that connection with their parents.   My friend once told me that she overheard a child saying that her “mom’s phone was more important” than her. She was six years old at the time.   When asked why she felt this way, the little girl said it was because her mom liked to look at the phone more than her – even when the little girl was talking.  Kids notice everything. 

10. Teach by Example. 
If you want your child to change, you must first make a change.   Show your children where your priorities lie.  Family, your spouse, etc… act the way that you want your child to act and they will quickly follow your lead.  Let your child see you reading a book, washing dishes, making dinner, having conversations where you sit and look the person in the eye. Demonstrate kindness, consistency, hard-work.

Being a parent is the hardest, most important job we could ever have.   We only have 18 years to instill the qualities to last them a lifetime.    I’ve seen so many families turn their lives around and reboot their families.  I’ve seen so many children reengaged with the things that matter just by incorporating these things.  It matters and you are the key.

How Family Devotions are Like Family Meals

** The following article was copied from thegospelcenteredfamily.com.

Family devotions are times “when family members come together for spiritual encouragement.” Patrick Kavanaugh, now retired director of the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship made this observation nearly 15 years ago in a little book titled Raising Children to Adore God. I encountered the book in 2007, just after our second daughter was born. Around that time, I also began my first full-time ministry job—working with kids. As a young dad and minister, Kavanaugh captured my imagination. He compared having family devotions to sitting down for a meal. Here’s what he wrote:

Obviously, a family meal is a time when the members of a given family eat together. Notice the many thousands of possible variations in a family meal. To begin with, the food will presumably vary day to day. The meal may be a massive Thanksgiving feast or it may be a quick bite. Someone in the family may not be present. At other times, friends or relatives may join in. Still other times will find a family at a restaurant or relaxing around a campfire. The only two factors that a family meal must contain are: (1) members of a family and (2) food. Everything else is quite flexible. So it is with a family devotional.

Kavanaugh’s parallel of eating together with practicing family worship rings true to me. I’d say the analogy is distinctly biblical. God wants us to nourish our faith just as we nourish our bodies. When God rescued Israel from Egypt, he gave them laws, ceremonies, and sacrifices to help them remember his great rescue. At the heart of this instruction was a meal.

“Family devotions are times when family members come together for spiritual encouragement. ”

When you read Exodus 12:26-27, it’s clear God expected families to recline around the Passover table together. The kids are there asking, “What is the lamb for, daddy? Why are we eating these bitter herbs and matzo?” God tells the Hebrew moms and dads to stand ready with the salvation tale on their lips (Exod. 12:27). This connection between physical and spiritual nourishment doesn’t end with the Passover festival. It’s likely Moses had in mind reclining to eat a meal when he told Israelite parents to teach while the family sat together at home (Deut. 6:7).

  1. Our families need regular spiritual meals. We all need to eat. If we’re going to feed our kids’ souls as well as their bodies, we must make regular times of family teaching a priority. This will look different in each family, because family schedules are as different as the families who set them. Some parents will pray and read the Bible with their kids each night. Others will have family devotions around the table—during the family meal. In other families, a parent will meet with their children individually to teach the Bible one on one. Whatever the format, consistency is key. It’s better to gather the family once per week than to exasperate your kids with failed attempts to meet every day. Young children respond best to a planned routine—something like Taco Tuesday that they can count on and look forward to.
  2. Meals are made for families, not families for meals. While family devotions should be regular, they should also fit your family’s life and personality. Some families will have an hour or two to sit down, read and reflect on a psalm, memorize a catechism question, and sing a hymn every week. But for most of us, that kind of feast is rare. I’m thankful the Bible’s vision for training our kids includes teaching them “along the road” (Deut. 6:7). The most consistent part of teaching my own kids has been the practice of quick prayers while we’re waiting in the carpool line or singing along (sometimes loud and silly!) to Seeds Family Worship and PROOF Pirates while we drive down the highway on a road trip.
  3. Make sure it’s digestible. The Bible gives us a developmental vision for growing up in faith. Christians move progressively from basic things to deeper truth—from milk to solid food (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:2). It’s especially important to remember this when teaching young children. Two and three-year-olds typically have an attention span of two to three minutes. Their vocabulary is limited to 200 to 1500 total words. Like a parent cutting up their child’s food into digestible chunks, it’s important to help our youngest kids learn a beginning vocabulary of faith—basic Bible words like sin, promise, prayer, and the name of Jesus—before moving to more abstract concepts like forgiveness. Many Bible storybooks are written with these developmental considerations in mind. If you’re just beginning a family worship time with your toddler, consider Ella Lindvall’s Read-Aloud Bible Stories, David Helm’s Big Picture Story Bible, or my The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible.
  4. Vary the menu to stretch your family’s palette. Just like family meals, family devotions have thousands of possible variations. Sometimes when I hear what other creative families do during family worship times, I feel overwhelmed and guilt-ridden, thinking, “I should be doing more!” I’m tempted to adopt practices that would be a bad fit for our family dynamics. But my wife is really encouraged by families who are a step ahead of us. She sees concrete ideas as an opportunity to stretch ourselves. Adding variety to our times of family worship helps them become times of discovery. So, don’t get stuck in the rut of simply reading stories. Act them out. Draw and paint. Let a sock puppet tell the story. If the lesson is about serving others, find a way to practice serving right away—like making cookies for your neighbor. You may find that mixing it up helps to keep your kids’ interest as well.

The best meals involve grace and laughter around the table. So it is with family devotionals. They’re an opportunity to model a life that craves the pure spiritual milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2), one that helps your kids to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). So, make a practice of inviting your kids to come to the table to feed their souls, along with their hungry stomachs.

Parent Network Podcast – Episode 08 with Danny Rogers

In Episode 08 we interview Danny Rogers, our New Bern Campus Pastor, about intentional parenting in his home.

 

 

How to Respond to Your Child When You Find Out the Unexpected

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.com.

“Mom, Dad, there’s something I need to tell you . . .”

When it comes to parenting, very few phrases strike terror at the heart of a parent. Its right up there with the question, “Are you sitting down?”

Both phrases typically follow not-so-good news and imply that the receiver of the news should be immediately prepared for the unexpected. Finding out something that you did not expect from your kids can be anxiety provoking and yes, could even trigger a physiological response such as fainting or difficulty catching one’s breath—hence the importance of having a seat close by.

While rewarding, the arena of pre-teen and teen parenting is fraught with difficult and sometimes disappointing situations. Children get injured, suffer minor illnesses, get heart broken, or even worse, engage in potentially addictive or sexual behaviors that could adversely impact their future.

The number one job of a parent is to protect. But the fact remains that you cannot protect your child from everything. In today’s fast-paced world, it is likely that your child will be faced with increased pressures and even more challenging situations than we adults could ever have imagined being a part of when we were at that age.

No parent was born knowing exactly how to respond to such situations. The best shield is being as prepared as you can possibly be. Consider this response strategy:

1. KNOW THE SIGNS.

While it would be nice if young people were upfront with their secretive or deceptive behaviors, inherent in the very nature of deceit is the need to hide. Consequently, it is likely that your child will not be the one self-disclosing incriminating information. Often, parents receive such information by another concerned parent, a neighbor or even their child’s closest friend. Thus, it’s important to recognize the signs that indicate that your child may be in trouble.

Fluctuations in mood, personal appearance, or friend groups, as well as the sudden loss of interest in typically enjoyable activities are just a few signs. Excessive fatigue, fear, and prolonged sadness can also be indications that something may be affecting your child.

But just one word of caution, many of these symptoms also coincide with normal adolescent development. However, trust your instincts. If you sense that something is off, then it probably is.

2. CURB YOUR ANGER.

Once the cat is out of the bag, take a moment to rein in feelings of intense anger or frustration. You may find yourself yelling, crying or wondering how you failed to prevent this awful thing from happening. Perfectly understandable reactions, but not necessarily helpful.

During crisis situations, children take their cues from their parents. So, don’t forget to breathe. A common saying amongst family therapists is, “Freak out on the inside, not on the outside . . .”

[Tweet “When you find out something unexpected from your child, freak out on the inside, not on the outside . . .”]

Yes, they may have messed up. And, maybe even big time. However, now is not the time to overreact. That reaction may trigger an automatic shutdown. If you don’t know what to say, say nothing. It’s actually okay to say, “I have no words right now.” You can reserve the right to (and should) revisit the conversation when you’ve had some time to process and are feeling calmer.

3. LISTEN FOR UNDERSTANDING.

Respond like a friend and not a parent . . . at least initially. This is hard. And what does it really mean? Respond with curiosity and listen with empathy. This is the opportunity to listen carefully in order to gain not only a full understanding of the situation, but how your child feels about the situation, and what they believe is the best course of action.

Of course, there are certain situations that require a shorter listening period and a quicker response time. If your teen discloses drug use, self-harming behaviors, or sexual activity, it is best to intervene quickly and even seek a professional for guidance.

However, the initial response should be a response, not a reaction. Listen empathically to what your child is facing. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. A simple strategy is: the less you talk, the more your child will talk.

4. AVOID EXCESSIVE CRITICISM.

Parenting is one of those unique relationships where your role is to not only love and protect, but also to constantly correct. Part of our role as parents is to help our children to develop good character traits: Be kind and respectful to others and to yourself, mind your manners, always tell the truth no matter what. Discovering information that goes against what you’ve worked so hard to instill can be disappointing and very upsetting.

While the desire to point out faults or compare one child to the other may be tempting, expressions of disapproval and displeasure should be displayed sparingly. It’s hard for many of us adults to handle an onslaught of criticism, but even more difficult for an adolescent. If your child is coping with a difficult situation, they are probably already feeling hyper-sensitive and vulnerable to any perceived slight.

5. EXPRESS EMPATHY.

Being a teen right now is by no means easy. Young people encounter complex situations that would be difficult for anyone to navigate, much less someone who’s identity is still developing. The pressures are real and mounting. There’s probably nothing that a parent can say or do that will immediately relieve all the pressures that pre-teens and teens face, so it is important to begin by simply acknowledging your child’s reality.

As shocked or upset as you may be, remind your child that he or she is not alone. Do as much research as possible on whatever your child is facing to get a better idea of what they may be dealing with and how best to respond. Reinforce the positive qualities that you see in them that will enable them to progress from this current situation.

Avoid saying, “I warned you something like this would happen,” or “You’ve probably ruined your life.” Instead, test out one of these phrases:

  • “I’m so sorry you are going through this.”
  • “This must be really hard for you, it’s tough for me too.”
  • Nod as they are talking and say, “Uh, huh,” until you feel it’s appropriate to add something like “I know this feels big right now but there are options.”
  • “What can we do to help?”

6. FIND OUT THEIR PLAN.

Once you’ve researched what they are facing and before you offer to rescue them from the situation, find out how they plan to address the problem. Chances are that your child has analyzed and reanalyzed the issue prior to you even suspecting there was an issue! They may even have discovered a resolution.

As you dialogue about the situation and find out what your teen views as potential solutions, you will be supporting and equipping your youth with necessary skills as they journey towards adulthood. It is through struggle and adversity that teens learn how capable they really are!

However, there is a distinction between risky behavior and healthy exploration. It is important to emphasize that the difference between the two can come down to one poor decision.

Parents, you don’t have to do this alone. Seek professional guidance from a therapist or a minister to learn how to recognize early signs of a mental health issue so that you can take steps to prevent mild symptoms from tuning into larger problems.

Bad things can happen to any kid, and any family. Good kids make bad decisions. Your child’s poor choice is not necessarily a reflection of poor parenting. The strongest family can one day find themselves facing unexpected or distressful news. No one can predict the outcome of any situation. Remember, failing is a part of success—and a part of growing up.

If you recognize an error that you’ve made from this list, please know that you are in excellent company. The good news is that children are very forgiving of parental missteps and there’s always hope that with appropriate interventions, the outcome can result in strengthened family relationships.

Moreover, a good parent-child relationship, centered around effective communication and expressions of love, can eventually help to resolve even what initially appears to be distressful news.

 

Fostering Generosity in the Hearts of Your Kids

In this episode of the D6 Podcast Brian Haynes gives practical advise on promoting generosity in your children and fighting the cultural trend of entitlement. Amy Rienow discusses her book, Five Reasons for Spiritual Apathy in Teens.

Click here to find the podcast.