31 Questions to Help You Be a Better Parent

** The following article was copied from family life.com.

Feeling passionate about parenting? If you’d genuinely like a shot in the arm for your parenting, perhaps these questions can get you started. But remember: Their effectiveness is proportionate to your level of honesty, humility, and most of all, dependence on God’s power to make His presence a reality in your children’s lives.

1. What are the most significant cravings of each of my kids’ hearts?

2. How am I doing at building a relational bridge with my children? Do I “have their hearts”? Do they feel connected with and encouraged by me? Do I feel connected with them?

3. When I’m honest, what top five values do I feel most compelled to instill in my children? Would those line up with the top five values God would want my children to have?

4. What are each of my children’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?

5. Am I being faithful to pray diligently, deeply, and watchfully for my kids? (For a great FamilyLife resource on this, click here.)

6. Which child in our family is most likely to be overlooked, and why?

7. Which child tends to receive most of my attention? Why?

8. How do I believe other people see each of my children? How do I feel about that? What portion of others’ opinions could I learn from, and what should I set aside?

9. Are my children developing more into givers than takers?

10. What life skills would I like my children to develop this year?

11. What are the events on the timeline of my children’s lives that have the most impact?

12. In what ways have my children exceeded my expectations?

13. Do I have any expectations of my children that have become demands that I clutch out of fear, rather than hopes that I seek from God by faith?

14. In what ways do I feel disappointed by my children? What can I learn from this? (For example, about what is valuable to me, about how God has made my children, about loving as God loves, etc.) What should I do about this in the future?

15. What is my greatest area of weakness as a parent? My greatest strength? What are my spouse’s?

16. In what ways are my children totally unlike me?

17. What did my parents do particularly well? In what ways do I hope to be different? (Is there any forgiveness that needs to happen there?)

18. What events from my childhood are important for me to shield my own children from? Are there ways that this has led to excessive control?

19. In what areas are my children most vulnerable?

20. What do I love about my kids? About being a parent?

21. How well do my spouse and I work as a team in our parenting?

22. How am I doing on preparing my children to be “launched” as thriving servants for God in the real world?

23. What can I do to equip my children to love well? To be wise? For successful relationships?

24. How is my children’s understanding of the Bible? How would I describe each of their relationships and walks with God?

25. Who are the other influential people in my kids’ lives? As I think of my children’s friends, teachers, coaches, etc., how can I best pray that they will complement my parenting and my kids’ needs?

26. Am I replenishing myself and taking adequate rests, so that my children see the gospel work of grace, patience, and peace in my home?

27. What are each of my kids passionate about? How can I spur on and develop their God-given passions?

28. How am I doing on teaching them biblical conflict resolution? Am I teaching them to be true peace-makers … or peace-fakers, or peace-breakers?

29. How authentically do I speak with my kids? Am I building a bridge of trust and security through my honesty and openness with them?

30. Am I striking a good balance between protecting my kids and equipping them for whatever they may encounter when they step outside of my home, now and in the future?

31. What great memories have I recently made with my kids?

Building Bridges with Your Kids

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

Picture it. Family movie night. You’ve just popped an industrial-size bowl full of popcorn. You’ve got a mug of hot chocolate for each kid, with exactly 13 mini marshmallows each. Everyone’s snuggling under blankets and settling in for some much-needed R&R.

Then, the big question . . .
“What do you want to watch?”

It’s a dangerous thing to ask. You could end up with the latest Disney animated masterpiece. You might be in for a treat like the Greatest Showman. Or you might hear those three disastrous words . . . The Emoji Movie.

(I apologize if it’s your favorite. But, well, I can’t even.)

If you’re anything like me, you last about 30 seconds before you start glancing over at your phone. You think to yourself, “They probably won’t mind if I check my email.” Then you check football scores. You look at your Instagram likes. Your kids seem totally engrossed in the movie, right? What’s the harm?

A simple cue can signal something fundamental to your kids. That’s the good news and the bad news.

Picking up your phone might not seem like a big deal. But let’s be honest. If your daughter looks over and sees you checked out from the movie—something she likes; something she chose—what does that communicate to her?

As a parent, you probably bump up against this tension all the time. I know I do. Sure—you’ve got some interests in common with your kids. But you’ve got your “adult things.” They’ve got their “kid things.”

To a certain extent, this is perfectly healthy. All of us need some space and some autonomy in our lives. We’re different people with different likes and dislikes.

Going out golfing with the guys? Watching football on Sunday afternoons? Perfectly normal, in moderation. Your kids are going to have their own interests that will seem completely baffling to you, too. (For me, it’s those YouTube videos of adults unboxing and playing with kids’ toys. They love it. I just don’t understand.)

But here’s the danger: If everything you enjoy is separate from your kids, you may slowly, unintentionally, distance yourself from them.

To bridge that distance, a lot of families take vacations where they’re forced into close proximity with each other. That can work. Making memories together can certainly add valuable relational deposits. But that also begs the question: Do we really want to present quality time as an exception? Do we want the status quo of our family to be defined by parallel, but separate lives?

Our simple cues communicate more than we realize. As a parent, that’s a sobering reality. But remember how I said it could be good news, too?

I believe our kids notice when we take small steps in their direction. Not giant, sweeping, expensive overtures. Little things that communicate value.

When your daughter starts to tell you the funny thing her friend did at school, what if you shut the computer and gave her your full attention (and eye contact)?

Maybe you didn’t quite finish your project during work hours. What if you chose to put it away until after the kids’ bedtime so you could carve out time for family dinner at the table?

What if you asked questions about your son’s action figures and came up with your own silly chapters to add to their backstory?

None of us gets this right all the time. There’s always more we can do to build bridges to connect with our kids. But I think one of the biggest reasons we miss those opportunities is that reaching out seems intimidating. The gap seems too wide. We forget that intentional small steps can have a cumulative impact. Over time, they can send you confidently in the direction you want to go.

When my kids were just starting to walk, I remember that all I had to do to connect with them was sit down on the floor. When I did, they would head straight for me. They’d giggle and flop all over me. It was so simple and so pure. All it took was a decision on my part to be present.

I think the same principle is true for older kids, too. Maybe it just looks like a night in front of the Emoji Movie.

Parent Network Podcast

On The Parent Network Podcast we connect with parents and friends who can help equip and encourage us along our parenting journey.  Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.  We release a podcast twice a month.

Father’s Day: 10 Things You Should Ask Your Kids For

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

Most dads think of Father’s Day one-dimensionally. We tend to look forward to kicking back, enjoying a few guilt-free hours watching the US Open on television. A Father’s Day gift guide might include a nice card or two, a needless tie, and maybe a day-off when it comes to active parenting, policing the drama that goes on around the house. But the foundational idea of Father’s Day is that of celebrating the relationship, not catering to the dad. We are dads so that we can do dad things that mean something, and we have the best celebrations when stuff happens that draws us closer to our kids.

With that in mind, consider setting the agenda for Father’s Day this year and actually putting some ideas out there that will help solidify what to get for father’s day. Here are some suggestions, the 10 things you should ask your kids for this Dad’s Day.

1. Time

If you’re a dad, you’ve already done the math. You know it’s going to be no time at all until they head off and live the rest of their lives. Do what it takes to grab some memories before they grab the car keys.

2. Honesty

It’s a fact that we can’t love what we don’t know. Make it clear to your kids that your love wants to know more than it wants to judge. It’s the love that heals, not the disapproval.

3. Advice (theirs)

Father knows best? How’s that working for you? How about asking for “Kids (might) know best?” Trust them enough to let them in to your open-ends and loose-strings. You’ll be surprised how much they already know.

4. A one-page note of their favorite memory

Get the kids writing and sharing stories and remembering good “Dad moments.” These are golden, and good for both dad and the kids.

5. Hugs

It doesn’t matter how old the children are, hugging dad should never go out of style. Be proactive on this one. Ask if you have to, but get it done.

6. Big ideas

Ask the kids to share their vision with you. This is a little different from advice, it’s “big picture” stuff. Ask your kids things like, “How would you solve world hunger?” Ask them what they think about big ideas such as space travel, world peace, and racism. Then listen.

7. A gift with staying power

Ask your children to think about a Father’s Day gift that won’t disappear in a day or two. Or ask them (for example) for one hour every Sunday afternoon for the next three months so you can pick their brain. Ask them for the commitment to walk a mile with you three times a week. You can even ask them to read you their favorite comic strip every day for a month. Ask for gifts that don’t end the moment they leave their hands.

8. A fresh start

We all need a little redemption. How about coming clean with your kids and asking for a fresh start? Maybe you’ve been harsh… Or maybe they’ve been consistently disrespectful… Maybe you’ve lost ground…Whatever is going on, try to model humility and see where the relationship goes.

9. A glimpse into their world

Prepare a list of ten “I’m too old, I don’t get this!” questions and have a Q&A session with your kid(s). Maybe they can respond with a list of their own. Who knows, you may end up communicating!

10. A dinner date

You may have to help pay for this one. But dinner out, one-on-one with each child, can be the most fun and the most productive parenting experience.

The Parent Cue Podcast – Celebrating Father’s Day

Check out this great podcast from our friends at The Parent Cue celebrating Father’s Day and dads everywhere.

When Your Son Needs Fatherly Approval

** The following article was copied from www.ftc.co.

Andy awoke from his nap with a croupy cough. If you’re a parent, you know the strained, barking cough. It’s usually not very serious. The virus causes the airways to swell and makes breathing more difficult. Serious or not, it’s a disturbing thing to hear.

A few hours later, we were out at my mother-in-law’s house and Andy had a coughing fit. He struggled to get enough air. With the help of his big brother, we calmed him down and decided to take him to the doctor. Better to go now to the urgent care center than to the ER in the middle of the night.

Andy’s a smart kid. He knows what it means to go to the doctor, and he wasn’t too excited about it. He gets that from me. Unless I’m unconscious and therefore unable to protest, just let me be. We loaded him up and drove off with him repeating “Go to the doctor?” over and over. He was okay, but concerned. I assured him the doctor could help.

We arrived, checked in, and he saw the first of many amazing sights of the doctor’s office. A family had brought happy meals into the waiting room for their children. I didn’t judge. I’ve done weirder things to keep the peace. Andy loves McDonald’s. “Maybe this doctor isn’t so bad,” he must have thought.

We were called back a few minutes later. They asked him to stand on the scale to get his weight. Last time, he refused to do it. I wasn’t there, but my wife remembers the scene well. This night, however, he stood up tall and looked at me with a smile.

We entered the room and he jumped up on the table, ready to be examined. A few minutes later, the nurse came in, asked some questions, and took a few initial vitals. I stood by my son, showing him what to do when the nurse asked. “Just put your finger out like this. He’s going to put that thing on it.” “Just be still, he’s taking your temperature.” He did as instructed.

The doctor arrived a few minutes later. By that time, Andy was feeling good. The doctor looked in his ears, asked him to open his mouth wide, and listened to his breathing. Andy obeyed all his orders with a close eye on my face to ensure I was watching. After the doctor left the room, and he had obeyed all the orders, Andy looked up at me with a smile. “I did it, Dada!”

He did it.

I had no idea the whole night was a test of my approval. Andy believed he passed. He did. But he was the only one testing. He had my approval all along.

What Andy needed that night more than a trip to the doctor (turned out he was fine and didn’t need any treatments) was the approval of his father. Don’t we all?

I know too few men who feel the approval of their fathers. They grow up wondering if they’re pleasing to him. For some, that uncertainty results in rebellion. For others, it results in man-pleasing. In either case, it’s a tragedy. Some sons do disappoint their fathers. But, by and large, I would guess that most sons by the fact that they’re sons have their father’s approval. They just don’t know it because their fathers never say it. They navigate childhood hoping the home-run will bring praise, the A-filled report card will elicit pride, or the diploma will ensure proof of pleasure. They go into adulthood wondering if their job is enough not only to provide for their future family but enough to please their father’s expectations. Are they man enough? Are they good enough? Are they a disappointment?

I wonder what kind of world we fathers of young boys could create with the simple words, “I’m proud of you, son.” Those words must not come only after home runs and buzzer beaters or good report cards and graduation. They must come in the mundane, in the doctor’s office and the playroom and at the kitchen table over Sunday dinner. Your influence is more massive than you realize.

What would you give to hear your father’s words of affirmation on a normal Saturday evening or Wednesday afternoon? Why hold back with your sons now?

Of course, our fathers will fail us and we will fail them. No one is perfect. And it’s also true that our affirmation alone isn’t enough to unleash all the good we wish it could. There is real sin residing in us all. But there is a Father above who approves of us because he never disapproved of his Son. Through his work, we have approval for eternity. If nothing else motivates us–and even if some words are hard for us to say for a variety of reasons–we can look to the words of the Father to the Son, “This is my beloved Son of whom I am well pleased.” Approval flows from heaven and floods this earth in Christ. Let’s advance the tide in our day. Let’s tell our sons of our approval before it’s too late.

I didn’t know Andy needed my approval. I wonder if you know your son needs yours? You have him in the house for a little while, and if he doesn’t know you approve of him now, he’ll wonder all his adult life if he’s ever lived up to your expectations. You have that much power. Use it wisely.

7 Scripture Verses for the Single Parent Journey

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

Single parenting is not for the weak. Everything, yes, that’s right, everything falls on your shoulders… especially when your kids are young. Here’s some to name a few: all the meals, the bills, the laundry, the homework, the after school activities, the bath times, the bedtimes. And, y’all that’s just the easy stuff! Then comes the responsibility of actually raising a Christ-loving productive member of society. It can seem overwhelming.

When I was a single parent, trying to do everything on my own left my spirit totally depleted and my nerves on edge. My children and I were having daily meltdowns like ice cream cones left out in the July heat. We were a sticky hot mess. I had to change. So, I learned it was impossible for me to survive without the supernatural peace and strength of Jesus. I leaned into the Word and applied it to my everyday life. It didn’t mean our lives were perfect; it just meant that we weren’t on our own. These verses helped me through my single parenting journey.

Acceptance: I didn’t dream of becoming a single parent when I was little girl. But, sometimes life happens and we don’t get a say in the roads we take. Instead of fighting my circumstances (a losing battle I should say), I had to learn to accept it. I couldn’t change the fact that I was a single parent, but I could control how I responded to it. I learned to find joy through Christ in the midst of a difficult situation.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13)

Guidance: To parent well, we have to guide and shepherd our children’s hearts. That responsibility is heavy for married parents, but when you’re single parenting it can seem almost seem impossible. Every night, I would repeat the day’s conversations and interactions with my children over and over again in my head. Did I handle that right with my daughter? Was I tender enough with my son? Have I scarred them for life? That’s just in one day! I had to recognize that the Lord purposefully chose me to be my children’s parent, and He is guiding me every step of the way.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)

Speak Love: Being a single parent can make the most patient person lose their entire jar of marbles. When we are pulled in a trillion different directions and little Sally just took a drink out of your sweet tea with her green runny nose, we can say things we don’t mean out of sheer exhaustion. Our words have so much power over how our children see themselves and relate to the rest of the world. I know we all make mistakes, but let’s try to lift our children with our words, and not crush their little spirits.

“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)

Protection: Becoming a single parent wasn’t an easy journey. The children and I were emotionally bruised and battered along the way. So much so, I had become conditioned to chaos. After the dust settled, and we had this new “life”, I was always waiting for some other kind of traumatic event to happen to knock us off our feet. Every phone call caused anxiety because I didn’t know what kind of news it would bring. But, living life in high anxiety didn’t work for me. I knew the Lord was in control, but I had to put my trust in His protection.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (Psalm 3:3-6)

Strength: We all need strength being a parent. But, it seems that in being a single parent, we need supernatural strength. We need strength physically for the everyday needs. But, we also need strength for the emotional attention of the long talks before bedtime with the teenage daughter, the loving hug that can cure the skinned knee, and the sheer will that it takes to make eye contact with a toddler that is telling you a story that is amazing to them, but all you can think about is that bar of dark chocolate that you’ve hidden away. Finding strength in the present is the investment in our children that will reap a beautiful return in the future.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:27)

Faith: My children were raised in a broken home. They have seen and felt things that no child should. But, just because life has been hard doesn’t mean that God is not good. Yes, we went to church and Sunday school, but the Christian walk is so much more than that. I felt a deep desire and responsibility to intentionally guide my children to Jesus in the everyday situations. You know, I can’t make them choose to become believers, but through my personal faith, I hope to share His unfailing love.

“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

Finances: For me, I used to worry about money constantly. We were barely making ends meet on a good month, but throw in a sick visit or a school fee… and well the budget was blown to smithereens. I found I was putting my security in money instead of the Lord and it was making me all off balance. The Lord had always met all of our needs; what would make Him stop now? Me worrying about it didn’t do anything but cause a few extra wrinkles and a whole lot of gray hair.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

 

Written By Shannon DeGarmo; speaker; author of The Bounce Back Woman; Featured Contributor of Keep the Faith radio; Contributor of LifeWay’s HomeLife Magazine. Check out Shannon’s website (www.shannondegarmo.com) and visit her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

 

 

 

I’m a Parent Who Struggles with Depression

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

Hi, My Name is Brandon O’Dell.

I am a husband and a father of three young children.
I am a writer, an actor, and a Christian.
And I suffer from clinical depression.

Let me give you some background. I was a happy kid, raised in a Christian home by two loving parents. I did well in school. I made many friends, some I still have to this day. When I was going into college, my guidance counselor asked where my greatest area of stress was, and I replied that I didn’t have any stress. I was carefree.

In 1993, my sophomore year at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, my mother died of a brain tumor. And yet, I immediately accepted her death as part of God’s grand plan. I did not mourn. I did not let it stress me out.

And then, a year and a half later, the proverbial poop hit the fan.

A friend of mine invited me to hear her sing in an on-campus recital, which I agreed to attend. I did not attend. She confronted me in the school’s dining hall that evening, and wracked with guilt, I broke down and cried. I cried all the way back to my dorm room. I cried because I had let my friend down, but not only that. I cried because people in the world let people down all the time. I cried for the state of humankind. I cried for what seemed like that entire year.

I had no idea what was going on. I thought I was going crazy. And I knew that I was the only one who felt the way I did, so I had no one to talk to. No one who would understand. It wasn’t until I had an emotional breakdown in front of my father, that he encouraged me to get some help.

Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time helped me put a name to what I was going through—major depressive disorder. I realized then that not only was I not alone, depression was fairly common. People just didn’t talk about it. Because they were ashamed for some reason. Or embarrassed. But for me, learning I wasn’t crazy was the first step to understanding my illness, and that was a good thing.

Time has passed. Depression comes in waves, like the flu season, though without the predictable change in the weather. Sometimes it lasts for a few weeks, sometimes months, and currently I’m in a season that has lasted two and a half years.

Everything I do is hard. Work is hard. Being a dad is hard. Getting out of bed is hard. Writing this blog has been hard. I have to force myself to do everything, even things I might normally enjoy. In fact, I desire nothing. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I hand in work late or when my wife has to pick up a lot of the slack around the house. But even so, I refuse to be ashamed to talk about my depression.

I decided a while back to be open and honest about what was happening to me. You see, I still believe there’s a purpose in this. That God has a plan to use my depression somehow for His glory. There’s meaning, even if I never discover what the meaning is.

As far as my children are concerned, I don’t lie to them and pretend everything’s okay. They know that Daddy has depression and that sometimes he’s too tired to play. I want them to see me weak and broken. Then they can see God at work in me. And if my children ever go through something like this later in life, I want them to be able to recognize it, talk to me (or someone else) about it, and deal with it without shame.

I’ve been reaching out on Facebook to friends and acquaintances who have had a similar experience. I’ve had several lunches, texts, and phone conversations with people who I barely know but who KNOW me because of depression. This is how I can love others. It’s a small thing, but in depression the small things often seem insurmountable.

If you’re a parent struggling with depression, I don’t really have answers for you. But I can tell you that you’re not alone. And I can tell you that you are created by a God who loves you. And no matter how messy it gets, I believe God is at work in your life telling a story of restoration for you and for your family.

For me, the past few weeks have seen some brighter moments. I’m on some medicine that seems to work for me. It may not work forever, but today, right now, this moment, I’m doing fine. And that’s enough.