Monday, April 27, 2009

Our Kids: Emotional Health

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…Col 1:10-11

Our family backpacks in the Sierras every summer. If we didn’t plan our trip well, train, trim down the baggage and endure the pain of climbing a tough twelve thousand foot mountain pass, we’d miss the spectacular view at the top. On every trip we always take a group photograph at the top of the pass. There are many such pictures around our house and in my office. These remind us of the effort it took to get to the top. Our smiles reflect the painful steps and huffing and puffing. But they are smiles, and it’s worth it!
–Patti Francis, M.D.

Self-esteem has been the buzzword for the past twenty years or so, but attempts by our society to program it for our kids have been a terrible failure. Youth and adults are more emotionally unhappy than ever before. Teen suicide is much too common; drugs and alcohol still tempt our youth to cover up the pain. Without God, we will never have good self-esteem because our sinful nature will constantly overtake us. Romans 3:23 says, “...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Here are some suggestions for helping your kids find their way to God’s view of who they are in Him:

•Start family traditions that your kids want to do every year, such as backpacking trips or other outdoor activities. During their teen years you may experience some resistance, but more than likely if they had a great time sharing these things with you when they were younger, they’ll want to join you again. Establish traditions for holidays and birthdays and other anniversaries. These remind them that they’re part of a family that cares enough to share such things with each other.

•Help them pursue their dreams and goals. If you have a child who likes to draw, for example, you might provide opportunities to take classes or participate in a summer program that will support and develop that interest. Or maybe you’ll have one who wants to be a wedding planner. You might help her connect with a wedding planner at your church or in another context. Perhaps your son wants to be a computer programmer. You should find him a Christian mentor in this field who can provide guidance and encouragement.

•Affirm those things about their character that you really like. Perhaps they were kind to a new friend at school. Maybe they are generous in their giving to missions. Praise them for any attempt at a project, not just the grade they received. If they lost at sports, let them know how proud you are of their hard effort and good sportsmanship.

•Tell them often that you love them and give them lots of physical touch, even if touch is not their love language.

•Be clear on your boundaries for them. Kids will test the limits, but they feel more loved if there are some.

•Dads, date your daughters; moms date your sons. This will affirm their gender, which is something they should feel good about and someday will make them want to be attractive to the opposite sex.

•Give them an allowance with portions for saving, gifts, missions, spending, and by middle school, for clothing. As they learn what things cost, they will be proud of their ability to spend money efficiently and wisely. Their being generous also adds to their sense of self-worth.

•By late high school encourage them to work. Showing up on time and getting a paycheck teaches them what the real world is all about. Often we can afford what they need, but the earlier they learn to earn what they spend, the more they’ll enjoy what they purchase with their own money and treat it with more respect.

Dear Father,
Thank you for providing the emotional grounding in my life that has allowed me to serve You through difficult times. Please help us as Christian parents to love and direct our children so that they can face this world with both peace and confidence in You. Amen

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