One day you’re holding a new baby—toes in your hand and a little noggin’ tucked in the crook of your elbow. The next thing you know that baby is running past you, full of opinions, ideas and questions. Lots of questions. Scary questions.
Sometimes those questions seem to come out of nowhere. But when we’re really on top of our game, we head them off at the pass. Even though we’re scared. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Take a Deep Breath. You Got This.
Let’s practice a little exposure therapy, shall we? Take a deep breath (yes, again) and think to yourself, “It’s a good thing for me to talk to my kids about sex, mental health issues and violence.” Now repeat the line in a whisper. Then say it out loud. When you’re feeling really brave, share your newfound confidence with your spouse or a close friend.
Because here’s the deal: it is a good and wonderful thing for your kids to hear about complex topics directly from you. You can present the facts in a calm, relaxed manner, keep the door open for questions and point your kids back to the truth.
The ultimate truth, of course, is that God loves your children very much. And when you’re talking with them about the tough stuff of life, they need to know that God loves them and that you love them too.
3 Conversations That Scare Every Parent (And How to Have Them Anyway)
Let’s take a look at the complex topics mentioned above: sex, mental health issues and violence. We’ll talk about the high points you need to cover, when you might want to start the conversation and how to go about it.
All Things Sex
Sex might just the be the trickiest subject of the all. After all, sex in and of itself is a beautiful thing. And all the parents said, “Amen,” But there’s also a lot of risk involved in sex.
Hit the high points: You want to make sure your kids understand the logistics of sex, consent, what a healthy dating relationship looks like and how to respond when they’re inevitably exposed to pornography.
When to get the ball rolling: You can begin to build a foundation for this topic early on by calling body parts by their scientific names and teaching kids to set and respect body boundaries. As you kids enter preschool and early elementary school, answer their questions about bodies and where babies come from in an age-appropriate way.
How to make the most of your conversations: Foundation in place, plan to have sex talks on the regular. Kids will probably hear about sex and may even be exposed to pornography by late elementary school. You’ll want to make sure they understand how things work and have a script for saying “No thanks” before then. You’ll also benefit from modeling and discussing what a healthy relationship looks like by the time your child enters middle school.
Mental Health Issues
Experts agree that our kids are currently experiencing a mental health crisis. Fueled by the realities of the past few years, more and more kids are experiencing anxiety and depression, engaging in self-harm or even attempting suicide.
Hit the high points: Kids need to know that it’s okay to feel down—even desperately so. They need to know and believe that they are not alone and that there is help available to see them to the other side.
When to get the ball rolling: You might think it’s best to avoid talking about mental health issues until they arise, but you can start right now to model what it looks like to take care of your own mental health, both proactively and reactively. You can also help young kids begin to name their feelings, “I can tell you’re not happy, but what is it that you are feeling? Sad? Mad? Scared? Frustrated? Hurt?”
How to make the most of your conversations: If you think your son or daughter might really be struggling, say something. It’s best to be direct, lead with love and seek to find understanding. If you’re able, please also reach out to a medical professional for help. Your kid may resist this at first, but a trained counselor can help to equip your child with useful tools and strategies as they move toward health and wholeness.
Bonus resource: We’re passionate about supporting parents through their kid’s mental health. We have an entire online course dedicated to walking alongside you as you walk alongside your child.
Violence, Violence Everywhere
Reading the news these days can be so distressing. Between shootings, wars and the divisive nature of our country, it can overwhelm even the most unshakeable of adults. What, then, must it be doing to our kids?
Hit the high points: It’s helpful for kids to understand that while, yes, there are people in our world who make terrible, harmful decisions, most people are good. Most people want the best for everyone, even if they have different ways of going about it.
When to get the ball rolling: You might tread lightly on heavy topics like wars and shootings for young children. Consider how likely it is that someone else will tell them about a recent happening before doing it yourself. If it seems likely, open the discussion directly while sparing your child any graphic or unnecessarily scary details.
How to make the most of your conversation: After answering questions in an age appropriate way, revisit the idea that most people are good and help your child find examples of people in your neighborhood, church or community who live this out. Then teach your child to fight fear by coming up with actionable steps she can take now or in a moment of crises. She might write a letter to a victim’s family or learn to find an adult with children if she needs help.
Our kids are growing faster by the day, and that’s a wonderful thing. Let’s equip them for adulthood by talking about what really matters—even if it scares us.
Published on Thursday, November 17, 2022 @ 12:51 PM EDT
Comparison is like a moving airport sidewalk you wander onto… it whisks you 50 yards away to a bad place before you’ve even taken a step. And it always seems to be right there—just one tiny thought or scroll away—ready to dump you into a state of discontentment. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And if that’s true, comparison equally steals contentment, too.
Contentment, simply speaking, is choosing to be happy with what you’ve got. It’s learning to live in a state of gratitude even for the small things. Because more often than not, it’s the small things that fill our days with meaning.
Spending just a few seconds each day thinking about the things you’re grateful for can radically shift your mindset. If you’re having trouble finding something to be grateful for, we have a list for you (and a free, printable family challenge at the end of this list!) All 50 things may not apply to your current circumstances, but there’s probably more to be grateful for than you might think.
1. For the roof over your head and a warm, dry place to sleep at night
2. The clothes on your back and shoes on your feet
3. The water in your home to take showers and bathe your kids
4. All of the food in the refrigerator and pantry
5. Electricity! And for living in the time where it exists
6. Cell phones and how they connect us to our loved ones all over the world
7. Having internet access in your home
8. How fun it is to decorate your home for the seasons
9. Candles! All the cozy candles
10. A safe, sanitary environment to prepare meals for your family
11. Your kid(s)! Is there a bigger, better thing to be thankful for?
12. Restored relationships in your family
13. The adorably-perfect way toddler mispronounce words
14. Long, healing hugs from your teenager
15. Heart-to-hearts with your middle schooler
16. All the joy that new babies bring
17. Every night that you were able to rock your child to sleep
18. Watching your child’s personality develop
19. The moments when you notice your kid make a brave and kind choice
20. Your favorite kid books, and the time you have to read together
Your Best Self
21. Your God-given talents (yes, you have lots!)
22. The fact that you are the best parent for your child
23. The ability to move your body
24. Good hair days
25. Coffee (or tea!)
26. Your favorite foods
27. Your body’s 100% success rate of getting you through every single day
28. The way you feel when your favorite song comes on the radio
29. Your ability to love your child(ren) more than you ever thought possible
30. The unique ways you make others feel good about themselves
31. Your childhood friends
32. The friends you’ve made as an adult
33. The laughing-so-hard-you-cry moments with others
34. Facebook groups that make you feel less alone
35. Friendly neighbors
36. The teachers who care for your child(ren) well
37. Trusted babysitters!
39. Nurses and Doctors who were there on the hardest days
40. The way communities can come together after a tragedy
Your Simple Joys
41. The way the leaves change in the fall
42. How pretty Christmas lights are
43. The first warm day of spring
44. Watching your favorite team win a game
45. Cozy, rainy days
46. How your house smells when you’re cooking something good
47. Watching your kid(s) laugh
48. The feeling of freshly-washed sheets on your bed
49. A clean kitchen
50. Fresh flowers in a vase
Published on Thursday, November 10, 2022 @ 4:16 PM EDT
There are many words available in the dictionary to describe our kids. There’s . . .
But grateful? Grateful isn’t a word that first comes to mind when we think about kids in general. And that’s not to say we don’t try our hardest to instill a sense of gratitude in our kids, because we totally do—teaching our kids to say “thank you” is one of the first concepts we want our kids to grasp. If nothing else, our kids will be polite, thoughtful, and thankful.
Except when they’re not, which is more often than we’d care to admit. It often feels like nothing is getting through to our kids, that all of our hard work is in vain. Will our kids always swipe food from our plates without a second thought? Will they always snatch money from our hands for extracurriculars without a grunt of appreciation? Will our kids ever be grateful? Well, there is hope and hard work in the following phrase. Are you ready for it?
Gratitude isn’t an inherent emotion. Gratitude is learned. There’s no better person to teach a kid about how to be grateful for what they have than the most influential person in their life, and that’s you. So, here are some ways to model gratitude to your kids:
1. Be vocal about the things you are grateful for.
Kids are always listening even when you don’t think they are. You’ve probably experienced this firsthand when your kid repeated something they overheard when you really wish they hadn’t. So, give them some good things to listen to. Pause throughout the day and let your kids hear you share what you’re thankful for at that moment. It can go something like, “Do you want to know what I’m thankful for right now? I’m thankful we’re all sitting around this table together at dinnertime.” Or “I am so grateful for this warm cup of coffee this morning.” Or “I am so glad I get a chance to rest my body. I worked hard today.” Nothing is too small to celebrate—in fact, the smaller the gratitude, the more lasting impression.
2. Make sure your family knows you’re grateful for what they do.
There’s a loosely-translated Andy Stanley quote that says something to the effect of, “Unexpressed gratitude feels like ingratitude.” We don’t have to tell you how true of a statement that is because you’re likely living some form of it every day. The saying, “More is caught than taught” applies so well here: If your kids hear you saying “thank you” often, they’ll likely start seeing moments of gratitude in their own lives and start expressing it too.
3. Create a habit of serving others together.
It’s easy to only look inward all the time, especially with so much going on at home. But nothing shifts perspective quite like helping others. Your kids need to have their worldview expanded because truly seeing others and what they experience increases empathy. So, make sure to nurture the spirit of service in your kids and add opportunities to serve into your family’s daily, weekly, or monthly rhythm. You can make homeless kits with the essentials in them to pass out, return shopping carts inside the store, or pick up trash at your local park. Anything goes.
4. Use key moments in your family’s rhythm for gratitude check-ins.
There are natural rhythms in your day when you can talk with your kids—morning time, drive time, mealtime, and bedtime. Make a daily habit of using one—or more!—of those times when everyone says at least one thing they’re grateful for. Encourage your kids that there is nothing too big or too small to share—it all counts. Set a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget this small yet impactful practice of gratitude.
Published on Thursday, November 3, 2022 @ 4:32 PM EDT
Every family has a rhythm.
For some families, morning is crazy.
Dinner may happen all together, or you may have one parent who works at night. Or sports or other activities may have you running in different directions.
Bedtime for some families is, well, crazy.
In other words, your family may look different than another family because of schedules or basic wiring.
But if you look closely at what your family does and when, you may find there are consistent things that happen every day or week.
You get up.
You are on the go.
The rhythm in your home sets your family values.
It establishes what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
It determines what gets talked about and what doesn’t get talked about.
When you create a rhythm you establish priorities.
Whether it’s mealtimes, car rides, or during bath time routines, you can leverage that time to have a meaningful connection with your kids.
Morning Time (any kid, any age): Start your child’s day with an encouraging word—even if they are grumpy or don’t respond well.
Feeding Time (for babies): Use this time to reflect on what’s most important.
Cuddle Time (for preschoolers): Pray for your baby, toddler, or preschooler.
Bath Time (for preschoolers): Talk about Bible stories and the character of God.
Drive Time: Use this time to connect with your kid/teen and get to know what’s going on in their life and what’s important to them.
Meal Time: Talk about faith and character.
Bed Time: Pray for your elementary-age kid, preteen, middle schooler, or high schooler.
Their Time: Be accessible when your high schooler wants to connect—whenever that is.
Your family may have other times as well. For example, families with kids with special needs may even have additional times like therapy or doctor visits.
On hard days or in hard seasons, family rhythms help your kids recenter on what is true—like how much you love them, how brave and strong they are. Kids need to know that, even when life is hard, there will be showers and chores and Tacos on Tuesday.
Whatever your family rhythm looks like, see if there’s a way you can look at things you are already doing, and do one simple thing to connect with the heart of your child instead of merely getting through it. In the process, you’ll build connection, faith, and character.
Published on Thursday, October 27, 2022 @ 12:12 PM EDT
Living under the same roof as other people can be challenging. Every day we are faced with opposing ideas and opinions. Thoughts we disagree with. Perspectives we think are wrong. Attitudes that rub us the wrong way. Snappy attitudes, reactive anger, borderline disrespect and more. Our personality differences alone are enough to create friction. Add that to the fact that we have all been crammed into a shared living space in anxiety and fear producing times, it’s no wonder we are finding ourselves in more conflict than ever with those we share a home with.
Conflict is inevitable.
If arguing hasn’t been a mainstay in your house yet, it will be in time (one of the fun truths about parenting). It’s reassuring that we are not alone, but that doesn’t exactly give us a way to move forward.
What do we do? How do we navigate the arguing between kids and between us and the kids? How do we diffuse conflict before it gets out of control? How do make peace the goal, but without ignoring real tensions and offenses that come up?
Because arguing is inevitable. But arguing well isn’t.
1. Acknowledge everyone’s feelings.
Saying aloud what we are all feeling under the surface helps draw out common ground. Meaning, if our kids are arguing over who got to pick the last show they could watch on Netflix, and it took you .3 seconds before you lost your temper and got involved, calling out everyone’s (yours included) difficulty in handling the situation well, is a good place to start. Say something like: “Guys, I know it’s a big deal to pick the show you are watching. But it’s possible we all overreacted because we are tired, bored, and annoyed being in this house with each other all the time.”
2. Acknowledge everyone’s feelings.
Younger kids, especially, may not know the words to put around what they are feeling. So, talk it through with them. Are you angry? Or bored? Tired or frustrated? Take a minute, and share your own feelings as well. Say something like: “I am tired. And I am frustrated you aren’t getting along with each other. But being tired probably doesn’t help me react in a helpful way.” Even if you consider their feelings an overreaction, acknowledge it. Don’t try to talk them out of it. Accept it, repeat it back to them.
3. Put it into words.
Ask them to put into words what they are wanting and what they believe the person they are arguing with is wanting. And vice versa. Allowing each other to speak aloud what they are wanting to get out of this argument and what they think the other person wants to get out of this, allows for some clarity. Maybe one person is being misunderstood, or misheard, or misrepresented. Figuring that out will diffuse some of the emotion in the conflict as well.
4. Encourage them to be creative in solutions with each other.
Inviting kids into solving the problem and not just expecting you to be judge and jury will help them learn how to be creative problem solvers. Even if the argument is between you and your child, ask them what they think should be done to fix it. This will empower them to work out solutions for themselves and also help them to learn to see things from the perspective of others.
5. Make a plan for going forward.
In an ideal world, whatever the current argument is, once it is resolved, would never happen again. That’s not likely. But what would make that more likely is saying: “Okay. What can we do to make sure we don’t have the same problem again tomorrow?” Maybe that’s you and your spouse being more communicative about each others’ schedules so you aren’t arguing over who has drop-off and pick-up duty, day-of. Maybe that’s coming up with a schedule of chores that have to be done before there is any screen time. Maybe that’s requiring time outside every day with your kids, maybe it’s requiring time alone for everyone in the family (especially the introverts who can feel overwhelmed with too much togetherness.)
We can’t escape conflict and the arguments that may result. But with some practice we can at least get better at how we do it. We can do it so that there is less relational damage and emotional shrapnel. We can do it so our recovery times are shorter and our fuses are longer. We can begin to put into practice a valuing of our relationships with one another, even at the expense of getting what we want.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what will remain—our relationships with each other. So, let’s be slow to anger. And when we argue, let’s argue respectfully. And then in the wake, let’s pursue peace.
Now hold on, my kids are arguing over Netflix.
Published on Friday, October 21, 2022 @ 12:58 PM EDT