The hardest part of being a parent for me is introducing the evil aspects of the world to my kids. This is a subject I have written about before and it is something I have continued to ponder in my heart. Mark and I pray about what and how to introduce issues going on around the world. I realize there are kids who are living in war zones, refugee camps, abusive homes, and things I cannot even imagine. Instead of protecting our kids we need to allow it to open doors to communication. Opening doors to talk about how to respond to a world that often seems it is going insane.
How do we prepare our kids? We have come to the conclusion that to prepare our kids for the hate, anger, and horrors of the world we need to train them in their emotions. Teaching them the trigger responses underneath a persons response. Teaching them that often times anger masks hurt, revenge masks a rejected heart, and a harsh word masks deeper wounds than we can see. When they are able to see beyond the response of someone they are able to see them with compassion.
Being able to see someone with compassionate eyes changes how my kids respond to a hurting world around them. When our kids have been wounded, when they have seen another person, or animal wounded how are they to respond? Maddie, our oldest, has given me the most insight into how to teach our kids to respond. When anything negative happens she wants to run as far away from it as possible. Her flight instinct kicks into hyper mode, but instead of physically leaving she has a tendency to leave emotionally. She stacks her wall high and cements it to add to its durability. I have had the privilege to walk her through through her pain.
When we experience pain, watch another human, or animal experience pain it feels ugly. It’s this ugliness we try and hide from. The ugliness makes us feel weak, shame, and guilt. What I have learned and I am trying to teach Maddie and our other three kids is this. When we allow ourselves to feel the ugliness instead of running away from it, when we allow ourselves to cry and get angry in the moment it frees us for a life time. We humans think we can shove our ugly feelings in the closet and never look at them again. These same ugly feelings that we think are tucked safely away are instead out in the open for everyone to see. They are seen in our insecurities, they are seen in our distance we have in relationships, and they are seen in our distrust. They ooze out when we are scared or angry. We may not realize they are triggered by our emotions shoved in the closet, but they are very much a live, and being lived out whether we know it or not.
For our kids to truly experience freedom they must know how to deal with their mental and emotional states. They must be able to be honest with themselves and honest with God the Father who created them.
This last fall I went to The Global Leadership summit. My favorite speaker was Brene Brown author of three books. The one she was recently teaching about was Rising Strong. Inspiring those around her to to risk big, risk being vulnerable, risking belly flopping, and choose to learn from the vulnerable moments.
Walking my kids through a painful world is challenging. To ignore the world around us would be ill equipping them mentally and emotionally. I truly believe that when we can train and teach our kids to be healthy mentally and emotionally they will be able to handle just about anything life throws at them.
Death has been one of the topics I have pondered how to explain to our kids. I knew it would come up because Mark’s dad died a few years before he and I met. My grandpa also passed away and we went to his funeral, which I knew would spark more questions. Naomi, one of our twins, has been pondering death since she was about three years old. She would ask us questions that seemed to be beyond a three year old’s comprehension. All of our kids have asked questions such as where is daddy’s dad? Why do we have one grandpa and not two. We have explained to them that Grandpa Russell got sick from something called cancer. We have explained to them that he is with Jesus and when we die we will get to meet him.
We have taught our kids our biblical perspective of death. We have taught them that when believers die they go to heaven, which is like a beautiful waiting room until Jesus comes back. When Jesus comes back we will get our new bodies and live on the new earth. Maddie has been dreaming of flying around the new earth on her dragon, Naomi dreams of creating art with new and beautiful colors, and Titus dreams of building the biggest and greatest creations. Dying has become an adventure and not a horrible fate we all have someday. I am overjoyed as I hear them face the thought of death with excitement. Not the scary unknown it could be.
Teaching our kids to feel the pain of the moment now, is powerful. Teaching them that tears are strength and freedom, is powerful. Teaching them healthy responses to their emotions is powerful. Being able to see others responses for what they really are, is powerful.
We are also teaching our kids that they are responsible for their actions and their words. We are teaching them that while they are responsible for their own actions they are not responsible for another persons reaction. When daddy gets angry or I cry, it is not their responsibility to fix us. It is neither their responsibility to be perfect to keep daddy from getting angry or from keeping mommy from crying. We have taught our kids that Mark and my response to the world around us is our responsibility and God’s responsibility to fix, not theirs. This frees our kids from taking on emotions and thoughts that are too big for them to pick up and handle. This also gives them an example to follow as Mark and I go to God the Father to let him heal our hearts, minds, and attitudes. Teaching them they can only be responsible for their own actions and words is power and frees them in future relationships. When they are responsible for their own actions, they are also responsible for asking forgiveness when they have wronged someone, but they are also free to recognize they are free from someone else’s reaction towards them.
We will keep opening the door of conversation with our kids about their emotions, others emotions, and how to respond to them. It is one thing to tell them, it is another thing to show them. I must be their model for handling healthy emotional and mental responses. As I allow Jesus to live in me he is able to live through me. He is able to give me his eyes of compassion. His words of encouragement and love. Jesus gives me mental and emotional health when I am willing to truly be honest with myself and allow the right emotion to come out. When I allow myself to grieve for the world around me. When I am able to be honest about my anger and fear I am setting myself free in the future because I am dealing with the emotions in the here and now.
How are you opening up conversation and training your kids in their emotional and mental health?