Growing Grown-Ups

Raising-Happy-Confident-KidsWe were speaking in Birmingham over the weekend.  During the q and as, one question kept coming up.  How do we protect our children from  depression, self-hatred and anxiety?  How can we raise them to be strong, but weak in all the right ways?

I wish I knew the answer.   So I asked some friends.

Here’s some of their wisdom – and please share yours.

  1. don’t try and be perfect.  Kids don’t need perfect parents (and trying will kill us), but they can learn from messy parents who make mistakes, say sorry and model forgiveness and grace.
  2. don’t blame yourself.  We don’t make our kids good and we don’t make them bad either.  We just do our best.
  3. work with what you can.  You can’t change circumstances, but you can pray for your child and give them guidance.
  4. teach them that it’s okay to have emotions.  It’s not “bad” to feel angry or sad or upset, and these things won’t harm us. But we can learn to talk them out and express them in healthy ways; with God and with others.
  5. keep the lines of communication open.  If your kid likes computer games, play one with them.  Ask about what they enjoy.  Get them to teach you new skills.
  6. Encourage them to think critically about the media.  You can’t take them out of the world but neither do you want to leave them to it.  If you’re watching a video of say Beyonce, ask: what do you think about the song? Her clothes and her dancing?  What do you think the bible says about this?  What’s good about it?  What do we need to be careful about? Social media is neither good or bad in itself.  BUT set limits.
  7. Remind them that Jesus loves them unconditionally and is concerned with their heart, not their appearance.  As far as you can, do the same.  And keep reminding them that Jesus loves you like this too. If you make a mistake, apologise to God and to them.  Practise forgiveness.
  8. For at least part of the day, give your child your full attention. When they’re talking but you are focused on what you will say next, you can miss what they’re really trying to say.
  9. Identify your child’s personal strengths and talents and encourage them.
  10. Be consistent in what you expect and how you behave.

This is the post I hope you’ll write for me. Over to you…

13 thoughts on “Growing Grown-Ups

  1. Don’t put them under pressure to be perfect. Love them as they are, just as God loves us as we are.

    Be silly with them. Laugh at their jokes, even if they’re not funny, tickle them until they’re begging for mercy, conspire with them about soaking their dad with the hosepipe ;)

    Pray with them, as well as for them, and show them that they can take EVERYTHING to God in prayer.

    Teach them good mental health first aid: to eat well, sleep well, get fresh air and exercise – every day.

    Don’t try to solve problems for them, but help them to solve them for themselves. Ask questions like ‘How can we make this better?’

  2. Hi Emma,
    I love this list! I recently attended a medical lecture about maintaining good mental health and the advice was to do these three things every day:
    dance, sing and laugh. (As a Christian I would also add pray .)

    In our family we love dancing after dinner, this then often involves singing and laughing too!!

    I have also recently been challenged about how I model failing to my children. I think I need to do it more. A sort of thinking out loud.
    “Mummy made a mistake today, I tried to do this and it didn’t work and I feel a bit sad. I had to take some big breaths and think about it again.”

    My 5 year old took my hand and said “that’s okay, Mummy, have you worked it out now?”

    Love Jane xx

  3. Concerning point 9, our mother used to say David is the musical one, Malcolm is clever with his hands, and Christopher is the one with the brains.
    Unfortunately that was all-too-often interpreted as David is pretty useless, but he can play the piano. Malcolm’s not really academic, but he makes amazing things. And, Christopher, there’s a fine line between brilliance and insanity.
    There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your children’s strengths, but you might also have a crack at helping them in areas where they are not confident, and showing them they can do things they didn’t think they could.
    Our mother’s attempt at encouragement was meant to help us, but sometimes it felt like there was a sting in the tail.

  4. I would also add: teach them to take responsibility for their actions, their reactions and their feelings – and model such behaviour yourself. “No your brother is not being annoying, feeling annoyed is a reaction you have control over, you can take back the power in that circumstance.”. Also naming their feelings – it’s very difficult to discuss feelings if they don’t have labels for them. Finally, teach them to be advertising savvy (eg in the supermarket) “how can you love that cereal, you’ve never tasted it! You are being targeted and successfully tricked and manipulated by the person who put minions on the packaging…” Etc. Wonderful blog post, thank you!

  5. Ohhh my gosh Emma. I can’t believe you’re asking me this aka I think I could write an entire encyclopedia-sized tome on the issue .. might not even be kidding.

    1. The golden rule – you CANNOT be a good parent without first being a good spouse. Put your marriage first and foremost always. Spend alone time with Glen – dinner, movie, grocery run, anything at all. & put Ruby in someone else’s, like neighbour/relative. Explain that Mom & Dad are putting you with x neighbour/relative for a little while, when you come back from neighbour/relative’s house we’ll be ready to do more things with you again! (I mean – duh & I bet you already knew that, but with a kid who is soon to turn into a toddling 2-ish year old .. never hurts to remind a little cos .. well basically don’t make my parents’ mistakes. Haha.)

    I’m saying this because my dad always felt that my mom’s sole duty when I was a kid was to take care of the kids, they never took the ‘risk’ in entrusting me to someone else’s care so that they could refresh themselves in marriage. My mom always said ‘Dad is a bad husband but a good father’, which I never knew how to respond to; because he DID provide financially etc. (as a young adult, I now think it’s a load of bull, pardon my language). Even as my parents ‘do things together’ now like go on holidays or take beach strolls, I don’t really think it’s done out of love anymore, or any sort of working on marriage – I think the spark’s gone, these are just obligations of marriage that they fulfil .. in the role of a spouse.

    Yeah so I do kind of wonder what life was like before my existence & if the virtue of my very existence wrecked my parents’ marriage ..

    2. VALIDATION oh my gosh I cannot reiterate enough the importance of this. As someone who works with children I’m still working on this myself & I suspect it takes a lifetime to learn, but if your kid says “Mom I wish this xxx turned out better” .. I think (while well-intetioned) there is a better way to respond than “you did your best and that’s enough”, or “but it’s still good, well done!”

    Because evidently your child doesn’t think that’s good enough. Instead, say “okay – I see where you’re coming from. How does that make you feel? We could talk about it over ice cream, if you’d like. Or if you don’t want to talk now, that’s fine too – whenever you’re ready!”

    3. Make your child learn some kind of skill, be it art class, piano class, or some kind of sport, as soon as you can afford to. My parents never let me learn any of these in childhood – they always claimed it to be giving me a ‘stress-free’ childhood when other children went for music classes & the like. I think they were also partly trying to hide the fact that we might not have been able to afford them at the time. But the outcome of this was that when everyone finished our A levels, my friends who had these skills from childhood could teach beginner art classes/beginner’s piano, while I couldn’t because I didn’t have said skills. On that day, I vowed never to be a parent like that. In the meanwhile between my childhood self & the end of A levels, … basically life became a scramble toward academic perfection – because without a non-academic skillset – what can I prove myself to have sufficient mastery in, if not academics?

    So yeah the point of music/sports/art class isn’t to groom the next child prodigy (but good if you get one as a result), more like showing her there is a world beyond Math & spelling tests, & scoring full marks all the time ha ha ha.

    4. Being an adult does NOT excuse you from showing manners to any small person younger than 12, contrary to what some might think. Apologise when you did wrong – own up if you accidentally misplaced a book/toy. Say sorry if you threw your daughter’s bunny in the wash & the colour ran so he looks ugly now. Say please, could you help me xxx. Say thank you when she offers her food to you.

    Because otherwise she will recognise the double standards that exist – it’s not fair, why does she have to say all these please-thank-you things & Mom doesn’t have to. As a relatively current (this year) issue, my mom broke my glass cup that I’d got with a promotional meal and didn’t tell me till I asked. (My family has a set of Tupperware cups where we each own one, & then a couple of spare glass/porcelain cups for general use. This was one of the general shared use cups)

    NOT GOOD. I hate it that my cup is broken, but I hate it even more that I wasn’t even told about it until I asked.

    5. Also what David said about labelling, “the smart one”, “the sporty one” etc because what happens if interests change/they can’t keep up to whatever stereotype they’ve been labelled with?

    Really, this is just the tip of the iceberg I think (haha) but in the interest of such a long comment already, I’ll stop here :P (+ wow I just aired sufficient potential-dirty-family-laundry, thank God for pseudonyms .. haha.)

    the byproduct of foregoing all of these is potentially a kid with depression/anxiety, just sayin’ (cos I honestly think that’s where a big part of my GAD stems from ..)

  6. Thank you so much for all your comments! – they’re a huge help to me, and will be to many others.

  7. Hi Emma,
    Thanks for this post. I was the one who asked this question at Bible by the Beach! I don’t have anything to add but am reading everything with interest.

  8. Thanks Rebecca – it’s a great q, and hopefully there’s wisdom here for us both.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I am learning the importance of encouragement and appreciation. I am so often critical. Struggling to learn to focus on what others, including my husband and children are doing well, instead of what I perceive as lacking. That doesn’t mean I will never have to correct my children. But a little bit of loving correction with huge does of encouragement.

  10. Thanks for this. Can relate to a couple of points. Find myself a mum where friends’ kids have been taught to sew, knit, cook by themselves and having been another academic sans all else skill set person, I am unable to provide this homespun life skills set. And, with an ED such that cooking with kids is a bit of a nightmare. Often feel an absolute failure. Totally lack the resources to be that sort of mum. and when all you have is academics and the ED and no longer a career due to Ed and kids , you really find you are in a nowhere place. If you have one, the other half/ husband can come in and do and be some of the things that you can’t be, that is part of the deal, so he makes the pasta with them, and he supervises musical things ! My kids are tricky at the mo, agewise,,stagewise and mostly I feel I fail. Comparing with others is a terrible mistake and competitive ED types are probably more prone to this. I can only be who I can be, and by the grace of God I have to trust that it and the outworking of my love for them is enough.

  11. I would add to some of this great advice – encourage your kids to question. Don’t make any area of life ‘taboo’ or uncomfortable to discuss. With a daughter almost 17 years old now, she has asked questions (usually when just the two of us are in the car) that have caused me to almost crash, but would still rather she asked me the weird, wonderful or plain awkward questions rather than follow the dubious path of trying to find answers from peers.
    Having fun – still good, especially having a flour fight with my 15 year old, 6’1″ son recently.
    And always have time for a hug.
    Thank you for your comments and all who have added words of wisdom. We are still learning, and that’s something else we can encourage our kids to do too.

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