Parents today have it hard. There are lots of issues their kids face that parents and kids in previous generations didn’t have to face. There is also an “expert” culture and mindset we’re living in that tells us that we should let “experts” handle the difficult situations. Sometimes they even convince us that we should do this for the good of our kids. But is this true? As you might, guess… we don’t think so.
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Have you ever thought that your kid needs a therapist?
Be honest. Have you ever said to yourself, “Man, all these emotional issues my kids are going through, and these issues with friends at school, I don’t know what to do. Where can I find help?”
Every parent on the planet has felt that way at some time. What should we parents do when we feel that way? What do we TYPICALLY do?
In our day it seems that parents immediately try to find a book that they’ve heard is good on that subject, or they go to a blog, watch videos, or if a friend recommends a therapist who helped their child, we might turn there.
It seems like Christ followers these days have created little compartments in their brains where one side is their “church” compartment that is the place they think about and keep all their church activities. But that somehow doesn’t translate into the other compartments, like parenting, and managing their home well, and how they do their job. It’s like the different compartments in their brains never touch each other, one never influences another.
But they should. The Christian faith should saturate every other area of our lives.
This division we’ve made, if you want to call it that, causes us to feel like we don’t have what it takes in terms of knowledge, or wisdom, or expertise, to step in and help our kids in those circumstances. As a result, we turn all the resources that we think WILL have the answers to those issues.
It’s possible that our culture has convinced us that this is the right approach so successfully, that we don’t even think there’s any other way. We don’t think to find help for ourselves in God’s word. So when our child is having issues, we rush off to the school counselor, or we seek out a good Christian therapist, or worse, just a plain old therapist who is not getting counsel from the Holy Spirit’s leading.
There IS another way
We want to challenge you to think differently. Is there another way that God has intended for us to work through our issues, our emotional burdens, the things that we struggle with?
Mindi and I believe that 99% of the issues that your children face, you as the parent can effectively address.God has put you in the role of parent for that exact reason. You are the one who’s to be guiding them through the relational issues at school, through the anxiety they feel over tests and soccer practice and volleyball and whatever. You are the one God has appointed for that.
And why is God so confident that we are the ones to help our children? Because He has given us the Holy Spirit, who is the great Counselor. God plans to lead us by the power and person of His Spirit as we seek to help our children.
Is this stripping your gears a little bit? Are you saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t feel very confident about that.”
If so, let’s look at scripture to see what the Lord says about this kind of thing…
PROVERBS 20:5 – The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Isn’t that what we’re talking about? Our children have all these things going on inside of them and we don’t know how to get to them. They have “deep water” flowing through their souls, way down there somewhere. But this passage says that those deep issues CAN be drawn out by a person of understanding. That’s the challenge for us, parents, to be come that man or woman of understanding so that WE can help our children.
It is true, if you’re starting this way of parenting with young children, it’s going to be a lot easier because you are starting at a young age than it would be if you’re trying to deal with your teenager who’s struggling with anxiety or panic attacks. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to work with your teenager. You can still be a great help and an encouragement to your teenager. And yes, if things do not get better, finding a good Christian therapist is something we would very much encourage. But we’re wanting to speak to you parents who haven’t even thought of this idea, and we want you to try this biblical pattern first.
If you have an issue that you’re dealing with your children right now where, let’s say, they’re having an eating disorder, what you need to do is not run immediately to a therapist, you need to learn how to effectively talk with them to draw out what is going on in their heart. What are they feeling? What are their insecurities? Through talking you will gain understanding of them, and then you will be able to help them to know the truth of who they are in Christ so they can get on the right track in their thinking.
And there is great hope for parents who have young children. You get to start now, helping your child know themselves and how to deal with their emotional issues at an early age, so they do not fall prey to panic attacks, eating disorders, depression, just to name a few.
A Christ-oriented mindset shift & orientation of your home
We are challenging you to consider a different sort of mindset. Maybe think of it as a mindset shift.
You don’t need experts, generally speaking. You need the Holy Spirit to guide and lead you. He’s promised that He will.
And honestly, wouldn’t you rather have that? Wouldn’t you rather be the one who’s connected to the heart of your child and guiding them in the way they should go, instead of a therapist or guidance counselor who you really don’t know? This is a way you can step into your role as a parent, and you need to step into that role by faith. Trust the Lord to help you do this.
Parents, think of yourselves as not only parents, but as counselors, soul-care guides, so to speak. You can organize and arrange the interactions in your home in a way that facilitates you being those things for your kids as they grow up.
Some examples from our child-raising years
We planned regular talking times with our children, usually at bedtime. We had five children, so I’d spend time talking with the boys one night and my wife, Mindi would spend time talking with the girls that night. The next evening, we’d switch.
We were purposeful in this because we knew that our kids needed to talk about the things going on in their lives, and in their hearts and minds. So we thought of questions to ask our kids, both in order to have a memorable, fun time together, but also to draw them out, like Proverbs 20:5 says. We worked to draw out those deep waters of what they were thinking and feeling about their life, their day, their friends, themselves, us, God, their siblings, whatever.
We would ask them questions about simple things, like, What do they think about their toys that they just got, or their new dress, or a picture they painted. It could be surfacy stuff like that or it could also go really deep. The point is that we were intentionally providing a regular time in their lives where they had an opportunity to talk. We were doing everything we could to create an environment where conversation was a natural thing in our home. That way, talking about their thoughts and feelings becomes something they are not just used to, but that they enjoy.
And our kids loved it.
We created a different environment where they could talk that we called “family nights.” (We have recorded an entire episode on this). We had many different ways our kids could share their thoughts and feelings during those family times. You could call it a group therapy session because that’s really what it turned out to be. We would talk about the Bible and we’d encourage them to comment and share. We’d talk about things in the world that were going on at the time, about their feelings and thoughts regarding those things, and so they learned how to share their feelings and their thoughts in a group setting.
We would also have regular dates with our kids, where we would again, plan questions to ask our children. And as they got older, the questions were fitting to what they were going through.
So parents… realize this: We are in control of guiding our children in learning how to deal with their lives, and the thoughts and emotions that come with it.
- There’s a boy that likes our daughter. Now it’s time to talk about it. Let’s let them get out their thoughts and their feelings about it. And then we can direct them.
- Our son is disappointed about how a friend treated him. Let’s unpack that together and help him process it in a loving but wise way.
- Your twelve year old’s best friend is agonizing over his parent’s divorce. Let’s talk it through so your child can know that their home and family are stable and strong, and that he can be an encouragement and support to his friend.
YOU are your child’s best therapist
If you’ve ever gone to a counselor or a therapist yourself, you know that many times it’s a positive experience. Why? Because you’re able to discover and share things that have been bottled up for a long time (in most cases). The counselor is truly listening to you, they’re actually taking notes. They truly care about what you have to say. So many times, just having another human being show care about what’s deep down inside of your soul, that in and of itself can be great healing.
So think about that relating to your children. If you can just remind yourself, they are new human beings, so to speak, even if they’re teenagers. They haven’t been on the planet long. They’re still learning, processing, getting oriented to the way life is. Many times they will feel things that are confusing to them, or they don’t know how to define. As an example, you may ask your son, “How are you doing, or what are you feeling? “ and he says, “Fine” Why is he responding that way? Nine times out of 10 it’s because he can’t define what he’s feeling. Maybe he doesn’t even know that deep emotions are there.
It’s your initiative and your persistence in a loving and kind and patient way that helps to draw those things out of your child so they can see what’s going on inside of them, label it, and then know what to do with it in light of God’s word.
And it goes the other way too.,
Not only are we counseling our children in how to handle any negative thoughts or feelings they are experiencing, we’re also counseling them and encouraging in the good things that they say and that they do. This is so very important because we are able to do what the Bible calls, “encouraging them in the Lord.”
When we see our children act lovingly towards one another, or show respect to us as parents, we need to take the time to talk about that and say, “What you just did was so kind. It really made me feel loved when you said that to me. What were you thinking, son, when you said that?”
What you’re doing is helping them to draw out what they’re thinking, why they said or did what they did, and that helps them to get to know who they are and who Jesus is in them.
Spontaneous is good, too
What we’ve been looking at so far is the need to be intentional, to make sure that you provide the opportunities for your child to talk by planning conversations with them. But you also need to be spontaneous. Again, some example might help…
When your son comes into the garage, Dad, when you’re out there working and he just starts hanging out and asking, “What are you doing, Dad?” You need to realize that your son wants to connect with you — male to male. He may even have something on his mind or heart that he wants to talk about but isn’t sure how to bring it up. He needs to know that you care about him, so engage with him.
When the mom’s in the kitchen working and the daughter comes in, or the son comes in and just starts asking questions, or maybe even starts complaining about friends, it’s an opportunity. You need to realize that you have an opportunity to get into my child’s heart, to find out what’s going on. Are there any deep waters that need to be drawn out?
For the skeptics in the room…
This all sounds good in theory, but as you think about the deep waters of your child’s heart being drawn out , you may be saying to yourself, “I don’t know what to do with those deep waters once they’re drawn out. I don’t know how to handle that.”
Psalm 19: 7 has some great counsel for us… focusing on the power and the use of God’s Word. It says…
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…”
Think about that phrase, “reviving the soul.” There’s refreshment there. There’s encouragement there. There’s a strengthening there.
And then it says…
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
That phrase is describing someone who doesn’t know, someone who’s ignorant, someone who’s simple and doesn’t have much savvy about life. That sounds a lot like our kids, doesn’t it? What does it say to them? They can gain wisdom from God’s word.
So back to the question, “What should you do with the deep waters once they come out?” You take them to the Word of God. Use the Word of God to illuminate what’s going on rather than using conventional wisdom, or wives’ tales, or whatever homespun advice you’ve heard in your local parent circles. You need to be a biblically saturated parent so that you’re able to help your children think biblically for themselves.
As you learn to talk with your kids, just simply talking with them and allowing them to talk openly with you, it’s going to help them be a healthy, emotional human being. It’s s going to help them be a healthy sound-minded human being. Even if they’re just talking about everyday things, like asking their Dad how to work on cars, or a daughter asking her Mom how to make a delicious pie, or about relational things with their friends at school, getting your child to talk and express what they think and what they feel is so very important to help them be a healthy person. Then they’re on the road to being a healthy adult when they leave the home.
We are not ones to trivialize or minimize mental illness, but there is a reason we are seeing more and more mental illness in our world. Mental illness is many times a direct result of people not having the opportunity to talk about what’s going on inside of them, with someone alongside who can care for them as they talk about it. The emotions and thoughts have gotten all bottled up and over time can cause physical damage to their brain. The brain chemicals and hormones are not processed as God designed and that person does become mentally ill, because they haven’t had the proper relational interaction.
A related point here comes from Mindi. She says that as women, they are more emotionally driven. God has made women that way. In order to be healthy as female human beings, women need to have the outlet of expressing the deep waters of emotion within them. A good marriage will provide this for married women. Single women may experience this in a healthy way with a good friend or group of friends.
If you’re a parent of a little girl, and you haven’t already, you will one day experience the up and down emotion of your daughter. Mindi jokes that there’s a reason that some females are called “drama queens.” It’s because those deep waters of emotion are churning under the surface and need to be drawn out.
Parents, we need to seek the Lord for wisdom and discernment so that we can be that person of understanding who can properly draw out the emotion and thoughts of our daughters and sons. We want to give them the opportunity to be healthy inside and out.
Your child’s emotional issues don’t have to cause you fear
I hope I’ve dispelled the lie that you can’t do it, that you don’t have what it takes to help your kids with their emotions and inner needs. As a Christ follower, this is one of your greatest opportunities to trust our God who says He will equip us for every good work. For the sake of our kids, let’s step into their lives and take initiative and expect God to show up and help us like He says He will. Let’s believe that and let’s do it.
RESOURCES MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE
Episode outlining our practice of Family Time
Episode outlining how to use God’s word to teach your kids
Bible Teacher, Podcaster, Author
Carey is a retired pastor who served in local churches in various roles for over 20 years. He’s the host of to Christian podcast, “The Morning Mindset Daily Christian Devotional,” co-host of a Christian parenting podcast, “God Fearing Kids and the Parents Who Raise Them” which he hosts with his wife, and co-host of “You and Me And Jesus: A Christian Marriage Podcast,” also hosting alongside his wife, Mindi. Carey has written numerous books, including a Christian Speculative Fantasy Fiction series, “The Dragon Slayer Chronicles.” He’s the founder of Podcast Fast Track (a full-service podcast production company focused on serving small businesses and entrepreneurs) and love family, Jesus, and life.
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