Five Ways to Help Your Child Find Peace When Stressed
- Friday, January 21, 2011
My preschooler son Justin pushed his dinner plate off his placemat, spilling some casserole on the table. "I don't want this!" he yelled. "I'm tired of it!"
Moving his plate back in front of him, I spoke slowly and firmly. "This is what we're all eating tonight. I know you don't like leftovers, but it's all we have time for because we've got to drive over to the hospital soon to see Daddy. We have to hurry …"
"No!" Justin pushed his plate away again, nearly flipping it over. "It's yucky!" He spat in the direction of the plate to add a dramatic flourish to his statement.
"Alright - that's it! Time out!" I exclaimed. As calmly as possible, I scooped Justin up to carry him to the chair we use for time out, but he squirmed out of my arms and ran down the hallway, calling back to me: "No! I don't want the casserole! I don't want to go the hospital!" I pursued Justin down the hall until I had him cornered. But when I reached for him, he crumpled down into full-tantrum mode and banged his fists on the floor, yelling: "I want Daddy to come home tonight!" through his tears.
I wanted my husband to come home, too, but I couldn't change the stressful situation we faced. Just as I was silently praying for the wisdom to know what to do next, Justin stopped crying, stood up, and looked straight at me with his big hazel eyes. "Mommy," he said in a soft voice, "I need lap time."
"Lap time" was Justin's way of seeking comfort when he felt overwhelmed by stress. He climbed into my lap to apologize, dry his tears, and receive the hugs and kisses that always helped him calm down. Then we prayed together, asking Jesus to give Justin peace. Reassured by his time in my lap, Justin returned to the table, helped clean up the mess he'd made, washed his hands, and ate his casserole quickly. Then we were able to drive over to the hospital before visiting hours ended that evening.
No matter what kind of trouble was causing him stress, lap time always helped Justin claim Jesus' promise from John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." The prayers my son said on my lap ushered him into God's embrace to receive the peace that only He can give.
Even kids who are much older than preschool age still need lap time - and so do teens and adults, for that matter. When we're feeling overwhelmed by stress, we all need to go to our ultimate parent - our Father, God - to make amends and get a fresh dose of His love. As parents, we're often aware of our own stress and the need to take spiritual breaks to deal with it. But sometimes we don't notice the stress our kids are experiencing, or understand how to help them deal with it. Kids may be free from the adult responsibilities that cause us stress - like paying bills - but they've still got plenty of stress in their lives.
Kids who participated in a 2008 nationwide poll from the Nemours Foundation and the National Association of Health Education Centers reported feeling stress about many different issues, such as school grades, homework, gossip, teasing, and relationships with family and friends. The poll also showed that 75 percent of kids said they wanted and needed their parents to help them deal with stress. It's important for parents to talk with kids about stress and try to help them solve the problem while cheering them up, the polled kids said.
You can do all of that and more when you lead your kids to the ultimate parent - God - during stressful times. Here are five ways you can help your kids deal with stress by enjoying "lap time" with God.
1. Pray with your kids. Try to spend a few minutes praying one-on-one with each of your kids most days - especially during stressful weekdays. Good times to pray together are either right after school or at bedtime, since kids tend to think most about the stress in their lives at those times. Assure your kids that it's okay for them to feel whatever emotions stress is causing them to feel - from anxiety to sadness - and encourage them to express their feelings honestly to God. If they're feeling stressed about something wrong they've said or done, encourage them to confess their sins to God and repent during prayers. If they're dealing with stress over a decision they're struggling with, encourage them to pray for God's guidance. Remind your kids that God will always meet them where they are.
2. Schedule free time for your kids. When your kids are juggling too many activities, they can easily become overwhelmed by stress, since they must rush from one activity to another without enough time to reflect on what's going on in their lives. But if they have time to spend in solitude and silence, they can learn how to listen for God's voice speaking to them and absorb His peace into their souls. So eliminate unnecessary activities from their schedules and give them the freedom to enjoy some unstructured quiet time regularly.
3. Teach your kids to take care of their temples. Your kids will gain strength to deal with stress if their physical bodies are in good shape. Remind them of the truth that 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 declares: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." Help your kids take good care of their bodies by establishing healthy habits for them. Make sure that they get enough sleep and exercise each day, and prepare nutritious meals for them.
4. Give your kids opportunities to do creative projects. Creativity connects kids to God, the source of all inspiration. Kids who responded to the national poll about stress said that their favorite way of dealing with stress is by playing or doing something else that's active. When kids turn their attention to a creative project like imaginative play or working to make something, they spend less energy dwelling on stress - and through the creative process, they can sense God's presence and gain the peace they need.
5. Encourage your kids to get outside. Spending a bit of time outdoors in nature whenever possible will help your kids connect with its Creator and the peace He provides. The more they notice God speaking to them through His creation, the more their stressful concerns will evaporate into the fresh air around them.
No matter what kind of stress your kids encounter, they can find peace by taking spiritual breaks to enjoy "lap time" with God. Lamentations 3:22-23 promises: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." So encourage your kids to spend some time in their heavenly Father's lap often!
Whitney Hopler is a full-time freelance writer and editor. You can visit her website at: http://whitneyhopler.naiwe.com/.
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