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Help Your Kids When They’re Hurting

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2009 15 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Help Your Kids When They’re Hurting

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Glynnis Whitwer's new book, When Your Child is Hurting: Helping Your Kids Survive the Ups and Downs of Life (Harvest House, 2009). 

Your kids discover every day how much life can hurt.  Maybe they're excluded from a party or betrayed by a friend.  Perhaps they got bad grades in school despite hard work, or didn't make the sports team or band group for which they'd tried out.

No matter how much you want to try to protect your kids from life's blows, it's impossible to do so in our fallen world.  But if you choose to trust God to help your kids, and if you teach your kids to trust God, too, then your kids can overcome any disappointment or crisis they encounter.

Here's how you can help your kids when they're hurting:

See problems as opportunities.  Rather than looking at your kids' problems as something to try to avoid, recognize that problems are actually great opportunities for them to learn how much they need God's love and power in their lives.  Teach your kids to face their problems instead of trying to run from them.

Deal with disappointment.  When your kids encounter disappointment, give them unconditional love so they know that their worth as people isn't connected to their performance.  Try to identify the reason for their disappointment and help them evaluate the situation to learn from it.  Choose to think positive thoughts and speak positive words about the people who have disappointed your kids.  Plan ways for your kids to improve their skills (tutoring, extra sports or music practices, concentrating on a character issue, etc.) so they'll be better prepared to try again.  Urge them not to give up.

Evaluate words that hurt.  Help your kids process words that are harsh, judgmental, or critical through a series of questions. Consider who spoke the words and whether or not that person has your son or daughter's best interests at heart.  Ask what the person's character is like and whether or not the person was under stress when he or she spoke the unkind words.  Consider why the person might say those words.  Finally, ask how the words line up with biblical truth and how Jesus would likely respond to them.  When you respond, guard your thoughts and words to avoid sin and stay positive.  Rely on God's help to forgive the people who have hurt or wronged you.  Use their comments to shed new light on your life and improve it however you can.

Overcome fear.  Let your kids know that it's always okay for them to express their fear in any situation.  Encourage them to be open and honest about it.  Have an action plan figured out for situations that make them feel afraid.  Urge your kids to move past their fear and do something they're afraid of anyway.  Then, once they do take the risk, don't rescue them in the middle of the challenge.  Give them plenty of affirming words (like "I'm proud of you!").  Pray with them and teach them that God is much bigger than anything that scares them.

Manage stress.  Create routines to eliminate unnecessary stress at home, such as going to bed on time at night and establishing a regular homework schedule for weekdays.  Avoid signing your kids up for too many activities at once; give them enough downtime to relax and reflect. Break down large projects into manageable steps so your kids don't become overwhelmed by them. 

Deal with loneliness.  Help your kids become good friends to others and find good friends for themselves. Teach them how to be helpful, kind, sharing, cooperative, responsive to others' needs, and engage in strong conversations.  Invite other kids to your home or to outings. 

Turn failure into victory.  Train your kids to accept failure as an invitation to try again.  Encourage their sense of curiosity because it will motivate them to persist in their pursuits.  Remind them of how much God loves them and promises to work even the worst situations out to accomplish good purposes.  Evaluate your kids' failures together and figure out how they can grow.  Help them set realistic goals and train to accomplish them while trusting God.

Tell them the truth about their bodies.  Counter teasing about their physical appearance and urge them to resist pressure to try to conform to the culture's standard of a perfect body.  Remind them their value comes not from their temporary body, but from their eternal soul.  Compliment your kids on the way God has made their bodies (such as by commenting, "You have a beautiful smile.").

Deal with grief.  Answer your kids' questions about the death of someone they love honestly, giving them just as many details as they need to know.  Urge them to trust God even when they don't understand.  Keep your kids' routines as normal as possible and avoid overindulging them while they grieve.  Remember the person who has died, such as by discussing memories together or creating a scrapbook with letters and photos.

Manage anger.  Create a safe environment where your kids can safely express their anger, and let them know that you value their thoughts and feelings.  Ask them questions to help them evaluate the situations that make them angry.  Show your kids how to submit their own wills daily to God and trust Him to do what's best for them.

Invest in their strengths.  Identify your kids' core talents and give them opportunities to develop and use those strengths to the fullest.  Urge them to compare themselves only to themselves - not to others - and keep trying to do their best.

Overcome insecurity.  Remind your kids that their value isn't based on how they look or perform, but on God's love for them.  Build family unity (such as through traditions) to give your kids a strong sense of belonging.  Urge them not to waste their time or energy trying to please other people, but instead to focus on pleasing God.  Ask God to help your kids see the potential that He sees in them.

Deal with bullies.  If your one of your kids tells you that he or she is being bullied, take it seriously.  Listen to what's going on, and record the details.  Notify those in authority, like school officials or the police.  Teach your son or daughter how to stand up to the bully with calm confidence.

Manage differences.  If your kids have physical disabilities or learning problems that give them unique challenges compared to most of their peers, help them identify their strengths and learn how to work around their weaknesses.  Protect their self-esteem and show them unconditional love.

September 16, 2009

Adapted from When Your Child is Hurting: Helping Your Kids Survive the Ups and Downs of Life, copyright 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.

Glynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries, a speaker at special events and women's retreats across the country, and the author of [email protected]: A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work from Home. She and her husband, Tod, both work from their home in Arizona where they raise their five children.




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