I've been mulling this over for a few days trying to figure out what to write, and how best to say it. This is the kind of topic that would be easier to leave as my own thoughts because part of it isn't my story to tell; I don't want to be telling my kids' stories on the internet. More than that, it would be much easier to act like my kids never struggle, but it's not the truth and it doesn't help anyone to pretend it is.
I've come to the conclusion that we will all watch our kids struggle with something. At some point in their life they will struggle with a skill or ability, with fears, or relationships. They might even struggle with illness and loss. There will be something. We all struggle as people, so it would be crazy to think that the small people we are raising would somehow be exempt.
Here are 3 principles that have helped me be a better parent in these difficult situations.
1. Struggling isn't always an entirely bad thing.
Now hear me out. I know this makes me sound a little callous and cold-hearted, but I think this is important. There are valuable lessons gained when we struggle.
Through my own struggles I have learned how to be a better friend, I have learned how to work hard, and I have learned how to ask for help. Struggling has revealed some of the things I am really good at, as well as where it is best if I don't invest my time and resources. I have seen time and time again that I am not perfect and fall short of God's plan for my life.
Ultimately, I think that struggling is where we encounter a broken world and the need for God's redemption. I run into problems when I am embarrassed and feel shame over what I am struggling with, or when I pretend that I don't actually struggle at all. What needs to be demonstrated to our kids is struggling and suffering occurs for everyone, but there is hope and there is help.
2. There is a valuable opportunity provided when your kids struggle.
We don't ever want our kids to hurt. As a parent, I would much rather take the pain instead of my kids, it just isn't an option.
There are struggles for everyone and this situation won't be the last time that they face difficulty. It's unavoidable. As parents we get the opportunity to help our kids gain the skills they need to face life on their own. Learning how to pass through difficult times is a vital lesson.
Wouldn't you like the opportunity to walk with your kids and help them gain the skills they will need when difficult times come? Through struggling, they can learn how assess themselves, how to take advice and criticism from others, and how to evaluate what importance that criticism should be given. Wouldn't you like the opportunity to teach them to work hard, and to ask for help? Wouldn't you like to model praying because you really need God in this situation? Although I hate to see my kids hurt or disappointed I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to walk through difficulty with them, speaking truth into their lives as we go.
3. You aren't a bad parent because your kids are struggling.
I wish that there was a direct correlation in life. If you do the right things, nothing difficult will happen to you. As we have walked the road of difficulties with our kids I have done a lot of soul searching to figure out what role I play in the hardship my kids are facing. Did I not teach them well? Should I have done something differently? Is this really all my fault? The questions just go on and on.
Again and again, I land in the same place. This isn't about me. It needs to be about them.
This isn't true because I'm such an amazing parent, it is because my value as a parent and the measure of my success isn't determined by the way my kids perform or behave.
I know that at times I have acted like it is really about me. I have secretly hoped that my kids are amazing, and that people think that I am such a great parent. Here is the truth, my kids are people too, with their own wills, and their own broken places. They have their own skills and their own path through life. No matter how much I see myself in their situation (I had a hard time with that subject in school. I remember what it felt like to be left out. Oh, the pain of not making the team.) it gets to be their situation this time. The success of our children can't rise and fall upon our ability as parents, and our parenting ability can't be measured by the trappings of our children's successes.
Where we get the opportunity to do great parenting is in helping our kids develop and gain skills that will serve them through their life. We get to build authentic relationships with our kids that hold out markers to who they can become someday, while loving them deeply exactly the way they are. This only happens when we can let it be their story.
Only when I untangle my pride from the situation I can help them receive feedback and evaluate where the problem really is. I can lead the way in asking for help. I am better at just loving them for who they are instead of how they perform.
If you and your kids are going through a difficult time there are lots of resources. Please find help! We have found our pediatrician, kids teachers, and parents of older kids to be great resources. We have also gained great support through sharing what is going on with our friends.