3 Reasons to Let Your Kids See You Struggle

So excited to have my second guest blogger! Welcome to Jane Graham…an insightful woman, a supportive wife, an intentional mom, a creative blogger, and a committed follower of Jesus. I love that while a West Michigan suburb surrounds her, she lives and thinks and acts in ways that push her forward, into a life that is deeper and wider than how her culture would want to define her. And, at the same time, embraces the people and spaces in that culture. I know you’ll be encouraged and challenged as she writes about what it means to invite and allow our children to enter our suffering.

This past May, our firstborn child turned ten.

He has grown so that his hair presses into my nose now when we hug. He wistfully scoots off to the bus stop without even a passing glance at my face in the kitchen window. His physical presence reminds me that a long line of months have been strung together since I rocked him while the rest of the world slept.

It’s hard to believe that a decade can dissolve into thin air when the days seem so weighty—so impossible at times.

Despite my own admission of the growing need for his independence, rooted deeply inside my own heart is a mother’s instinct to protect; to keep him tucked away from any part of this world that might corrupt his innocence. To cocoon his heart from the difficulties of life; spare some of the tears that come with humanity.

It happened this spring when the white-knuckled fingers of disappointment choked our family, and my gut told me to pack away my own trials. It told me to bury my personal hurts so that he (and my other two children) wouldn’t have to see a parent walking through hardship.

It was my instinct. And for a while, I allowed it to dictate my actions.

But the book of Acts tells of something different: it tells of shared trials. Expected trials. Trials faced with joy—not avoidance. So as I studied the account of the early church, I decided that I should, in fact, be walking with my children through my own disappointments and hurts—not stacking them away in a cupboard of denial. And I decided there are some pretty important reasons to do so:

  1. Being open in times of struggle allows your children to see Christ in you. It gives you the opportunity to model patience when quick and angry words would be justified by the world’s standards. It allows you to verbalize how you look for the best in others and think on what you know to be true, not what you’ve assumed to be true. (Phil 4:8)
  2. Sharing your struggles demonstrates honesty and transparency. If we want our kids to grow up and share their hurts with us…to be open about confusion and questions and wounds that are still raw…we have to be that first. Doing so allows us to look into the eyes of our children and say, truly, “I understand. I’ve been there.”
  3. When kids see parents struggling, it invites a spirit of prayer. Is there anything that captures your heart more than hearing your child’s sweet and tender prayer? Why not ask them to pray for you? Tell them, in appropriate detail, about the challenge you’re facing. Ask them to petition specific requests such as asking for wisdom (James 1:5) or greater love (1 John 4:11). Give them the privilege of approaching the throne on your behalf, and then, if God sees best to say “yes” to that prayer, tell your child! “God helped me control my words at work today. Thank you for praying for me! I could totally tell the difference!” See their face light up and watch the roots take hold.

Are you appropriately honest with your children about your struggles? How have you seen God work in your moments of transparency?

Jane Graham views travel as her “love language” and enjoys New York City as much as summer rodeos in Wyoming. She ponders faith, life’s journey, and living with a Jesus-worldview at www.girlmeetspaper.com. While the cookies are baking, Jane loves to create teachable moments with her kids and blogs about some of them at www.unofficialhomeschooler.com. You can find her on Twitter at @girlmeetspaper.

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2 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Let Your Kids See You Struggle

  1. I can say, unequivocally, yes.

    One big example in my life is my multiple sclerosis (MS). My daughter was just 2 when I started having problems, just 3 at diagnosis.

    I know many people that try to hide their problems from their children, though it was never something I could do, even if I had wanted to. My problems are too visual, too audible, to just there. She learned that she could never run away from me because I couldn’t run. She learned that canes, shower chairs, walkers and wheelchairs are a part of my life and she has never acted like it’s an embarrassment or something to be ashamed or afraid of; it’s just life – both mine and hers.

    My first line of disease attack was giving myself injections every other day. For the first six months they made me feel flu-like with sweats, body aches, etc. Though she was little, I always let Anna watch me give myself the injections if she wanted to, watch me fill my pill sorter, explain, at her level, why I was doing it.

    My second line of attack was getting infusions of chemo and steroids every 3 months for 2 years. She watched as I could hardly get out of bed for 5 days, had trouble even looking at certain foods and just feeling intense fatigue overall.

    There are many more instances of how MS has affected our lives. We talk a lot about how it’s a family disease in the way that we all have to deal with it. I signed Anna up for a publication that helps kids understand the disease. She knows she can ask me anything and everything.

    I believe that sharing our vulnerabilities also helps raise our children’s securities. Children are smart and even if we would try to hide our struggles, they see it, feel it and live it in their own ways. If we let them in, help them understand, we empower them to be more compassionate and understanding as well.

  2. Tricia, I always love hearing your heart and so appreciate how you are transparent with everyone, not just your daughter. Thanks for sharing your own struggles and how you allow them to add depth to your family life. We can all learn from that.

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