Teaching about difficulty

In the Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, we get to follow the adult trials and the childhood experiences of George.  Each time he faced a difficult situation he asked himself the same question: “What would Dad do?”  Somehow George picked up lessons from his dad that helped him navigate life and become a community hero.

What about our children?  What are they learning from us? Times are different right now and different times require a different approach to life.  But different, even difficult times, offer parents an incredible training opportunity.

Everyone will go through their own difficulties in life.  We don’t prepare our children to deal with difficulty.  That’s why so many choose to grow up and medicate during the difficult times in their lives. We’d like to think we can shelter our children from pain, but we can’t.  Sheltering leaves many children totally unprepared and untrained to deal with difficult circumstances. 

A law enforcement friend of mine uses a phrase that has been helpful when it comes to preparing children for life’s inevitable challenges: “When under stress, resort to training.” In other words, lean on training rather than panic.

What training are your children receiving from you as you traverse this difficult economic environment? 

During these times of economic stress, parents have a silver-lined training opportunity.  We have the opportunity, even the responsibility, to teach our children how to handle difficulty.  We can either handle the adversity while really believing that we can do all things through Christ, who gives us the strength, or we are handled by the adversity.  What are our children learning?

Our children are not impervious to the ever-present discussions about the economy and home foreclosures.  Every child knows something about the economic uncertainty.  Some are in homes that are feeling the economic pain.  They need the privilege of learning about the scope of the problem from mom and dad. 

This is a time to train through discussion.  Let your children know the circumstances you are facing.  Talk about it, but do more than talk – point to the real answers.

“Kids, we are facing some real challenges right now since I’ve been out of work.  It reminds me of the challenges the Israelites faced when they were standing by the Red Sea.  Pharaoh’s army was attacking and the Red Sea had them blocked in.  There was nothing left to do but turn to God for help.”

This is also the time for making a decision.  A decision to trust God.  No matter what happens … trust God!
When we are facing overwhelming difficulty, and our children know it, this is the one time that our faith is either real or nothing more than a tradition maintained on the weekend.

Is your approach toward Christ a religious regimen, or is it real faith that the children see which sustains you?  Do they see you live like you really believe you can do and live through all things because your faith in Christ gives you all the strength you need?  The children should be able to learn much about life as they observe how your faith is working for you.

Decide to pray with the children and then help them focus on those that are even needier.  Take yourself out of the spotlight and hand the unconquerable things to God.  Then choose to help others.

For the families that are paying their bills and whose job looks secure for now, it is a time to rally the family to get excited about giving. 

“Kids, I know we discussed taking our vacation at the rental beach house again this year; but I think this is the year we should talk about taking that money and helping someone who is out of work pay their bills.”

Difficult times can teach the greatest lessons if the lessons are indeed taught.  This is perhaps the best opportunity in our generation to train our children in faith and generosity.  It will impact generations to come.  Choose wisely!

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. 

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