Six tips to help our family’s faith journey when things are tough
All too often, I get to speak to parents who are facing challenging times.
Many of them describe how they are worried that they are not parenting well in those times, especially when it comes to nurturing their children’s faith. The reality is that it may be enough for them to just make sure their children’s physical and emotional needs are being cared for at this time. Their concerns may also be heightened if the situation is causing them to struggle with their own faith and they are worried that this may negatively affect their children’s faith too.
If that’s you right now, try to not put so much pressure on yourself. Remember it’s not all down to you. There are others who can support you on this journey.
Here are some tips, which may be helpful as you navigate this season:
- Remember God is your children’s heavenly father
First and foremost, your children were God’s before they were ever yours and he is there for them, as he is for you. He wants to walk with you and your children through this difficult time. Lean into him and know that he is with you, even if you can’t feel him right now.
- Talk to your children about how you are feeling
God wants us to be honest with him about how we feel and it’s often in the times of doubting, questioning and wrestling with our faith that we find our relationship with God growing stronger (even if it didn’t feel that way at the time). As our children watch how we navigate this, it can be an amazing opportunity for their faith to develop too. Don’t be afraid to talk to them in an age-appropriate way about the questions you are asking God right now or describe how he feels far away. That way, they will also know what to do when they doubt or have questions too.
It also builds emotional intelligence to recognise and name our emotions and how they make us feel. Saying to your child I am experiencing disappointment and that is making me feel sad or angry, enables your child to begin to recognise their emotions too.
- Don’t struggle alone
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. We all need others around us. Find people you trust who can walk this journey with you. Is there a family member, a close friend or someone in your church you can talk to? Can you ask them to commit to pray for you – maybe they could meet with you regularly to pray for you or you could set up a WhatsApp group and send them specific prayer requests. Knowing that you are being covered in prayer can make all the difference.
There are also many support groups and websites that can provide advice and encouragement on specific topics. Do you know anyone else who has gone through a similar situation who may be able to signpost you? Or could you ask a friend or someone from church to help you find support in this way?
- Find someone to journey with your child(ren)
When life is particularly challenging it is important to feel supported in your parenting. Is there a family member or close friend who can come alongside your child(ren) during this time to encourage and pray for them? Having someone they can do fun things with and talk to will allow you guilt-free time to yourself. It will also benefit your children to know there are others who love and care for them too.
- Find ways to fill your cup
It’s so important to care for yourself, especially when things are hard. Try to build in regular time for you to show self-compassion and do the things you enjoy. That might be meeting a friend for a coffee, making time for a hobby or having a bubble bath and an early night. Doing something little and often can be as valuable as trying to carve out a large proportion of time.
- Don’t look too far ahead – take one step at a time
Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to look too far into the future, especially when things are unknown or there are too many unanswered questions or big emotions. Try and think about what you can manage right now and set yourself a small goal for the day. It’s important to be gentle with yourself and do what you can, not what you feel you should.
I recognise that each one of us is different and not all of these suggestions will work for you. But I hope that some of these ideas will be things you can adopt and they will help to ease the pressure of your situation right now.
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