Helping Kids Overcome Hardship
By Lydia Kaiser
Do you wonder if your children are going to make it through some of the difficult tests life will throw at them? Do we have to go live on poverty street and make the kids walk ten miles in snow to school so we know they’re hardy enough to make it? No, but we do need to make sure they have to tackle a regular number of dilemmas. They need a challenging amount of responsibility in their everyday lives, and then on top of that, look for life’s natural dilemmas and help them handle them well.
How did your household do with the COVID quarantine? Was there a lot of complaining, or did your family find creative ways to make do and also make some special memories along the way? Yes, some had true grief and hardship, and many more just had loss of the usual blessings. We want to grieve hard losses and also identify blessings.
One of the special memories at our house was a home high-school graduation. We played pomp and circumstance as our son came down the stairs in cap and gown. As he stood in the living room, my husband and I took turns standing with him and speaking to those present in person and on screen. But nothing we said matched what happened next. His older brother spontaneously got up, stood next to him and said, “I really look up to you man” and continued with high praise. It clearly meant the world to our graduating son. That wouldn’t have happened in an auditorium with hundreds of other grads. With the loss of a public celebration came the gain of hearing special affirmation from the people who matter most. (Of course, there was the promise of a “friend party” in several months.)
We can’t always see how God is working in hard circumstances, but we should be on the lookout. I suggest you make a game of it in your family. When a tire goes flat, say, “How could this be a blessing in disguise?” and get an idea from everyone in the car. When you run out of something that feels essential, say, who can come up with the best idea for an alternative for me? When you forget something and there’s a consequence, talk about it and say, “what could God be teaching me through this that will help me in the future?” and get some ideas. My favorite is when a delay or problem gives me the opportunity to speak to someone that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and it’s an encouragement to one of us.
Did you notice that these are YOUR hardships that you are using as examples of God’s hand at work? Don’t do it with everyone else’s hardships or they’ll feel like you’re dismissing their disappointment. Eventually, they will pick up on your example. Commend every well-handled challenge.
Hebrews 5:8 says Christ learned obedience through the things which He suffered. It’s strange to think Jesus, who was God in the flesh, needed to learn obedience—that He needed to be totally surrendered to the Father’s will and go apart every day to pray and exercise his dependence on the Father. If He needed to do that, how much more do we?
As a human, growing up through childhood and teen years, Jesus strengthened His ability to yield to God by passing the smaller to the larger tests, He ultimately became obedient to death on a cross. The word obedient is used again in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Small dilemmas can be dress rehearsals for the big plays that will matter in eternity.
So, each small obstacle or hardship each day is actually an opportunity. James chapter one says to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds. That includes the little ones. I used to spend so much of my life being impatient with little things instead of seeing them as an opportunity to surrender and learn patient obedience. The little eyes that watched me picked up on a totally wrong attitude. Now I hope for those opportunities when around my children so I can show them differently. I actually enjoy being extra patient when something frustrating is happening and I rejoice in the sense of calm I feel.
What is the best way to prepare children for hardship? Demonstrate that it’s fun to look for God’s hand in the circumstances, demonstrate surrender and learning obedience, and demonstrate receiving every small hardship as an opportunity to do everything to the glory of God.
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