Why Kids Need Mean Moms

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Why Kids Need Mean Moms

By Joanne Kraft

I tried to slip out the door, but Mom intercepted my exit. “Sweetheart, what are you wearing?”

“Just black pants,” I said.

“Did you paint those on?” She called for backup. “George!”

Dad appeared. “What are those?” His face scrunched up, as if looking at something extraterrestrial.

My confidence fled. “Black pants?”

With Dad as wingman, Mom began her “No daughter of mine . . .” speech.

Great. The “no daughter of mine” rant, I thought.

But she’d made her point. As I stomped off to my room to change, I muttered, “Mom, you are so mean.

Where are the mean moms?

Call me crazy, but moms today are just too nice. They need a bit more meanness. No, I don’t mean “mean” in the technical definition of being unkind or malicious.

I don’t think moms should be overly strict and hurtful, discouraging their children’s hearts, stifling their creativity and controlling their God-given gifts. (A friend of mine had a mom like that, and it affects her parenting every day. “It’s the reason I’m such a pushover with my girls,” she told me. “I don’t want my kids to hate me like I hated my mom.”)

The “meanness” I’m talking about is found in those situations where we take the tough, loving road, not the comfortable one where life proceeds without confrontation. Mean is what your children may feel about you when you make them write a thank-you card, enforce daily chores or thwart their Friday night plans. Mean is when you push to know their friends and the parents of those friends, when you instill dinnertimes, bedtimes and curfews.

Mean moms make no excuses if discomfort is caused by loving boundaries. Children often can’t understand boundaries as being good for them. A mean mom sees the big picture. She sees the person her child can be and inspires the child until he or she catches the vision. Her slogan is: I’m not raising a child. I’m raising an adult.

Do you need a bit more meanness? Here are four ways to start:

For the four ways to start, check out the original article.

For help in being an healthy and constructive “mean mom,” please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

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How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

By RAINN

Sexual abuse can happen to children of any race, socioeconomic group, religion or culture. There is no foolproof way to protect children from sexual abuse, but there are steps you can take to reduce this risk. If something happens to your child, remember that the perpetrator is to blame—not you and especially not the child. Below you’ll find some precautions you can take to help protect the children in your life.

If your child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you aren’t sure of the situation but you suspect the child is being harmed, you can take steps to gauge the situation and put an end to the abuse.

Be involved in the child’s life.

Being actively involved in a child’s life can make warning signs of child sexual abuse more obvious and help the child feel more comfortable coming to you if something isn’t right. If you see or hear something that causes concern, you can take action to protect your child.

  • Show interest in their day-to-day lives. Ask them what they did during the day and who they did it with. Who did they sit with at lunchtime? What games did they play after school? Did they enjoy themselves?
  • Get to know the people in your child’s life. Know who your child is spending time with, including other children and adults. Ask your child about the kids they go to school with, the parents of their friends, and other people they may encounter, such as teammates or coaches. Talk about these people openly and ask questions so that your child can feel comfortable doing the same.
  • Choose caregivers carefully. Whether it’s a babysitter, a new school, or an afterschool activity, be diligent about screening caregivers for your child.
  • Talk about the media. Incidents of sexual violence are frequently covered by the news and portrayed in television shows. Ask your child questions about this coverage to start a conversation. Questions like, “Have you ever heard of this happening before?” or “What would you do if you were in this situation?” can signal to your child that these are important issues that they can talk about with you. Learn more about talking to your kids about sexual assault.
  • Know the warning signs. Become familiar with the warning signs of child sexual abuse, and notice any changes with your child, no matter how small. Whether it’s happening to your child or a child you know, you have the potential to make a big difference in that person’s life by stepping in.

Encourage children to speak up.

When someone knows that their voice will be heard and taken seriously, it gives them the courage to speak up when something isn’t right. You can start having these conversations with your children as soon as they begin using words to talk about feelings or emotions. Don’t worry if you haven’t started conversations around these topics with your child—it is never too late.

  • Teach your child about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable — this includes hugs from grandparents or even tickling from mom or dad. It is important to let your child know that their body is their own. Just as importantly, remind your child that they do not have the right to touch someone else if that person does not want to be touched.
  • Teach your child how to talk about their bodies. From an early age, teach your child the names of their body parts. Teaching a child these words gives them the ability to come to you when something is wrong. Learn more about talking to children about sexual assault.
  • Be available. Set time aside to spend with your child where they have your undivided attention. Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If they do come to you with questions or concerns, follow through on your word and make the time to talk.
  • Let them know they won’t get in trouble. Many perpetrators use secret-keeping or threats as a way of keeping children quiet about abuse. Remind your child frequently that they will not get in trouble for talking to you, no matter what they need to say. When they do come to you, follow through on this promise and avoid punishing them for speaking up.
  • Give them the chance to raise new topics. Sometimes asking direct questions like, “Did you have fun?” and “Was it a good time?” won’t give you the answers you need. Give your child a chance to bring up their own concerns or ideas by asking open-ended questions like “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

Warning Signs for Sexual Abuse of Young Children

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Warning Signs for Young Children

By RAINN

Every 8 minutes, government authorities respond to another report of child sexual abuse.1 Child sexual abuse can include sexual contact with a child, but it may also include other actions, like exposing oneself, sharing obscene images, or taking inappropriate photos or videos of a child. These crimes can have a serious impact of the life and development of a child, and can continue to impact the survivor later in life. Learning the warning signs of child sexual abuse is often the first step to protecting a child that is in danger. If you can spot sexual abuse, you can stop it.

Signs that a child may have been sexually abused

It’s not always easy to spot sexual abuse because perpetrators often take steps to hide their actions. Some signs are easier to spot than others. For instance, some warning signs might be noticed by a caretaker or parent, and are often red flags that the child needs medical attention. Listen to your instincts. If you notice something that isn’t right or someone is making you uncomfortable—even if you can’t put your finger on why—it’s important to talk to the child.

Physical warning signs:

Behavioral signs:

  • Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Bedwetting or soiling the bed, if the child has already outgrown these behaviors
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or being afraid to be away from primary caregivers, especially if this is a new behavior
  • Tries to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe

Emotional signs:

  • Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
  • Resuming behaviors that they had grown out of, such as thumbsucking
  • Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
  • Excessive worry or fearfulness

Signs that an adult may be hurting a child

Keeping children safe can be challenging since many perpetrators who sexually abuse children are in positions of trust—93 percent of child sexual assault victims know the perpetrator.2 Keeping a child away from the perpetrator may mean major changes in your own life, even if you are outside of the child’s family.

Be cautious of an adult who spend time with children and exhibits the following behaviors:

  • Does not respect boundaries or listen when someone tells them “no”
  • Engages in touching that a child or child’s parents/guardians have indicated is unwanted
  • Tries to be a child’s friend rather than filling an adult role in the child’s life
  • Does not seem to have age-appropriate relationships
  • Talks with children about their personal problems or relationships
  • Spends time alone with children outside of their role in the child’s life or makes up excuses to be alone with the child
  • Expresses unusual interest in child’s sexual development, such as commenting on sexual characteristics or sexualizing normal behaviors
  • Gives a child gifts without occasion or reason
  • Spends a lot of time with your child or another child you know

Taking action isn’t easy, but it’s important

It’s not always easy to identify child sexual abuse—and it can be even more challenging to step in if you suspect something isn’t right. If a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can’t tell you anything specific, listen. Talk to someone who can help you figure out if this is something that must be reported, such as a staff member from your local sexual assault service provider. In the meantime, if you are the parent or have influence over the child’s schedule, avoid putting the child in a potentially unsafe situation.

Remember, you are not alone. If you suspect sexual abuse you can talk to someone who is trained to help. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

What I Learned When My Son Was Diagnosed With An Eating Disorder

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What I Learned When My Son Was Diagnosed With An Eating Disorder

By Maggie Graham

When my 17-year-old son was diagnosed with an eating disorder, it happened without warning. I liken it to getting hit in the head with a 2×4: I didn’t see it coming and it knocked me flat. The months following his revelation were some of my darkest, and they were also a time when I learned more about myself than perhaps any other time in my life.

I wanted to pick apart everything about his treatment, micromanage it and find fault with anything and anyone besides myself.

I sat across from my son’s therapist during our initial meeting, resenting her barely moments after I met her. “What does this Barbie doll know about my son?” I thought arrogantly. Everything she said grated on my nerves, like fingernails on a chalkboard. I hated the way she said “behaviors” to refer to bingeing and restricting food, often using air quotes.

I didn’t like how she called me “Mom.” “I’m not your mom,” I wanted to shout (even though I knew what she meant, how she was using shorthand to include me in the conversation). “Take the time to learn my name,” I wanted to yell at her even though that detail was the most irrelevant thing in our conversation. Somehow, harping on it gave me something concrete to hold onto, something I could criticize someone else (besides myself) for.

She interrupted me as if what I said wasn’t important (excuse me, am I not the person who knows my son best?!). I felt like a visitor to a foreign country, disoriented, grasping for landmarks and direction.

Mercifully, I bit my tongue. I never actually yelled at her (except in my head). Instead, I asked terse, concrete questions, and I exited quickly, leaving my credit card number and insurance information with the receptionist at the treatment center.

Some part of me knew that my son had his own relationship with his therapist, that I didn’t get to construct or script it, and the biggest contribution I could make to his healing was to not sabotage his therapeutic alliance with her, not matter how much I wanted to be right about her being poorly suited to help him.

Later, I realized that I was deflecting a volatile cocktail of my own emotions: Blame and anger, guilt and shame. It was easier to pick her apart, to find fault with her clinical skills, to shoot her down as a poor match for my son, to claim he was special and needed something else — that was easier to looking my own shame in the eye.

“This is the person I’m rowing with,” I thought about my son’s therapist. “We’ve got to row in the same direction.”

I let my objections stay. I watched myself resent her beauty and her youth and her mannerisms. I didn’t beat myself up about how focused I was on picking her apart, but I also didn’t act from those observations and impulses. I harkened back to learning how to meditate. That was when I was introduced to the idea that thoughts can be observed like clouds in the sky, passing overhead with some detachment, no need to react to them. “Don’t mistake the weather for the sky,” become my mantra.

I wanted to pick apart everything about his treatment, micromanage it and find fault with anything and anyone besides myself.

I grieved the relationship I thought I had with my son, and I turned towards co-creating a new relationship with him.

“This is not my son,” I thought, my brain rejecting what he was telling me. My son doesn’t hide things from me. He’s not losing massive amounts of weight without my noticing. He’s not so lost that he has veered away from us.

It was like someone told me the sun rose in the west. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t,” my brain insisted. Even as irrefutable evidence stared me in the face.

Who was this person in front of me? Where was the baby I nursed? The toddler I bathed? The child I read bedtime stories to? The adolescent I drove to school? Where was he? Because that person, the one I clung to in my mind, was gone, replaced by the body snatchers when I turned my head. And I had only looked away for a moment. Somehow I had blinked, I let my attention stray, and I didn’t see him slip away.

I let myself sob. My son held my hand as he confessed how he had spiraled downward into a dangerous eating disorder in the past months. And I turned to face the person who was sitting in front of me, opening himself up for me to see.

“This is where we begin,” I thought.

I had to learn how to manage my own guilt and anxiety.

In the months following my son’s diagnosis, I slept very little. I had a laundry list of physical symptoms that pointed directly to stress and anxiety. I raced to a therapist and scrambled to line up treatment for myself: neurofeedback, a prescription for Xanax, another for Lexapro, meditation, yoga, daily exercise.

It was like someone told me the sun rose in the west.

Ironically, as my son was healing, climbing out of his hole, I slid downward, belatedly experiencing my own guilt, sadness, and pain as my son’s trials of the past few months surfaced, and I recognized how much I had missed about his struggles and pain. Cue massive guilt with a volatile twist of anxiety.

I learned some tough lessons in those dark months:

  • I could not turn to my son to absolve me of my guilt. I had to work that out on my own with the help of my therapist and coach.
  • There’s a difference between experiencing emotion and reacting to it, and understanding this distinction took massive patience and practice.
  • I leaned heavily on a practice called “mental hygiene,” where I excavated my own underlying beliefs, bringing them to the surface so that I could dissect how they were fueling my runaway anxiety.

Look, I know it sounds dramatic, and that’s okay because it still feels true. If I didn’t learn how to recognize, turn towards, and manage my own fear and guilt, it would have run me over like a Mack truck. It still knocked me down, left me reeling, and sometimes chewed me up.

I remember when my coach asked me what was good about my son’s downward spiral and diagnosis. I really couldn’t compute that question, and it took me a while to find the silver lining. It’s here, though.

His pain, struggle and dip into blackness challenged me to really learn to take care of myself. It provided a doorway for me to wade into my own darkness and do my own healing. I would say that it woke me up. It was a harsh wake-up, like the sound of a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night, disturbing and traumatic, but something that cannot be ignored. I couldn’t go back to sleep, couldn’t return to complacency, afterward. For that, I’m grateful, and I’m turning to face forward.

Beyond “Settle Down”: Coping Skills For Your Angry Child

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Beyond “Settle Down”: Coping Skills For Your Angry Child

By Nicole Schwarz

child-angerIt’s been a walking-on-eggshells kind of day.

“That’s my decision,” you say cautiously. “No more snacks before bed.”

You pause, waiting.

And, just as expected, your child flies into a fit of rage.

“That’s not fair!” He yells, slamming his fist on the table. “I’m still hungry!”

The yelling doesn’t stop.

“Settle down!” You yell back, “If you keep this up, you won’t have a snack tomorrow night either!”

Why is everything such a battle? Why is he so angry? What can I do to help him?

HOW TO HELP YOUR ANGRY CHILD

Anger is a tricky emotion. It will take time for your child to learn these new techniques and put them to good use.

Be proactive! Planning ahead is key to helping your child manage their angry feelings.  Teach your child a variety of skills and strategies while they are calm, in a good mood, or separated from the heated situation.

  • Explore Feelings:  Anger is a master disguise for many other harder-to-express emotions like sadness, fear, and embarrassment. Talk about a variety of feelings – what they feel like inside, what they look like in the body, and what they sound like when spoken. Use books, movies, or this feeling game for examples.
  • Write a Script:  Give your child the words to use when they are upset. Teach “I-statements,” (I feel…when you…because…I wish…) or even a simple, “I feel mad right now!” You may need to model this for them at first: “You’re upset that your sister bumped you with her scooter. You’d like her to go around you next time.”
  • Change the Self-Talk:  For some children, expressing anger is a vicious cycle. They feel bad, so they act out, they get in trouble for acting out, so they feel worse. Interrupt this cycle by encouraging the good traits in your child, remind them that it’s OK to be angry and that “mad doesn’t equal bad.”
  • Give Appropriate Alternatives:  If you don’t want your child to kick the cat, direct him to a soccer ball outside. If he’s throwing toys, offer him some balled up socks instead. Work proactively to set up a safe place to express anger or cool down. (Of course, if your child is hurting others, safety is a priority).
  • Use Art:  Sometimes, words can’t express what they are feeling or thinking. Allow your child to use paints, markers, crayons, and other art supplies as a creative outlet for pent up emotions. Here are some activities to try: managing big feelings, dealing with mixed up emotions, or art  journaling.
  • Deep Breathing: Learning to calm your body and mind is key to getting your anger down to size. Yelling “calm down” in the heat of the moment is not effective. Instead, be proactive! Take time to teach your child a variety of deep breathing exercises, then practice them in calm moments.
  • Big Muscle Movements: Some children need to relieve stress through exercise, hard work, and play.  Like deep breathing, be proactive and make time for big muscle movements, like push-ups, vacuuming, or swinging throughout the day. Teach your child a yoga routine or stretch together before bed.

BONUS TIPS FOR PARENTS:

  • Calm Yourself First:  It’s easy to get swept up in your child’s emotion. Matching anger with more anger is not helpful or productive. Instead, get yourself to a calm, rational frame of mind first.  You will be able to provide your child support, and they will feel safe knowing that you are not rattled by their big feelings.
  • Self-Care is Essential:  Parenting a child who struggles with anger can be exhausting. Do not neglect taking time and space to care for yourself. I know you’re busy, but self-care doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Find ways to fit self-care into your day so you can be available for your child.
  • Look Under the Anger:  Anger is often a go-to emotion because it keeps you from having to feel other painful or uncomfortable feelings, like sadness or disappointment. Instead of seeing your child as a “bad kid with a temper,” look at him as a “hurting child who needs help to deal with his feelings.”
  • Get Help:  Sometimes, your child’s anger is too big to manage on your own. If you feel that their anger is above and beyond what would be considered “normal” or if you just have a gut feeling that something’s not right, seek help from a mental health professional.

Stepping back, you decide to take a deep breath. (Or three)

He is still angry, but instead of seeing him as a manipulative monster, you see him as a kid who’s having trouble handling the fact that he’s not getting his way.

“I can tell that having another snack is really important to you,” you say empathetically. “You’re really disappointed.”

Instead of trying to force him to settle down, you give him space to feel this disappointment. You offer him a hug  and remain a calm presence in the room.

You know he needs to learn a better way to handle disappointment. And, it may be time to set a clear limit on after-dinner snacks. But now is not the time. You make a mental note to address these things later, when everyone is calm.

Your child can learn to manage their anger, and they need your  help to get there.

 

If you would like help with your angry child or other struggles with your child or children, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Alternates to Telling a Child “Calm Down”

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“Telling a child to “calm down” communicates that they aren’t allowed to experience anger or other feelings. Your goal isn’t to change their emotions, but communicate that you understand and accept them.” (The Gottman Institute)

alternates to calm down

7 Things Every Child Needs to Hear

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7 Things Every Child Needs to Hear

7 things

For help with parenting, please give CornerStone Family Services at call at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a coach or counselor.

How Do You Say “No” To Your Child?

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How Do You Say “No” to Your Child?

By Emerson Eggerichs

How do you say “no” when your child asks for something she or he does not need?

Here are some of my thoughts:

How to say no

1. Say “no” with firm but gentle resolve.

2. Say “no” with a careful tone of voice.

3. Say “no” by redirecting.

4. Help the child see that sometimes “no” means “wait.”

5. Say “no” by negotiating.

*************************

For an expansion on the above points and to watch the video, go to the author’s blog post

If you would like to speak with a life-coach or a counselor about your struggles as a parent, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

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5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

By Jeff Robinson

It wasn’t the first thing to enter my mind, but it might have been the second: How am I going to tell the kids?

The doctor had just laid out the cold, hard truth: “Your friend, Ken, has passed.” Ken was a dear family friend, a man my kids adored. A longtime staff member at the church I served as pastor, he died suddenly—at the church building, in the midst of his work. A heart attack ushered him into the arms of his Savior in an instant on that overcast fall morning. I was stunned. Our staff was stunned. The congregation was stunned. My children, who “helped him” regularly at the church while I sat in meetings, counseled members, or worked on sermon prep, would be most stunned of all. I planned my talk with them carefully and broke the sad news that evening.

Death Visits Again

Our family faced death again last week with the sudden departure of my stepfather. Like Ken, he clearly loved Jesus and sought to please him. Gratefully, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). When the news came, my wife and I were again faced with delivering the sad news to our four children who range in age from 7 to 13.

As a pastor, I always found serving as the messenger of ill tidings particularly difficult. It’s even more tricky, though, when you’re telling young hearts whose ability to grasp death and all its implications is limited. Do we soft-pedal death, referring to it in vague, non-threatening terms? Or do we speak of it straightforwardly as we might with another adult?

My wife and I have found neither approach to be helpful. Obviously, how much and precisely what you say will be much different for a younger child than for a 12-year-old. Still, there are basic biblical realities they should all know.

Here are five fundamental truths we’ve explained to our kids when death has visited closely.

1. Death and judgment are coming to us all.

Sadly, death is part of our fallen world, and the Bible doesn’t shrink back from this truth. Psalm 139 tells us God has numbered our days. Since the Word doesn’t dismiss this truth as “overly negative,” neither should we.

Our family once had friends who never spoke to their kids about negative news items, such as natural disasters or 9/11. They made it a rule never to discuss death. I believe this is unwise. By avoiding bad news, parents set up their children for unreasonable expectations and stark disappointment. This approach subtly, even if unintentionally, communicates that life on earth is ultimate. Worst of all, it fails to provide a rationale for why the gospel is such good news. Every day brings us one step closer to that final day, and our children should be aware of that fact.

There is also a judgment awaiting every one of us (Heb. 9:27). I want my children to know that, as the great Southern Baptist pulpiteer R. G. Lee (1886–1978) put it, there is coming a “payday someday” for the way we have lived on earth (2 Cor. 5:10).

2. Death is not the way it is supposed to be.

This biblical truth is what makes death particularly sad. Tell your kids that death is an intruder in this world, that the first Adam’s sin opened the door through which the curse of death entered. Cornelius Plantinga’s book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Eerdmans, 1994) is a compelling resource (for adults) to help you put more biblical meat on the bones of this doctrine.

Further, explain to your children that this is why we are sad when someone dies. In our mourning, through our tears, we are admitting there’s really no such thing as death from natural causes.

3. Death for the Christian is to be with Jesus.

In Philippians 1, the apostle Paul toggles back and forth between whether it’s better for him to leave this world to be with Jesus or remain in it to advance the gospel. He then writes: “To live for me is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). In a culture that does all it can to stave off any hint that humans will grow old and die, this is a deeply countercultural truth. But for the believer, crossing the chilly river of death is the pathway to paradise and pleasures that defy the descriptive ability of human language.

4. Death will one day die.

Give your children the unfathomably good news of 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” When the “already” collapses into the “not yet,” death will be history, and this is cause for rejoicing. This is a choice opportunity to commend Christ to your children, to urge them to flee to the cross where death was defeated and mercy is found.

5. Death is something we must all think about.

I don’t want my kids to obsess or become paralyzed in fear over the specter of eternity. That said, 18th-century pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards provides an excellent example of the necessity of ruminating on death, even at a young age. Granted, Edwards was much older than my young children when he wrote his famous resolutions, the seventh of which reads: “Resolved, to think much on the brevity and how short one’s life is (Ps. 90:17).”

Edwards understood that life is a vapor, and that death should motivate us to live for another world. Tell your children that for those in Christ, our best life is later.

What About the Death of Unbelievers?

What do we say to our children about those who seem to have died in unbelief? This is even trickier but presents a key opportunity to discuss eternity, both heaven and hell. We should be no less clear about hell than was our Lord, who spoke far more in the Gospels about judgment than about paradise.

Whether I’m speaking to adults or children, I always avoid weighing in on the eternal destiny of one who appears to have died in unbelief. Of course, I make clear that anyone who would be saved must come to God through faith in Jesus. But we’ve told our children (and I’ve told family members of unbelievers) that the deceased person is in God’s hands—a righteous and just judge who always does the right thing. I don’t put it this way to avoid or minimize the reality of God’s wrath; it simply keeps me from the seat of eternal judge.

Though there’s certainly much more that could be said about death, our kids need to be prepared—in age-appropriate ways—for life in a world captive to sin and death. And they need to be shown why the good news of God’s rescue mission in Christ, and his victorious war with death on Calvary’s tree, is good news indeed.

The Grief of Losing a Child

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What I Wish More People Understood About Losing a Child

By Paula Stephens

Four and half years after the death of my oldest son, I finally went to a grief support group for parents who have lost children. I went to support a friend who recently lost her son. I’m not sure I would’ve gone except that when I was in her shoes, four years ago, I wish I would’ve had a friend to go with me. Losing a child is the loneliest, most desolate journey a person can take and the only people who can come close to appreciating it are those who share the experience.

grief crying motherThe meeting was a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, an organization solely dedicated to providing support for those who have lost children, grandchildren or siblings. The facilitator was a tall gentleman who had lost his 17 year old son eight years ago. He opened the meeting by saying that dues to belong to the club are more than anyone would ever want to pay. Well, he couldn’t be more correct: no one wants to belong to this group.

The group of incredible survivors included parents whose children had been killed by drunk drivers, murdered, accidental overdose, alcoholism, suicide and freak accidents. The children’s ages ranged from 6-38 years old. When hearing the stories, I had a visceral reaction to being part of this “club,” but was also humbled by the greatness of these mothers and fathers.

Most of what I share in this article came from this meeting, but also from my own experience of having lost a child and being four years into that lifelong journey of healing from deep grief. The following five tips can be your compass to help you navigate how to give support to grieving parents on a sacred journey they never wanted to take.

1. Remember our children.

The loss of children is a pain all bereaved parents share, and it is a degree of suffering that is impossible to grasp without experiencing it first hand. Often, when we know someone else is experiencing grief, our discomfort keeps us from approaching it head on. But we want the world to remember our child or children, no matter how young or old our child was.

If you see something that reminds you of my child, tell me. If you are reminded at the holidays or on his birthday that I am missing my son, please tell me you remember him. And when I speak his name or relive memories relive them with me, don’t shrink away. If you never met my son, don’t be afraid to ask about him. One of my greatest joys is talking about Brandon.

2. Accept that you can’t “fix” us.

An out-of-order death such as child loss breaks a person (especially a parent) in a way that is not fixable or solvable — ever! We will learn to pick up the pieces and move forward, but our lives will never be the same.

Every grieving parent must find a way to continue to live with loss, and it’s a solitary journey. We appreciate your support and hope you can be patient with us as we find our way.

Please: don’t tell us it’s time to get back to life, that’s it’s been long enough, or that time heals all wounds. We welcome your support and love, and we know sometimes it hard to watch, but our sense of brokenness isn’t going to go away. It is something to observe, recognize, accept.

3. Know that there are at least two days a year we need a time out.

We still count birthdays and fantasize what our child would be like if he/she were still living. Birthdays are especially hard for us. Our hearts ache to celebrate our child’s arrival into this world, but we are left becoming intensely aware of the hole in our hearts instead. Some parents create rituals or have parties while others prefer solitude. Either way, we are likely going to need time to process the marking of another year without our child.

Then there’s the anniversary of the date our child became an angel. This is a remarkable process similar to a parent of a newborn, first counting the days, then months then the one year anniversary, marking the time on the other side of that crevasse in our lives.

No matter how many years go by, the anniversary date of when our child died brings back deeply emotional memories and painful feelings (particularly if there is trauma associated with the child’s death). The days leading up to that day can feel like impending doom or like it’s hard to breathe. We may or may not share with you what’s happening.

This is where the process of remembrance will help. If you have heard me speak of my child or supported me in remembering him/her, you will be able to put the pieces together and know when these tough days are approaching.

4. Realize that we struggle every day with happiness.

It’s an ongoing battle to balance the pain and guilt of outliving your child with the desire to live in a way that honors them and their time on this earth.

I remember going on a family cruise eighteen months after Brandon died. On the first day, I stood at the back of the ship and bawled that I wasn’t sharing this experience with him. Then I had to steady myself, and recognize that I was also creating memories with my surviving sons, and enjoying the time with them in the present moment.

As bereaved parents, we are constantly balancing holding grief in one hand and a happy life after loss in the other. You might observe this when you are with us at a wedding, graduation or other milestone celebration. Don’t walk away — witness it with us and be part of our process.

5. Accept the fact that our loss might make you uncomfortable.

Our loss is unnatural, out-of-order; it challenges your sense of safety. You may not know what to say or do, and you’re afraid you might make us lose it. We’ve learned all of this as part of what we’re learning about grief.

We will never forget our child. And in fact, our loss is always right under the surface of other emotions, even happiness. We would rather lose it because you spoke his/her name and remembered our child, than try and shield ourselves from the pain and live in denial.

Grief is the pendulum swing of love. The stronger and deeper the love the more grief will be created on the other side. Consider it a sacred opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone who have endured one of life’s most frightening events. Rise up with us.