Six Ways to Tackle Struggles
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
The flailing and crying originated from the first of my two grocery carts. The front buggy housed my four children and the second contained my groceries. My one-year-old’s tantrum reached its crescendo during check-out.
“Bad day, huh?”
By kid number 4, tantrums had lost some of their power over me. Yet, I appreciated the cashier’s sympathy. I glanced over at the first cart, full of kids. One of the four was having a full-blown meltdown while the other three were completely oblivious to the chaos.
I shrugged. “No, not a bad day, just a bad moment. We are 75% good.”
I used to pray for patience but what I really wanted was for God to give me smooth and predictable life.
I wanted my kids to cooperate, behave well, and not make a mess or break stuff. But every mom knows, that is not real life with real children. Real kids, real moms experience struggles.
Like us, our kiddos will go through hard things. Perhaps things that are even harder than managing a temper tantrum. God can use us to prepare them for the inevitable struggles and show them how to navigate challenges.
How we deal with our own stress, struggles, and disappointments subtly impacts how our kids may deal with theirs. This is one of those convicting truths.
Most of us want to raise hope-filled, resilient kids. We want our kids to bounce back after a disappointment and then bounce forward post let down.
Here are six ways to train our kids to tackle struggles
- Refocusing to gain another different view, helps me see the 75%, 50%, or even 25% that is still pretty good. Once I do this, I am ready to problem solve and find a solution. Showing how to gain an out-of-the-box perspective is one good way to build hope and resilience in our kids. Gratitude and thankfulness are qualities that fend off debilitating disappointment and increase the ability to deal with struggles. This is important in a time when anxiety and depression have reached epidemic proportions. If you are like me, you typically focus on the thing that isn’t right. Problems tend to leap right into our view. It is natural to fixate on the struggle that demands attention, just like the temper tantrum. The times when I can emotionally step back and adjust my perspective, I am able to see things to be thankful for in the mess. In this place, the solution sometimes rises to the surface.
- Redefining the struggle is a helpful strategy. The knowledge that struggles are temporary, sometimes even momentary, is a way to redefine and strengthen the resiliency muscle and increase an attitude of hopefulness. Of course, we want to use caution in exercising that knowledge. It could feel patronizing or discounting if we say, “Hey cheer up. It is not going to last forever. Smile.” This quality is best modeled when we ourselves are going through a struggle. When we model, we can say, “This feels really hard right now, but I know this feeling won’t last forever.”
- Remaining in the problem rather than being rescued will strengthen resilience and hope. Remaining in the tension provides an opportunity for problem-solving. We hate to have our kids struggle when we could save them from some suffering. However, allowing them to wrestle with a problem and figure out a solution will strengthen their ability to cope with hard things when they arise. Balancing that with your availability and desire to come alongside is important as well. We want our kids to know we are there for them. “I’m here for you. Let me know how I can help. I have confidence in you.” Creating a home environment that has the spirit of “all for one and one for all” is a sweet and safe place to live.
- Relating stories of past struggles, I have discovered, is a helpful way to connect with our kids when they struggle. That said, we don’t want to hijack their struggle 6 by making it all about us, but do want to give a short account of a relatable or parallel situation. When they see that we have had some difficult times too, we become more relatable and approachable.
- Readjusting our attitude from super serious to finding a slice of humor in the moment relives much tension and presents an opportunity to regain perspective. The humor needs to be initiated by the person struggling. If the listener offers humor first, it may feel insensitive or even mocking. Modeling this technique is the best way to go.
- Reflecting post-struggle is another resilience tool. We learn much from our failures, imperfections, and mistakes. Reflecting on what was learned and how things could be done differently is a skill to encourage. Timing and sensitivity are critical when training kids on how to reflect. Using our own experiences and stories is a good way to teach reflection. As we reflect, we ask, “What was the stumbling block to success?” “What could I have done differently?” “What did I learn from this experience?” “What is God showing me?”
Motherhood, well life, is filled with joys and struggles, ups and downs, good moments and bad moments. It is often messy, unpredictable, and never ever perfect.
Perhaps on some level, my 4 kids in the grocery cart noticed how I handled the bad moment. Thank the Lord it was a day when I dealt with the struggle well.
Our kids watch how we manage our struggles. The challenges we face are opportunities to provide resiliency training by either modeling or direct training. Kids today are growing up in a hard world and need the resiliency skills to manage life struggles. We can help them by showing them how to tackle problems, even someone else’s temper tantrum.
For more ideas on parenting with hope and strengthening resiliency, read the multiple award-winning book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation.