Title: Helping Kids Navigate Tough Situations
I don’t know about you, but my wife and I always worried about our kids, but it is when they weren’t with us where we worried the most. When they were with family, close friends or at church, it didn’t bother us, but when they were at school or a friend’s house that we didn’t know that well, it was easy to let your mind get anxious about whether or not they are safe when they aren’t physically around you. What if they were in a tough situation, would they know what to do? I remember the peer pressures of childhood, especially the teen years. How would they handle it? Would they cave to peer pressure? Would they stand up to those doing things we didn’t approve of? Did we prepare them enough for the real world? These, and countless other questions, swirled around in my head.
We decided to sit down and talk with them to equip them with the tools needed to get out of tough situations and also, to help put our minds at ease. I wanted to share with you a few things that helped us out.
We gave them permission to make us the bad guys.
We told them that if they were ever in a tough situation, that they could use us the bad person. They had our permission to say things like, “You know how strict my mom/dad is. Do you know how much trouble I would get into?” “My parents are so mean; they would never let me do that.” “My parents are so old-fashioned.” After giving these types of examples with our daughters, they began to laugh and told us that they already do that. They said, they always pull out the “My dad’s a pastor” card in situations like that. I was both offended and glad at the same time. At least now, they knew they had our permission. I may have even stated, “I don’t care what some 15-year-old punk thinks of me” on a few occasions.
My wife and I tried to listen as much as possible when our kids talked to us. It was hard not to overreact to things and for me, it was difficult to not try to jump in and fix everything. A mentor of mine once told me that if I overreacted to the things my kids say, they will stop talking to me. My wife and I were not perfect in this, but our attempt at limiting our overreactions did pay off. In fact, sometimes they shared so much that my wife and I would say to each other, “Would you have told your parents that?” By the way, the answer was always “No, we would not have told our parents that.” That advice about not overreacting was a huge blessing for us and helped build trust with our kids.
We made a pact with our girls that they could call us at any time and for any reason and we would come get them…no questions asked.
A few years after this discussion, I received a call from one of my daughters asking if I could pick her up early from a high school party that she had gone to. We had driven her and her friend to this gathering and her friend’s mom was going to drive her home. My first instinct was to ask her why she didn’t just wait until her friend’s mom got there in a couple of hours, but before I said that out loud, I remembered that, “No questions asked” pact. Begrudgingly, I got in my car and drove to get her. When I arrived, I could tell she was angry. She stomped her feet all the way to the car after waving goodbye to her friends that were all gathered outside. She opened the passenger door, slammed it shut and with her hands folded…she told me to drive. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I just asked her, “What is going on and why are you so angry at me?” She unfolded her arms, smiled and said, “I’m not mad at you, but you told me that it was OK to make you the bad guy. I didn’t want to be at the party anymore because of what was going on, so I pretended that you called and you were mad about something and said that I was in trouble and you were coming to get me.” I was so proud of her for both her acting skills and for remembering how to get out of a tough situation.
I hope these tips help as your children start getting into more social situations apart from you. It is important for your kids to know that they can always count on you for help. When they need you and you show up for them, it will build trust and give you a foundation to build on for years to come.
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Family Life Pastor