Teachable Moments

How To Actually ENJOY Your Child This Summer

Summer Trivia for 1000:  In the 2013 Disney movie “Frozen”, Anna and Kristoff asked Olaf to show them where to find Elsa.  What reason did they give for needing to find her? (answer at end of blog post)

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This article is about summer and yet, she has started off talking about a singing Snowman from a winter movie! That’s confusing on the best day of the week, let alone today when we’re trying to figure out how to hit a home run and slide into summer.”

No worries, friends. I hear your pleas for clarity. If you remember the movie, you’ll remember that our friend, Olaf the snowman, loves summer. In fact, he breaks into a song about summer that lists some typical summer activities that are actually favorites of mine, maybe they are of yours as well (don’t peak if you like trivia quizzes; instead, how many can you list from Olaf’s song, “Summer”?):

  • blow the fuzz off dandelions
  • soak up the sun and get a tan
  • lay around in the sun and have a cold drink
  • enjoy the summer breeze that blows away a winter storm
  • play in the sand

But, are these activities the key to enjoying the summer with your kids?  If we come up with a “to do” list, is that what will make us all happy?

Maybe – I’m a fan of “to do” or “bucket” lists.  Especially if we try and get creative with some new ideas OR we relive the traditions of old that are tried and true.  Either works for me! But, I suggest, the activities are only as good as the people who are involved in them – and if you hate what you’re doing, it doesn’t fit your budget, or requires more time and energy than you really have, even the best laid picnic is better left for the army of ants.

So, how do you actually enjoy your kids this summer?  Think about your kids, think about yourself, and think about what brings your family joy. Your fun has to fit your family, or you risk “family fun failure”.

1. Think about your kids

No two kids are alike and so, no two kids are going to like the same thing.  Activities can’t be measured as a “one size fits all” event.

Take for example, our family trip to Walt Disney World when our kids were in their middle school years.  My daughter and I love to be the first one at the park and the last to leave, and throughout the day, we will see every character and ride every ride.  The men in our family, however, are a whole other story. They can only go so far until they must be done! So, after 2 days of park hopping, the third day became a “down day” and the guys stayed back at the hotel, while my daughter and I hit the park on our own.  Separation meant everyone got what they wanted and everyone had a great time! Keep these rules in mind when thinking about planning your summer events:

  • Know your child’s limits.  And if you have more than one child, consider each child’s limits.  Always be willing to adapt the activity to fit your child(ren); don’t try to force your child(ren) to always fit the activity.  
  • Know your child’s joy.  What makes your child(ren) smile?  Is it a quiet activity, a loud activity, high energy, or low energy; are there lots of other people around or will your family find some time alone?  All these unique characteristics should be considered for each member of the family.

2. Think about yourself

Parents are people too!  If the best activity for your child is a nightmare for you, then it’s a bad choice. A family activity needs to fit the whole family and that includes parents. Consider your resources of time, money, and energy and take into consideration what you can legitimately offer to the event.  You might have heard it said, “If mama (parents) ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy!”  Think about these things to assess your happiness quotient:

  • Know yourself.  Embrace your limits.  Know your personality.  Realistically, you are the adult; you need to adapt to the activity more than your child(ren) do.  The activity should be kid age-appropriate more than adult age-appropriate.  But, that does not mean you always have to “put up and shut up”.  Be a part of the plan!
  • Know your joy.  What makes you smile?  Is it a quiet activity, a loud activity, high energy or low energy; are there lots of other people around or will your family find some time alone?  All these unique characteristics should be considered for each member of the family – this includes you, o parent!

3. What brings your family joy

What is the purpose of fun?  It builds a memory.  It strengthens our family bonds.  It gives us a needed rest from our world of work.  And it brings us all a common joy!

King Solomon said, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24).  Joy is an emotional experience that lets us know we are enjoying the blessings of God; we not only enJOY the activity, but we are grateful to the God who has given it to us and we are grateful for the people we are doing it with.  To have fun – truly enJOY the summer – keep these wise verses and one quote in mind:

  1. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:4)
  2. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Phil. 4:4)
  3. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Thess. 5:18)

Quote by Olaf the Snowman, “Some people are worth melting for.”  Show your love and appreciation for your family this summer by willingly doing something they want to do, even if you don’t.  (Way to be wise, Olaf!)

Dear friends, it’s summer and it’s time to enjoy this amazing season God has created. To do this, consider everyone in your family, kids and adults alike, and then create opportunities for your family to play together.  No matter what you do – visit a museum, play a board game, go swimming and camping, or enjoy a day at the movies – remember to give thanks to God who gave the opportunity to you as well as enjoy and give thanks for the people you are doing it with. May all your summer days be sunny and bright and full of enjoyment for each member of your family.

Sunny Blessings coming to you!  Elizabeth

Answer to Olaf Question: Elsa needs to bring back summer!

Teachable Moments

Kids, Jesus, and Dr. Seuss

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”
― Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

When you tell a child a story, the more details you give them, the more the story comes alive.  Take the invincible Dr. Seuss and the incorrigible Cat in the Hat with the irrepressible Thing One and Thing Two.  Has making a mess ever been more entertaining or more terrifying? I suggest not!

“Oh, what will she do to us?
What will she say?
Oh, she will not like it
To find us this way!”
―Said by Fish, 
Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Fish Fear – who hasn’t had “fish fear”?! It seems Fish Fear is our fear as who isn’t terrified with the idea that when Mom comes home, if she finds this mess, she will not like it – at all.  The sense of pervasive anxiety that riddles the poem brings the juxtaposition of ‘the laid-back, let’s-not-get-too-upset-for-long Cat in the Hat with the life-is-just-one-disaster-away Fish’ to life.  

In telling children bedtime stories like Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, the same influence of bringing fanciful narrative to life also works with the non-fiction, historical stories of the life of Jesus.  Scripture needs to be more than trivial pursuit, a collection of stories, or bullet points to obey. It is our responsibility to bring Scripture to life for our children, and I would suggest, especially Jesus!  Making Jesus real to our kids as well as engaging both their heart and mind are key to any child’s long-term spiritual formation.

Let’s look at the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-17).  If we explore this narrative, there are several details which can help bring this well-known event to life.  Remember, to help children be “in the moment” of the triumphal entry, we as adults need to do our study so we can pull out all the hidden treasures.  Here are my top 3 points that will help children engage with Jesus as He begins the week prior to his crucifixion:

  1. There’s a donkey!
    A domesticated member of the horse family, this working animal is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as well (1 Kings 1:33, Judges 10:4, 2 Samuel 16:2, and – what is quoted in the gospels for Jesus’ entry – Zechariah 9:9).  Donkeys are known to be peaceful animals overall as they are not easily startled and, coincidentally, peace is what donkey-riding represented for Middle Eastern world leaders who entered a city. You would ride a horse to battle, but a ruler would ride a donkey if they were coming in peace.  The donkey was not just a mode of transportation for Jesus, but truly embodied the idea that this King came in peace! And indeed, Jesus is “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
    Ask your children: What does it mean that Jesus is our “Prince of Peace”? Jesus brings peace between us and God. He did this as God who died in our place to pay for our sin and when we repent and place our faith in Him, He becomes our King and we are now children of His kingdom.

  2. People asked questions!
    Scripture says, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the WHOLE city was stirred and asked,“who is this?” (Matthew 21:10).  Can you imagine? An entire city whispering and murmuring and asking each other, “who is this?”.  What a buzz must have filled the air! Such curiosity, such excitement, such interest. It’s something to imagine, isn’t it?  What did that sound like and look like? But better yet, that same sense of “wanting to know Him” – does it fill our lives today?  Do I consistently ask, “who is this Jesus?
    Ask your children:  “Do you want to know Jesus?  Who He is? What is He like? Let’s explore and learn every day more about Him – He is infinitely amazing.  It will take more than a lifetime to know and love Him. Let’s not lose a moment!”  Make sure as you interact with your children about Jesus that it is not just facts and attributes that you discuss, but show your children your heart of fascination about Him.  Develop a sense of wonder that you can pass on to your children. Motivate and inspire them to want to get to know Jesus more. If I were to ask your children, “how does your Mom or your Dad feel about Jesus?”, what would they say?  And if I asked them, “are your parents curious to get to know Jesus more?”, would your children say that you are indeed a follower who pursues knowing Christ?

  3. Children were shouting!
    Jesus turned over tables, healed the blind and the lame and offended the religious leaders of the day.  What a day! And how did the children in the temple respond?  They saw the wonderful things He was doing and SHOUTED. They didn’t quietly nor with hesitation discuss their feelings; no – they SHOUTED their praise, recognizing Jesus for who He was, “Hosanna to the Son of David”.  Hosanna can be translated “Praise God” and some believe it refers to the salvation that Jesus would procure for the Kingdom He is ushering in. Hosanna has its roots in the Old Testament in which it can be translated “save” or “salvation”.  One thing is for sure, these temple children recognized the importance, the impact, and the influence that Jesus brought and they had no hesitancy to shout it out loud, even to the indignant acknowledgment of the chief priests and teachers of the law.  If Dr. Seuss’ Fish was fearful, these children are fearless!
    Ask your children:  “If you could shout one thing at the top of your lungs about Jesus, what would it be?  What would be the one thing you would want Him to know? What would be the one thing you would want others to know?  God is so great He is worthy to be shouted about, isn’t He?!”

Dear Reader, how exciting it is to know Jesus and to have this amazing opportunity to pass on our knowledge and our love for Jesus.  Let’s pass on a life-long curiosity and sense of wonder. Let’s help the next generation get caught up in the details and pursue discovering “who is this Jesus?”.

Blessings to you! Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Framing Family Ministry

On the walls of our home, you will find many, many pictures of our family through the years. From when our children were babies all the way through to their recent weddings, our walls tell our story.  The frames I carefully choose for these precious memories enhance the image and help put the unfolding narrative in context. The frame often gives clues as to how to interpret what we are looking at. Without a good frame, any picture leaves the viewer confused and the picture seems incomplete.

Pick the frame, you pick whether the picture will be a success in telling the heart and soul of the image’s story.

The same is true in Family Ministry in the church.  When we examine Family Ministry, knowing the frame of reference helps us understand what the ultimate mission and vision of the ministry is.  

  • What does the church want us to see?  
  • What is the ultimate goal the church has for families and the spiritual formation of children?  

If we understand the frame of reference, then we have a better idea of what we’re looking at and how we can enjoy and use what is being offered.

Frame 1 – Family Integration Model: A Family of Families The emphasis of this model is almost primarily on the family.  It is in the family unit children learn about faith and grow in their spiritual formation.  Families worship together, often eat together and children learn by being in the presence of their family.  Observation and imitation of behavior modeled by adults are key features of learning as children are usually in the supervising presence of their parents.  Considered a top down model, parents are very much in charge and children are to be recipients and obeyers of the truth families impart to their children. This model’s benefits certainly bring to our attention the importance of family and honors the responsibility God has given to parents to raise their children spiritually (Deuteronomy 11:19).  

Frame 2 – Family Equipping Model:  An Intentional Parent Discipleship Strategy  The vision of this model is to disciple parents more than provide programming.  It is about making sure parents have what they need to teach their children biblical truth in a solid theological framework.  The focus is more on working with parents to work with their children than directly working with the children. It is a focus of the church that is strategic throughout – it is more about an intentional philosophy of training parents to disciple their children than a calendar of programs.

Frame 3 – Family Engagement: Age specific programs in which children and youth are nurtured spiritually within the church family along with their parents  The church is a place that supplements what parents are doing.  Therefore, churches offer opportunities in programming to learn spiritual truth at different specific age-appropriate levels.  Parent pages, activities as crafts and games, and family programs that encourage children and parents to come together to learn God’s word are created within an intentional church calendar.  Spiritual formation of children is a cooperative effort where the church and family work together like a hand in a glove to help children grow spiritually.

Dear Reader, which ministry is right for the family and the church?  It’s not so much which one is “right” but which one is “right” for you!  All these models believe in both the church family God’s Spirit creates (Matthew 12:49-50) and the family unit of which you are a part.  No matter which model is right for you, consider how you frame out the decision of how you are discipling your children and how your church is framing out the ministries they provide for families.  There are different visions and missions that God has imparted to different churches. I encourage you, with prayerful thought, to choose which ministry will frame out your family story.

Blessings as you frame out your family!  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

Socially Anxious Kids

Children feel anxiety too; for some, anxiety in social and performance situations can be so intense the child is unable to function well, if at all.  It can result in lower academic performance, negative self-confidence and unsatisfactory social relationships. Children may avoid engaging in sports or other extra-curricular activities for fear of being embarrassed in front of their peers.

Newest research shows that 40 million Americans are currently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder of some kind and not all of these are adults.  Right behind specific phobias, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD for short) is the most common anxiety disorder with onset typically beginning in youth.  Statistics estimate 7 – 9.1% of our population suffer from SAD.

What Social Anxiety Is Not

Social Anxiety Disorder is not extreme shyness, though many teens and adults diagnosed with SAD report experiencing extreme shyness as kids; but, this correlation does not infer causation.  Shyness does not necessarily produce SAD, but it surely can set you up to more likely experience it.

What Causes SAD

SAD is characterized by the emotion of fear of social judgment which manifests itself from feelings of embarrassment, criticism, rejection and scrutiny.  SAD is also characterized by the belief that “I do not have what it takes to deal with what life requires of me.” Social anxiety is both intense fear and an overly critical self-appraisal which cripples a person from living happily, at peace while building relationships and meeting goals.

Does my child or myself have SAD?

If you answer yes to the following questions and can have said yes for over 6 months, you or your child may be suffering from SAD.

  • Do you experience extreme, persistent fear of others judging you?
  • Are you painfully self-conscious?
  • Do you avoid social situations where you meet new people?
  • Even though you have positive outcomes in your social interactions, do you still find yourself criticizing yourself and discounting the positive feedback you get to the contrary to your own negative self-evaluations?
  • Do you consistently try and avoid most of the following because of how bad it makes you feel?
    • Beginning or ending conversations
    • Walking in a room where you know no one
    • Asking or answering questions with others watching
    • Asking for help
    • Asserting your “no”
    • Talking about yourself

Social Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed with the fear of being judged or rejected in  a social or performance situation, to the point where the intense anxiety significantly impedes everyday life functioning and inhibits us reaching our life goals.  It is painful and it is real and there is help.

How Can I Help My Child

First, listen carefully to how your child is feeling.  It is important that you listen without judgment or comments, but with acceptance and compassion.  Show mercy. Be gracious. (Colossians 3:12)

Second, pay attention to the judgmental and overly critical comments that the child says to themselves.  What is the dialogue going on in their head? What negative statements is the child saying again and again to themselves?  Does the child recognize their negative self-speech? Self-awareness is the first step toward coping with anxiety. (Proverbs 4:23)

Third, accept what the child is saying without trying to change the meaning.  Accepting their reality is more important than understanding why the reality is there. (Romans 15:7)

Four, help the child focus on what feedback they are receiving from others – real evidence (often the positive results of social interactions) vs false evidence (the negative self-critic that they anticipate, but doesn’t occur). Reinforce the positive experiences they have with others. (1 Thes. 5:11)

Five, when the child doesn’t know what to do, ask for their ideas versus giving them answers.  We don’t want to reinforce their belief that they aren’t capable of dealing with life. Instead, help them realize their ability to come up with ideas of how to solve their problems by asking questions and processing with them vs. producing answers. Go for talking with and not talking “at.” (Ephesians 4:2)

Six, encourage curiosity.  Encourage the child to consider others’ lives and who they are. Redirect the focus off of self-criticism to engaging in curiosity of others.  (Phil. 2:3)

Dear Reader, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a real, painful and often debilitating fear that interferes with life.  It is not the abundant life Christ would desire to give to those who follow Him. However, as with any pain, SAD also gives us the amazing opportunity to be compassionate, patient, thoughtful people who love unconditionally and offer timely wisdom.  What a pleasure especially when the people we most lend a helping hand to are our children. I pray the suggestions offer hope and help where help is needed.

Blessings and peace, fondly yours, Elizabeth.