Finding the meaning of life

Posted on August 22, 2012 by Phil

Today you are a parent of a precious child living in a world filled with thieves intent on stripping him of his innocence and purpose. Life has a way of providing experiences that can compose a toxic life narrative for a child.

Sometimes what you thought would never happen, happens. Piercing those painful days are moments that alter your child’s views of self, others, and God. And, if you’re not careful, the narrative of your child’s life will contain misplaced punctuation points. Periods instead of conjunctions. Points that stop the flow of life rather than expand passion and connections. Many times a child’s story contains truth with a mixture of misperceptions about self, the world, and God.

The truth is, life is both wonderful and confounding. Much that befalls our children is not preventable. Crises will occur.

How might your child’s view of God be falsely edited by life experiences? How can you as a parent nurture a resilient child who maintains healthy beliefs about life and about God even as he becomes acutely aware of and interacts with a fallen world?

Specific family qualities emerged from research conducted over the past 10 years at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Psychological Studies Institute in Chattanooga. More than 400 families were examined to determine the family characteristics and behaviors that produce healthy families. The research revealed that children within these families are more likely to emerge with core beliefs that serve as powerful tools to interpret life’s inevitable intrusions in a more constructive, life expanding way – interpretations that are consonant with God’s narrative. Yes, it’s a long list. But each of these characteristics contributes to a child’s resiliency in life.

A healthy family …

1. Exemplifies a strong sense of family

  • Has a sense of family unity, permanency, and history
  • Has family rituals and traditions
  • Shares meals and communicates during meals
  • Engages in leisure activities together

2. Uses clear, honest communication

  • Expresses feelings openly and without judgment
  • Discusses goals and dreams together
  • Listens carefully to one another
  • Does not act out anger physically

3. Is open and affirming

  • Engages in positive forms of touch
  • Attends to the emotional needs of the family
  • Smiles and laughs often; shares hugs and kisses
  • Praises one another in public; says “I love you” often

4. Shares a sense of mutuality and support

  • Expresses appreciation for one another often
  • Takes physical care of one another as needed
  • Accepts the eventual separation of the children

5. Demonstrates trust and accountability

  • Honors agreements and commitments
  • Insists that directives to children be met
  • Takes personal responsibility for actions
  • Admits the need for and seeks help when appropriate

6. Resolves conflict

  • Identifies, communicates, and solves problems
  • Couples complaints with positive affective cues
  • Refrains from reciprocating negative behaviors
  • Has a willingness to forgive and be forgiven
  • Resolves conflict quickly (average of five hours)

7. Has boundaries and organization

  • Evidences a parental subsystem hierarchy
  • Has boundaries that are clear, firm, yet flexible
  • Knows family members whereabouts
  • Agrees on family members roles and responsibilities
  • Outlines and enforces household rules

8. Has a healthy view of sexuality

  • Engages in positive forms of touch
  • Has effective, open communication about sexual issues
  • Is sexually attracted to one another (spouses)
  • Displays affection in front of the children (spouses)
  • Is sexually faithful (spouses)

9. Has a religious core and instills values

  • Provides for the spiritual needs of its members
  • Experiences purpose derived from religious beliefs
  • Has parents who teach a sense of right and wrong
  • Seeks divine assistance with family problems
  • Attends a church together regularly; prays together
  • Hears prayers spoken for one another
  • Views marriage as a sacred, long-term commitment
  • Believes that personal efforts can make a difference
  • Views differences as perspectives rather than mutiny

10. Shares time and interests together

  • Spends quality time together in large quantities
  • Has regular parental involvement in family activities
  • Spends ample time at home alone together (spouses)
  • Shares bedtime stories with children
  • Limits time watching television and playing video games

11. Establishes behavior control

  • Establishes clear, flexible rules
  • Provides opportunities for negotiation and alterations
  • Assigns and ensures the completion of tasks
  • Provides consequences for prohibited behaviors
  • Has routines; encourages good habits
  • Disciplines children when needed with consistency
  • Provides guided responsibility for children
  • Accepts children’s assertiveness

12. Meets basic tasks

  • Maintains a psychologically and physically safe home
  • Acquires and manages financial resources
  • Provides for proper nutrition and moderate exercise
  • Makes provision for relaxation and proper sleep
  • Maintains routine medical and dental checks
  • Has a lifestyle free of chemical addictions or misuse
  • Emphasizes education

13. Connects with the community

  • Encourages healthy relationships outside the family
  • Values service
  • Encourages children to participate in peer groups
  • Supports the child’s school activities

Examine the list in light of your current family routine and characteristic behaviors. Select just one or two items that you could implement this month, and build from that point. Research shows that the actual crises that your child will face someday is not the real problem; the real problem is how the child interprets the crises or what the crises mean to him or her.

A healthy family has the capacity to build resiliency into their children. These family structures and behaviors provide foundational experiences for the child to emerge into adulthood and find true meaning in life. Often the seemingly small patterns, such as regular family mealtimes, create healthy behavioral patterns and healthy beliefs that last a lifetime.

No simple formula exists for raising healthy children or creating a healthy family. We live in a fallen world, and we all face the thieves of the night. Yet the long-term effects of intentional acts of loving give us hope.

by Philip Coyle

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Conversation Starters: I Long for You

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Phil

Psalms 42; 43 worship as expression of our desire to be in God’s presence Conversation Starters How can you keep this conversation going at home? Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together: For Preschoolers • Do you think there is anything God can’t do? • Has anything made you feel sad today? • Where are you when you feel close to God? For School-Age • Have you ever said, “I can’t wait to go to church this week”? What made you say it? • Do you ever wish you could see God? What would you say to Him if you could? • Do you think there is anything God can’t do? For Students • Where are you when you feel closest to God? • What gets you down? • Are you worried about any of your friends who might be depressed? • How powerful do you think God is?

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Helping children develop daily devotional times

Posted on August 8, 2012 by Phil

Kaleigh and Courtney sat at the dinner table with Mom and Dad. Dad was reading a Bible story about a young girl Jesus raised from the dead, as Kaleigh and Courtney listened intently.

“That’s a great story, Dad,” Kaleigh remarked. “I could listen to it over and over.”

“I really like the stories about how Jesus helped people,” Courtney added. “I wish Jesus lived on earth now.”

“Girls,” Dad said as he closed the Bible, “I know how much you like hearing Bible stories, and your Mom and I really like this time we have together as a family. So we’ll keep doing that. But we think it’s time for you both to start having your own personal Bible study and daily devotional time with God, just like Mom and I do. Here are some things that will help you.”

Families such as this one are paying attention to the spiritual development of their children. Mom and Dad know that in order to have a growing and fruitful Christian life, both children and adults must keep in close touch with God. They must learn to read the Bible, pray, and read devotional helps on a regular basis.

While teaching children at church is certainly very important, parents are the ones responsible for the spiritual training of their own children. Unfortunately, many parents feel that simply by taking their children to church they are taking care of their children’s spiritual growth.

God says in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” God clearly intends for parents to be the primary spiritual educators of their children. There is no better tool for helping a child develop spiritually than a parent who regularly prays, reads the Bible, and talks about God and Jesus.

Helping a child develop a growing relationship with God has many facets. First of all, a child should have his own Bible. If he does not have one yet, this would be a good time to give him one. If he has one, make sure the edition is appropriate for his age. Encourage the child to mark his favorite verses and passages in his Bible. This may well be the Bible he will use for most of his life.

Learning to pray is significant because that is how the child will communicate with God. Praying with the child at mealtime and at bedtime, as well as at church, is the best foundation to help her know how to pray and for what to pray. Parents can help children begin to pray in the following ways:

Parents can ask the child questions to help him think about what he wants to say. “Would you like to ask God for something special? Is there someone you would like to pray for?”

Parents can say a sentence and leave a blank for the child to fill in a word or two. “Thank You, God, for (my parents, my house, my church, the food, my dog). Dear God, please bless (my sick friend, my family, my Grandma and Grandpa).”

Children may say one-sentence prayers while an adult opens and closes the prayer. “Thank You, God, for my church. Thank You, God, for my family.”

Children can think a prayer as an adult leads the prayer aloud. “Will you pray now for a friend? (Pause.) Will you ask God to help you be a good friend? (Pause.)”

Children can pray prayers of their own. While parents should help children understand appropriate prayer topics, they must also understand that children will pray about what is happening in their own lives. They may want to pray about schoolwork, about something happy, or about something that makes them feel afraid.

Consider providing a simple prayer journal for each child. A three-hole folder with space to record requests and answers would be helpful. Print “I Can Pray” across the top of a sheet of paper. Punch three holes, make several copies, and place them in the folder.

Another facet of helping a child develop a devotional life is Bible reading. The younger the child, the simpler and shorter the Bible reading and devotional should be.

As children grow as Christians, they can begin a disciplined and organized personal prayer life. Help children develop a habit that throughout their lifetime will help them become the people God wants them to be.

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Conversation Starter: Center of My Life

Posted on August 1, 2012 by Phil

Colossians 3:5-10,14-15,17-21; 4:5-6

Christ-centered character, home, and witness

Conversation Starters

How can you keep this conversation going at home? Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together:

For Preschoolers

• How do you know Mommy and Daddy love you?

• How do you let Mommy and Daddy know you love them?

For Children

• What does it mean to obey your parents?

• When is it hardest for you to obey Mom or Dad?

• Why do you think God wants children to obey their parents?

• Who else should you obey besides Mom and Dad?

• Do you think parents are supposed to obey too? If so, whom?

For Students

• What do I do that exasperates you? (This question is only for the strong-hearted parent!)

• How can I be more encouraging to you?

• If you were a parent, how would you handle this specific situation that you and I have been dealing with?

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