Should I Send My Child Back to School This Fall?

Any other year, this would have been a given, but this year, sending your kids back to school is something you have to ponder on. Here are some points to consider:

  1. This is a difficult decision, but not a Gospel decision, so don’t stress out about it too much.
  2. There’s no decision without consequences in this situation. Either way, there are both positives and negatives a no one really knows how these will play out. Realize that the unknown just the nature of parenting – and you do this all the time!
  3. The decision that you make is not necessarily the best for others, and vice versa. Even between the different children you have could need a different set-up each. Remember that education is flexible and children are resilient.
  4. Go with the assumption that students and teacher will not be able to completely social distance.
  5. Be open to the idea that circumstances may change you decision. Even if you end up sending your child to school, know that you might still end up homeschooling. Come up with creative solutions to this, just in case!

Assess your family’s own situation and the needs of each individual child. In this time, be supportive and encouraging to your family, but also to teachers and administrators who are doing their best. Walk in grace with yourselves and with one another.


When Your Discipline Method is Not Working with Bradley McCallister

Bradley McCallister is an adoptive and foster parent to four special needs children along with his wife Brittany. They both have their Master’s Degrees in Christian Counseling from Philadelphia College of the Bible and have served as foster and adoptive family therapists. Together Bradley and Brittany run Redirected Wood Company, specializing in creating beautiful custom furniture out of reclaimed lumber.

Discipline can get tricky and frustrating, especially with strong-willed kids for whom consequences are not enough to change behavior.

Bradley suggests taking a different route: be preemptive in preventing the behavior you don’t want to see.

For example, if you know you have to focus your time on one child or on work, and will not be able to attend to another child, give that child activities to do that will occupy their time.

Sometimes, to prove that you are in control, you have to share control. By giving the child activities to do, you are giving a semblance of freedom within parameters that you set.

A little reverse psychology also works. Instead of constantly pointing out the negative things that your child does, try praising and rewarding the good behaviors that you notice them doing. This motivates them to behave well.

According to Bradley, if you reinforce the behavior quickly – within three seconds – the child is more likely to learn and retain that lesson on positive consequences. Use cereal, pennies, or beans in a jar to help them visualize the reward.

Another important thing to note is how you behave in front of your children. Learn to apologize when you’ve blown your behavior. It helps show them the right thing to do when anyone, young or old, makes a mistake.

On the other side of doling out discipline, don’t forget at the end of the day to go to your child and reinforce in them that you love them and they are good and you value them, even if they may have behaved badly.


Parenting is Not Finished at 18 with Brooklyn Holland

This week, we got to celebrate the 18th birthday of my oldest daughter Brooklyn.

In her childhood she’s walked through the death of a parent, cancer of her brother, and the loss of several foster children coming and going from home. Additionally, she’s had all of the other normal worries and challenges of a child growing up.

As she grew up, Brooklyn took all of these challenges in stride. But, she also dealt with her own insecurities. As a parent, it’s debilitating and frustrating to think there’s nothing more we can do to help our child other than foster a household with unconditional love.

Starting work was one of Brooklyn’s pivotal moments in her life because it reinforced her capability to do things well, and gave her the opportunity to meet new people. She discovered who she was.

Though she’s 18, she has the wisdom to know that she is still working on growing in some aspects of her life, such as spirituality… as well as practical little responsibilities that come with adulting.

Fellow parents, don’t panic! 18 isn’t a finish line for raising your children. Being able to realize that really eases some of the pressure of parenthood. Even at my age, I still consult my parents when I need to make big, important decisions.

Affirm with your young adult children that you recognize them as adults, that they are capable of taking on more responsibility, but also, there is no expectation that they know how to do everything right at this point. And you as a parent will still be there to coach, guide, and warn – but not control.


My Non-Expert Opinion

There are no parenting experts. There can’t be. Humans are all different and what is effective in one family may not necessarily work for others. With this in mind, release yourself from any rigid guidelines of any particular person, way, or path of parenting.

Your parenting style has to keep on changing and adapting. Just because you know how to handle one child well, it doesn’t mean the same strategies will work with your other children. We are just constantly trying to do what’s best for each of our children.

There are no parenting experts. But, there are wise people. Do the best you can to surround yourself with wise and experienced people.

Remember that whatever you are going through in your household, there is an infinitesimally small chance that you are the first person to go through this. While you may be going through a unique combination of situations, you are never alone. There are always wise and experienced people who have walked through trials and you can turn to them.

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions if you see people you know succeeding in their family management. Chances are, the people you ask will be happy to share their best practices. Asking questions is one major way that you can approach expertise in parenting.

Here’s my advice for any mom and dad:

  1. There are no parenting experts, we’re all in process. You aren’t a parenting expert and there’s nobody that thinks you are or expects you to be.
  2. Comparison is a killer. Let’s free ourselves from the sinful trap of comparison. It’s a joy killer. Don’t compare your family and your children to other’s. You’re comparing their best to your reality and it’s not fair to you. Even the heroes of faith in the Bible made their own parenting mistakes.
  3. You must preach the gospel to yourself in regards to your parenting. The gospel is the reminder that we need God’s grace day to day. You’re not just saved by the gospel, you’re sustained by the gospel.

The Principle of the Path

The Principle of the Path is simple, but it could have a profound effect on your family’s life. The principle is: Your direction determines your destination.

If you’re traveling this summer, a road trip makes for the perfect time to bring this up with your kids. Say something like, “You know one of the great principles of life is just simply, ‘your direction determines your destination.’”

You can even play a little game with it. Turn of your phones and try to have someone navigate to your destination. Even if they have the best intentions, you will not get there if the directions are wrong.

In the same way, help your kids examine their circle of friends. If you become like the people you spend the most time with, what’s the direction that your friends are heading?

Apply the principle to their work in school. If they continue to apply themselves in the direction they are going right now, where will it get them? Where’s the going to get you?

And when it comes to your walk with Jesus, the principle matters even more. How do your intentions match up with your pathway?

Things that have helped me in the right direction for prayer life are:

  1. Getting up at a consistent time in the morning where I can walk through my neighborhood and reflect
  2. The PrayerMate app which helped me keep track of my prayers and intentions

These things made prayer seem less difficult and more of a joy.

Think about it in the terms of the Bible’s word for dealing with sin: repentance. Which is simply a change of heart and a change of direction. Just feeling bad about what you did is not enough.

What you need to repent for your sins is a change of direction – from following your own way to following Jesus.


Stop Carrying Other People's Backpacks

Throughout our lives, we use backpacks in school, when we travel, even as a mobile office. Our backpacks carry everything that is important for our day and they can get quite full and heavy.

Your own backpack can get heavy enough on its own. If you start carrying someone else’s too, you could get overwhelmed.

At every part of our life, we all have a load that we are carrying. It could be as small as having proper manners or cleaning your room when you are young. As you get older, the responsibilities grow with you. That’s our individual “backpack.”

Moms often end up carrying other family members’ load when it comes to doing chores just to make sure things get done. But, remember that if you are constantly bailing them out, you aren’t doing them any favors.

If you continually intervene on your kids financial situation, schoolwork, and other aspects of their lifestyle, they will not develop in themselves a sense of responsibility and capability for carry their own load.

However, the Bible also says “bear one another’s burdens.” Think of burdens as boulders. It’s possible for you to pick up a boulder on your own and carry it a little ways, but it’s not possible for you to sustain carrying it for an extended period of time.

In each of our lives, boulders are going to come. We need help to carry these. If someone can take things out of your backpack, they can help you bear the burden a little bit. There are small things that we can do to make their loads a bit lighter, without carry their backpacks for them.


Self Care During and After Crisis

Whether it’s dealing with a global pandemic or navigating a personal loss, there is always someone in crisis. Know that you are not alone.

It is essential to take care of your health and wellbeing in the midst of a crisis. Sometimes this seems unimportant especially when we are helping someone else through a difficult experience. But remember that you have to be well enough to be able to help those around you.

During a crisis:

  1. Lower your expectations. Worrying about something puts an extra weight on you, so realize that during this time, you’re not going to be able to do all of the stuff that you normally do. There are things that are going to fall through the cracks and that’s okay.
  2. Get enough sleep. If you are not sleeping well, everything else will get messed up.
  3. Think of food as fuel for your body… Not as a refuge to run through. A little bit of junk food – and junk time – could be good for you, but recognize that more than a little bit of it will junk up your ability to cope with what’s happening.
  4. Value your alone time. You recharge when you are alone, so schedule it if you need it. Alone time will not happen in a quality way if you do not plan for it.
  5. Spend time with God. In crisis, time with God is essential.
  6. Physical fitness is a big deal. It will burn stress and release endorphins and can lighten your mood.
  7. Consider journaling. You’ll start to see more insight into your life as you read everything back. You’ll also be able to have so much gratitude as you find yourself on the other side of previous difficult times.
  8. Reach out to your friends. They are a big part of lifting you up. Aim for deeper and greater connections.
  9. Be honest with your employers. Let them and people who count on you at work know about what you are going through. If you work hard and bring value to your workplace on a regular basis, they will probably understand.

When you are ready to jump back to “normal” after overcoming a crisis:

  1. Keep your expectations realistic. After surviving a crisis, you tend to have big bursts of energy, but keep your expectations realistic as to what you are able to do.
  2. Re-establish your routine. But realize that your routine might be different from what it was before the crisis hit. What is your new normal?
  3. Consider extended periods of rest. You may not have a ton of control over the time that you can spend for resting, but in any way you can, get some time to recuperate and evaluate what happened.
  4. Strive for spiritual renewal. Give yourself to the things that heal your spirit.
  5. Review your journal. Read back and see what the Lord told you during this time.
  6. Consider going for counseling or therapy. Crisis will reveal cracks in your relationship, in your soul, in the way you are doing things. Therapy can help address the issues that have emerged.
  7. Take a low impact vacation. Give your tired mind, soul, and body a well-deserved break.
  8. Re-commit to your spiritual community. Realize the support and joy that a community brings and don’t lose you connection with your spiritual community.
  9. Turn the crisis into a blessing. Throughout a crisis, you may have discovered gifts you have that you never realized you did. Continue to hone these gifts and use them to be a blessing to others.

Acknowledge that you are not the same person you were walking into this crisis. And keep moving forward.


Kara Powell: Sticky Faith in an Anxious World

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Faith in an Anxious World, Growing With, 18 Plus, Growing Young, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

The demands to remain agile and adept at responding to what’s going on to our kids and our world poses many challenges to parents today. The fast-changing world certainly keeps parents on our toes.

There is more stress and anxiety in our culture today that affects people across all generations. Kids can experience anxiety for several factors, including:

  • Technology – While technology is certainly an essential in navigating today’s world, it also puts pressure on children’s fear of missing out.
  • Parenting – Some of our parenting techniques could be putting more stress on our children. We may be putting too much pressure on our kids to succeed quickly. On the other hand, we may also be helicopter parenting, rescuing them from situations before they are able to develop their own grit and resilience.
  • Busyness – Today’s busy culture contributes to the increase in stress and anxiety.

Kara shares her five-step process to help adults deal with young people who are experiencing anxiety:

  • ASK. First, ask the young person to rate their anxiety or depression on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst.
  • BREATHE. Encourage them to take deep breaths. When we panic, our hearts beat faster to get blood to all the extremities. Breathing deeply helps counter act this and put a break pedal on the physiological feeling of stress.
  • CENTER. Help them center on a helpful truth or phrase. Find a line from scripture or a worship song that can give them an anchor to hold on to.
  • DEVELOP a team. Build a support group of friends, supporters and even mental health professionals that your child can turn to.
  • EMPATHIZE and EMPOWER. Listen and understand what they are feeling, and go beyond that be helping them figure out a step forward.

Many young people stray away from their faith in their first three years in college. Foster faith in your children that is “sticky.” A lot of youth group kids end up viewing their faith as “a gospel of sin management.” When they graduate from high school and start making mistakes, they end up running from God and the church just when they need it the most.

As a parent, re-center them in a gospel that is grounded in grace and God’s unconditional love. Remind them that we respond to God out of gratitude, out of a relationship between us and a loving God.

Parenting isn’t a solo sport. It’s a team effort. Be intentional in creating a team of adults to support your child. Whether a family, teacher, coach, or neighbor, find those you can invite to let your child know that there is a team of adults that are looking out for them.


Talking to Your Children About Race and Racism with Mikiala Tennie

Mikiala grew up in sunny South Florida. She started volunteering in student ministry while still a student herself and hasn’t stopped serving students since. Mikiala works in ministry because of her desire for people to truly know Christ. For six years she has served at First United Methodist Church of Stuart and currently has the role of Director of Discipleship and Student Ministries. She lives with her little Yorkie, KiKi Okoye Tennie.

In light of everything going on today, many of us want to have a nuanced and sensitive talk with our children about race and racism. When you do this, remember that the goal is always to approach equality.

As a parent, you cannot be afraid to talk about racism. Mikiala says, if parents are not willing to have these difficult conversations with their kids, they are doing a disservice to their families.

Do not leave it to the outside world to teach your child about racism. If you are not addressing it, it will create trauma.

Embark on the conversation with the hope of brining up your children as assets to the gospel as it relates to racism and inequality.

Inequality is real. Racism is real. And it is not over.

Teach your children to look at differences as one of the joyful parts of life. Mikiala says, to be able to move forward, everyone has to be willing to step into somebody else’s world and understand that trauma that has made them who they are. We have to be human together.

More than just talking about it, you must show your child that beyond that, you are a good example of striving to make things better. This is not just a topic of conversation.

Watch what you say because your children will pick up on your racist remarks, even if you make the comments in passing.

Your children must see you intentionally engaging in conversation with adults about race and racism. Show them that you too are open to a diverse set of friends and voices.

The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. If we are truly people of the gospel, that has to mean putting into practice what we preach, taking actions informed by the gospel.