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When our children hurt, we hurt

By Terence Rolston on Feb 15, 2019

It’s common for moms and dads to talk a lot about the joys of parenting. We get excited to see our children accomplish anything and everything, from their first steps to their first job. Our hearts swell to see them doing well, making friends, finding a purpose and following God’s call on their lives.

But the reality is every parenting journey is not only filled with joy.

Each day we hear from families who are facing the other side of being a parent – they’re facing heartache and struggle.

What do we do when our child is filled with fear at the prospect of each school day because there’s a relentless bully who will find them on the playground? What do we do when, in our own brokenness, we see our teen struggling through the effects of marital separation and divorce? What do we do when we see our young adult going through the unimaginable grief of losing a friend to suicide? How are we supposed to respond when our child struggles with mental illness, a health crisis or physical pain that we cannot take away?

When our children hurt, we hurt.

It’s one of the most basic truths of being a parent. Whatever your child is going through, you are also going through. Whatever pain they’re carrying – whether it’s physical, emotional, mental or spiritual – you are carrying. We wish we could take their pain away, but we know we can’t.

So we feel at a loss.

Maybe our own mental health starts to decline as we carry their burdens. Perhaps we start to take our anger and frustration at being helpless out on our spouse. Maybe we even isolate ourselves, feeling as though no one could ever understand, fearing judgement from friends and family, fearing condemnation from our church community.

If any of this rings true for your own journey, I want to tell you that you are not alone. And you don’t have to walk this path by yourself.

Our care and counselling team are ready to walk alongside you with prayer and guidance for your situation, but just as importantly they’re ready to help you find healthy ways to cope with the pain so you’re not damaging yourself or your relationships.

Wendy Kittlitz, our vice-president of care and counselling, has a few notable suggestions for parents who are hurting because of what they’re watching their children experience.

  • First and foremost, you need to pray. Prayer is not just a balm to life’s troubles, but it’s a lifeline our Lord and Creator provides. Bring your concerns to God frequently; talk candidly about your fears, knowing that it matters to him.
  • Also, cultivate a small but trusted group of close friends, colleagues or family members who can provide you with a prayer circle – who can be your prayer warriors when you can’t find the words. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Another thing you can do to ensure you’re caring for yourself so you can better care for your child is to find an outlet for your grief. We suggest tools like journaling, regular devotional time, a Bible study or a support group. You will need help to process the emotions you’re feeling so you can be in a strong, healthy place for your child.
  • Counselling is another great resource for people who are feeling overwhelmed and need extra guidance. It doesn’t have to become a lifelong relationship. Even one or two sessions can help you find perspective and learn valuable tools for your own health and the health of your child. If you would like to speak to one of our counsellors or get connected to one in your area, you can call our care associate at 1.800.661.9800 or learn more about our counselling service at FocusOnTheFamily.ca/Counselling.
  • If you’re married, it’s also crucial you don’t let the pain of being a parent negatively impact the relationship you have with your spouse. At Focus on the Family Canada, we believe marriage is intended by God to be a thriving, lifelong relationship that endures through trials and emotional stresses. Spouses need to stand together to weather the storm of a difficult parenting journey. And by providing your child with the sturdy foundation of a godly marriage, they too will be better equipped to navigate the storm. We have a lot of resources to help you with this.

These are just a few of the ways you can ensure your own health is taken care of in order to be there for your son or daughter. We do have a collection of articles that speak into specific areas of parenting such as bullying, grief, and broken relationships. You can find these articles and more at FocusOnTheFamily.ca/ParentingHelp. I also encourage you to call our care team at 1.800.661.9800 or email us at [email protected] to receive prayer and to speak to one of our counsellors.

Whatever heartache you may be facing as a parent, you need to know you’re not alone. God sees you. He is our refuge and strength in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). And He also provides you with His family of believers as we’re called to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is our privilege to walk alongside you, through whatever storm you may be facing as a parent.

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