Every single day we read about horrific tragedies, painful experiences and fears knock on our family’s front door. We cannot isolate our children in a world that seems to threaten them at every turn. Like the Psalmist and my paraphrase of Psalm 27 says, “Though my enemies surround me and the world seems a scary place for my kids, I will not be afraid.”
As parents, we boldly go where we haven’t been before.
Raising children in this age can be hair-raising at the best of times, but oh so thrilling too. We can embrace the grace of God’s provision for every generation if we were only to ask of Him for the wisdom that we need. Wisdom is key to responding to the fears that prevail in the world today.
“Wisdom is the power to put our time and our knowledge to the proper use.”
Thomas J. Watson
We are not helpless parents.
Just recently, the news thread read like a horror story: Children unsafe in church environments, online sites are full of danger and anxiety is on the increase in preteens. Courage, conviction, knowledge, and discernment can help us lead our children into their future. It takes effort on our part. What this means is that we no longer choose the easy route. We intentionally engage in the lives of our children through asking questions, being present and protecting through guarding the influences that speak into their lives. In my book, Parenting with Courage, I guide parents through this minefield by explaining how to navigate the different ages.
What to do with under 4’s.
When your child is under four, you are pretty much the Commander-in-Chief. It is during this stage that you say what goes and what doesn’t. You are an external implementer of your family values, but more so, you say what they can have access to and what not. It is during these formative years that you as their mom or dad can practically protect them in ways they cannot. But, more about that later on.
The preteen and teen years can be uncertain.
During their preteen years, your role of teacher takes center stage. Amongst other things, you teach them how to navigate the online world, how to handle failure, how relationships function, and how to walk with God. Yes, they are digital natives, and we are most likely digital pioneers, but this is no excuse. Read up on what is going on in the world. Educate yourself about the latest apps and games and be vigilant in your protection of what they see and hear.
Enter the teen years and your ability to coach them comes into full force. With the skill of smart question asking, continuing to model your values and implementing healthy online and social boundaries, you guide them through these tumultuous and exciting years.
Remember that with a teenager, if you don’t talk to them about the difficult topics, they most likely won’t speak to you. Start those sensitive and sometimes embarrassing conversations from when they are young and keep it going – even through their grunts and groans.
What about the dangers of online programmes and apps?
The challenge comes to us about our diligence and vigilance. Are we checking what our kids are watching and are we aware of what is out there in cyberspace? The latest news on the onslaught against our children’s lives comes in the form of a character that is reportedly popping up on popular kid shows on YouTube, asking children to hurt themselves and to keep this a secret from their parents. Whether it is true or not, it gives us cause for a reality check. But, how does this affect us as parents?
It starts early on with educating yourself first and then your children.
Be vigilant about what you allow through your senses and those of your impressionable children. In this digital age, we cannot afford to be ignorant of the pitfalls awaiting our children.
A few practical tips for parents:
- Activate parental controls on all devices.
- Watch what your children watch (yes, it does take more time, but it’s worth it).
- Use old school DVD’s.
- All devices should be used in public spaces in your home.
- Talk to your children about online safety and what to do if they see something that upsets them online. Teach them about social media and what to post (age appropriate conversations are necessary).
- Model transparency for your children. Remember they are watching you and will imitate you.
- Install parental control and web filtering software on all your devices.
- Secrets are not good. From a young age, encourage your children to speak openly in your home. Cultivate vulnerability, honesty, and openness.
- Regularly let them know that they can come and talk to you about anything (and that you will not overreact in front of them)
- Ask the Lord to lead you as you raise your children. More than ever, we need to pray for the lives of our youth. Some of your best parenting can happen on your knees. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
Praying for your children is wise parenting
Don’t give up praying for your children – irrespective of their age. Through prayer, you can approach the throne of grace with boldness and courage asking God to lead you and guide you as you steward this precious life.
In the light of what we are facing as parents, consider praying into the following areas using 2 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
Firstly, pray for your children to remain pure in their thought life through what they see and hear. Secondly, pure in their speech and their conduct. Thirdly, pray for their friends, outside influences and specifically into love, faith, and purity for their generation.
Let your love for your children emerge through your prayers and your practical application of living with wisdom in a wild world.