Stress can have a large impact on our children though we may not recognize it.
She graduated summa cum laude, but before the day we applauded her achievements there were approximately 36 months of fatigue and perseverance and anxiety that preceded them.
She would come home exhausted, grab a snack, and head straight up to her room. For three or four hours she would labor meticulously over homework. We would have to make her come downstairs to eat dinner.
And since she was a girl, there were lots of tears to go with those hard days of work.
We had a large ottoman in the living room at the time, and when things got bad she would stand at the end of it and do a full face plant on top of it, with arms flung out to the side in total exhaustion and despair.
We found that adorable.
Here’s what I learned as a mom –you can’t do the work for your kid. Of course, for me that partly included my lack of intelligence and the fact that I had not been able to help her with schoolwork since about third grade.
Our kids have to go through their hard times of struggle and labor, and we need to let them do this.
But we can come alongside them, kind of like a chase vehicle in a bike race. So here are some things I did to encourage my children through their hard days…
Five Ways To Encourage Your Stressed Child
- Quietly open the door, without saying anything, and put a plate full of hot chocolate chip cookies on the desk next to her. Don’t forget the milk. (Really, this is all it takes to receive mother-of-the-year award.)
- If possible, make her comfortable where she is. I used to heat the rice bag for my daughter and go lay it on her shoulders while she was doing homework. (We live in cold Montana, so this was comforting.)
- You know all those chores you hound her to do? Take over some of those for the day.
- Praise her work ethic. I would say something like, I always hoped you would grow up to be a hard worker, and now you’re doing it. Not many young people have a good work ethic these days, so I’m proud that you do. An employer is going to really appreciate that quality in you someday.
- Assure your child you love her separately from her achievement. I remember sitting in the car with my daughter one day, and she was teary because she thought she might get a low grade in a class (which for her meant a B. The horror.) I said, You know, your dad and I love you so much. Even if you get a B or a C or flunk, we still love you. It’s okay.
We all must go through hard times, but when we follow Jesus He comes close to us and gives us all the resources and strength we need to plug away toward our own completion and maturity.
As we allow our children to work and struggle, while we come alongside them with encouragement and comfort, we are mirroring this work that God is doing in our lives through Jesus.
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