I have two athletes in my house -- kids who love the sports they play with a passion. Last night, they both had practice. And last night, I put two crying children to bed because they had had tough nights at practice.
My oldest couldn't seem to get her feet under her at her first outdoor soccer practice. According to my husband, who was there with her, she got kicked in the ankle, smacked her head when she collided with another girl and her Sever's Syndrome was acting up, making her heel hurt. It was a rough night for her physically.
My youngest was having issues of a different kind at her practice. Her coaches were trying to help her fix her grip on her stick. She has a tendency to hold her stick upside down, so her coach wanted her to change the way she placed her hands. He corrected her every time she skated past. One of the other coaches wanted her to skate harder, so he pushed her a bit every time she skated past. The end result was that my daughter felt like she wasn't doing anything right.
Her coach came over to show me what he wanted her to do when she holds her stick. As he walked away, my youngest burst into tears. Her coaches weren't doing anything wrong, but my daughter wasn't able to see that they were trying to help. She just felt like she wasn't doing anything right.
Unfortunately, life hands all of us days like both of my daughters had yesterday. Some days, we can feel beaten down physically -- through fatigue, injury, illness or chronic disease. Other days we can feel beaten down mentally, whether though a sharp comment from others or a misperception of the situation.
When we feel beaten down, the only place to look is up, and it's our job to help our kids learn to lean on God when they feel the world is against them. We can choose to let our kids waller in their own self-pity or we can teach them how to let God lift them up, dust them off and put them back on the path.
God loves us. He wants us to have joy even in the most miserable of circumstances, and He wants to be our refuge when circumstances have beaten us down. Psalm 46:1 tells us "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." A refuge is a place you go to be safe -- a shelter from the storm. God is that refuge. We simply have to run to Him. Help your children learn to take their circumstances and disappointments to God, so He can be the source of joy.
- When your kids face tough circumstances, teach them to turn the situation over to God. Find something in the situation for which they can be thankful. For example, last night, my youngest daughter and I thanked God for coaches who want to make her a better player. Then, we asked Him for wisdom for my daughter to know that her coaches are trying to help her, not criticize her.
- Do what you can to help your child see the reality of the situation, rather than just their perception. My oldest daughter just felt clumsy last night, and to some degree she probably was. However, it was their first outdoor practice, the ground was uneven and she had been up pretty late the night before. Not a good combination for my already sometimes uncoordinated child. Sometimes when our kids can see the contributing factors to a situation, they stop feeling so bad about themselves. Don't allow your kids to place blame when they have done something wrong, but help them have a realistic view of any situation.
- Provide your kids with a refuge so that they can see God as their refuge. On days when the world is beating your kids down, they need to know that they can come home and be loved. No matter what happened while they were away from your home, they need to know that home is a place where they will be loved and accepted no matter what has happened to them or what they have done. This doesn't mean you should forgo any appropriate discipline, but make sure your kids know that you love them and God loves them, no matter the circumstance.
- Model turning situations over to God for your kids. Let them see you taking your difficult circumstances to God. Ask them to pray for you when you face tough circumstances at work or in other areas in your life. Let them know when you are praying for them.
God doesn't want us to live life beaten down. He wants us to have "abundant life." He's always waiting to be our refuge and strength, even when circumstances seem to have the upper hand. Help your children see God as someone to whom they can run to be filled back up with his love and joy.