My older daughter is 12. That's an age when perspective is sorely lacking. Everything that happens to her is a big deal. It's hard for her to see past the end of the day, much less to the many years ahead of her.
The truth is, it doesn't matter what our kids' ages are, they are probably focused mostly on the here and now. Our toddlers throw tantrums when they don't get what they want immediately. Our elementary-school-aged kids stomp off in frustration when their gratification is delayed. Our middle-schoolers cry buckets of tears or sulk when things don't go their way. It's only as our kids become older teenagers that they begin to gain some perspective on the idea that today is simply one day. There are a whole lot more to come.
Part of our job as parents is to help our kids gain some perspective on their lives. It's our job to help our kids understand that while today might have been a bad day, tomorrow is probably going to be a better one. It's our job to remind them of the truth of Psalm 30:5, "weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
No matter how tough the situation, no matter how bad our kids feel, they need to know that tomorrow has different things to offer. They need to know that in the grand scheme of their lives, this tough time is just a drop in the bucket.
My older daughter thinks middle school is going to last forever. All the tough moments of not knowing who exactly she wants to be and trying to fit in with a group seem like they're going to go on endlessly. But the truth is, middle school is three short years of her life. It's just tough for her to remember just how short those years are when she's in the middle of them.
My favorite visual illustration of this is to get 80 feet of something -- from paper to pipe cleaners, or even just mark off 80 feet. Explain to your kids that each foot represents a year of their life. Then, mark off the time period they are in right now. For us, it would be the three years of middle school. Ask your child to compare their season of life with how much of their life isn't in that period. Talk about how there are so many other days ahead of them and ask them to remember the things God has done for them in the days behind them. Make a list of the things God has already done for them in their lives and ask them if they think all those years ahead of them might contain some blessings from God as well.
When our kids are going through some rough moments, they need our love and compassion. They need us to create a refuge for them at home. But, sometimes, they also need us to remind them that this season is not forever. They need to know that while God is with them in the tough times, He's also got many more good things planned for them. Though it may be hard for our kids to look beyond their immediate situation, helping them find some perspective goes a long way toward getting them through the tough moments.