Two weeks ago, my older daughter was blindsided by a decision that adults had made. That decision affected a really big part of her life in a really big way. It caused a lot of hurt and frustration for my daughter that we are still dealing with. It forced my daughter to accept a new direction for reasons she didn't understand. It's been hard, and it's been the cause of a lot of tears.
One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is helping our kids deal with things that happen that our kids had no part in. When you're a kid there are so many other people in your life who can make decisions that will affect your life. Often, our kids don't get a say in those decisions.
And explaining those decisions to our kids can be difficult, especially when we might not agree with them entirely ourselves. But that's our job.
It's our job as parents to help our kids navigate through things that may seem unfair or downright mean. It's our job to help our kids see that while that decision may not seem like the best one at the time, God can use it for good. He can take those circumstances that seem so crummy and create something beautiful out of them.
Since we've been dealing with this exact issue for the past few weeks, I wanted to share the steps we've taken to keep our daughter focused on moving forward and not getting stuck in the unfairness of the situation.
1. Let your kids vent their feelings.
When something unfair or unwanted happens to our kids, it can be easy to shove their feelings aside. There's nothing you can do to change the situation, so why dwell on it, right? But our kids need to be able to express how the situation makes them feel. We shouldn't expect them to suddenly be happy with a situation that they didn't create. Our kids need time to process through the situation, and that requires that they have an outlet for their feelings. Be the person they can talk to. Let them know that their feelings are valid. Give them a reasonable amount of time to vent and cry if they need to.
2. Be honest about the situation.
If your kids have questions about what led to the decision that has made them so unhappy or frustrated, answer them honestly. Don't be judgmental, but let your kids know the sequence of events that led to the situation. Try to be objective about those events, even if it's hard. The decision has affected your child's life. They have a right to know the age-appropriate explanation of what happened.
3. Point out the steps that need to be taken to move forward.
Your child needs to know that while the situation may seem crummy at the moment, they do still need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. They need to know that they have to move forward. Help your child decide on what steps they need to take to make the best of the situation. They may need to talk to someone else. They may need to adjust their own thinking. They may simply need to be encouraged to give the new situation a chance.
4. Remind your child that adjusting to change takes time.
While God has a plan in mind that will use this situation for good, it may not happen overnight. It may take a while before your child can see how God is using the situation for good. Remind your child to be patient and to look for the bright spots along the way.
5. Be your child's biggest champion.
If there's something you can do to make the situation easier for your child, do it. There are moments when we need to step back and let our kids navigate their own way, but when a situation arises that our kids didn't create, it's OK for us to step in and be an advocate for our kids. When our kids are simply trying to process through a difficult situation, they may need our help to find their way. And that's OK. That's why they have us.
6. Keep an eye out for the good.
God promises that He works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). That means that no matter how difficult the situation, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep your eyes peeled for that light and point it out to your kids when you see it. Remind your kids that God isn't going to leave them stuck in the difficult times forever. Good is coming. We just have to be looking for it.
Difficult situations aren't fun for our kids, and they're not fun for us. There's nothing worse as a parent than to see your child hurting. But God gave our kids parents to help them find Him even in the difficult times. We just have to keep our eyes on Him and wait for Him to work things out for good.