Encouraging parents in their efforts to raise their children to be enthusiastic servants of the Lord.
Author: Thereasa Winnett
Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking. Their daughter Katrina, who has been an integral part of their service adventures, attends Pepperdine University.
You probably have some basic supplies at home your kids can use to create crafts that will help them develop habits to encourage their spiritual growth. If you don’t have the materials listed, get creative and use what you have on hand.
Paper bags can substitute for regular paper. You can make natural dyes to substitute for paint using things like onion skins, hot water and vinegar (Just make the consistency much thicker than you might use to dye eggs.) Paint brushes can be made from attaching a pencil with a rubber band to things like a piece of sponge. Encourage your kids to look around and use their natural creativity.
Here are three great crafts to get your kids in the habit of doing things that will help them grow spiritually.
Prayer container. You can use any container, making sure there are no sharp edges or it’s unbreakable for younger children. Have them decorate the container by covering it in any decorative materials you have or let them get creative and use unusual items to decorate it. Then have them cut slips of paper that they can also decorate on one side. On each slip, have them write the name of someone they know. Place the slips of paper in the container. Encourage them to pray independently at one or more set times each day. Before they begin praying, they can draw some names to mention specially in their prayer. The activity can be adapted to include slips of paper with topics they can pray about if they are struggling with what to say to God. Have them place the completed prayer jar where they can see it and be reminded to pray.
Gratitude journal. Take a blank notebook or some card stock to create a cover and paper for the pages. Encourage them to decorate the cover with images of things for which they are grateful. On each inside page, they may choose to add a verse of scripture about being thankful and a border or small design. Encourage them to take a few minutes before bed each day and write down or draw three things for which they are especially grateful that day. Have them thank God specifically for those things in their evening prayer. They may want to place the completed journal next to their prayer container so they will remember to use it each day.
Bible bookmark. You can use a piece of card stock or the cardboard that often comes with clothing. Cut it to the size of a large bookmark. If you have crayons, have your child color various parts of the bookmark in different colors. Make sure they bare down, so the colors are vibrant. Once every part of the bookmark is randomly covered in color, have them color over the entire thing with a black crayon. The layer needs to be thick enough for a design to be etched in it. Encourage your kids to etch a design using a stylus, the handle of a spoon, a paper clip or something similar. Have them create a design that reminds them of God. They can “polish” the design using waxed paper or a plastic bag. You may want to cover the bookmark with clear tape (not cloudy) to protect it and the Bible. If you don’t have crayons, they can decorate their bookmark using homemade natural dyes and paintbrushes, markers, colored pencils or anything else you have in your home. If you have ribbon or yarn, your child can use a hole punch to punch a hole at the top of the bookmark and add the ribbon or yarn. Have them place the bookmark where they are reading in the Bible.
Have your kids make these crafts. Then encourage them to use them to get in the habits of praying, expressing gratitude to God and reading the Bible. They are habits that can help them stay strong spiritually for the rest of their lives.
You’ve probably heard about all types of parenting styles. Some help children, while others hurt them. Unfortunately, many young people today are suffering because their parents aren’t truly engaged with them. Oh, they will swoop in and project manage their kids when they feel it’s necessary, but parents having a real relationship with their children is becoming increasingly rare.
Merely spending time at home with your kids is not necessarily the answer. You can be in the same room as your children for hours without any meaningful interaction. In fact, your children may feel more hurt because you aren’t even engaged with them when you are physically present. Your kids may feel as if you have a constant “Do not disturb” sign hung around your neck.
How do you know if you are truly engaged with your children or merely co-existing or project managing them? How would your kids answer these questions about your interactions with them?
When your child needs to get your attention, how long does it take you to notice and acknowledge them?
When your child has something important to share with you, how willing are you to put down whatever it is that your are doing and listen to them (fully)?
When your child is telling you a story or something that is important to them, do you actively listen by looking them in the eyes, making gestures and facial expressions that indicate your interest and asking appropriate questions?
Can you name your child’s friends and teachers?
Can you name several concerns your child has at the moment?
Do you know your child’s hopes for the near future?
Do you know your child’s dreams for the future?
Do you know what questions or doubts your child has about God, the Bible or Christianity?
Do you know how God has gifted your child to serve Him?
Do you know what one thing your child wishes you would do to help him or her navigate some aspect of his or her life?
Can you name one aspect of his or her spiritual life with which your child needs your help and guidance?
Why ask your child’s opinion of how you should answer these questions? Because often our perceptions of our behavior and attitudes are very different from that of the people we are impacting with our choices. You may think you are fully attentive, while your kids can’t remember the last time they felt as if they actually had your undivided attention.
So ask your kids to help you take this quiz. Then make any needed changes. Your kids need an engaged parent to help them grow to be the person God wants them to be.
Priorities and time management are important for any young person to learn. They take on an added dimension though for children being raised in Christian homes. Without properly aligned priorities and great time management skills, it is easy for the things Christians need to do to be strong spiritually and to do the good works God has prepared for them to get lost in the shuffle.
So what are some good ways to help your kids establish good habits in prioritizing their lives and managing their time?
Examine the ministry of Jesus. Jesus accomplished a lot during his relatively short ministry on earth. He was able to do that because he had his priorities straight and managed his time well. Point out how Jesus didn’t try to make a lot of money because that would have distracted from his ministry. He didn’t waste his time trying to convert Caesar, but focused most of his teaching time on people who wanted to learn what he had to teach them. He also didn’t work non-stop, but took time out regularly to rest and connect with God.
Constantly reevaluate schedules. Part of the problem with setting priorities and time management is that we rarely analyze what is on our plate. We just keep piling new things on without considering the wisdom or practicality of it. We don’t regularly look at our schedules and see what priorities may need to be shifted or if some things need to be removed our added to our days. Teach your kids how to do this. Schedule a regular time when your family gets together and looks at individual and family commitments and decides on any needed changes.
Have them help plan vacations and outings. There are always plenty of options for ways to spend time on a vacation or outing. What are the best ways to spend that time? What will everyone enjoy and benefit from doing – even if it is just sleeping in and getting needed rest? The more you involve your kids in making these every day choices, the more practice they can get in setting healthy priorities and practicing good time management skills.
Practice Sabbath type rest. Good time management doesn’t mean you are working every minute of every day. Unfortunately the way most young people “rest” when they have free time doesn’t really help them restore their energy. Jesus set a great example. Real rest often requires quiet, scripture, prayer, music, exercise, creating something and of course sleep. Real rest will not come from watching a screen. Christians aren’t required to practice rest on a specific day…which means you can rest like Jesus – on any day or a little every day. It’s important that it be regular though. Don’t wait until your kids get cranky and stressed before encouraging a healthy rest. Setting aside time to rest in spiritually healthy ways as a family can help you all establish healthier habits.
Play games with timers. Young children struggle with the concept of time. Even older children aren’t particularly aware of how long a specific period of time lasts. Teens may struggle with estimating how long something will take to complete. Playing board games with timers can help your kids have a better concept of time and what might realistically be accomplished in a certain amount of time.
Run races. There are plenty of 5k races your family can run and many also have 1k distances for children. Running races and trying to improve your times is a great way to understand how little things can make a huge difference in how long it takes to complete a task. What modifications result in a faster completion time? How can those principles be applied to other things that need to be completed by a deadline?
Take advantage of the current mandatory homeschooling. Parents of homeschoolers will tell you one of the benefits is that their children learn how to self manage their time very well. In fact, elite universities often appreciate former homeschoolers because they are able to handle the independent schedule of a college student better than many young people who attended public or private schools. Use whatever time you have in the current homeschooling caused by the pandemic to encourage your kids to manage their own schedules. Talk about what is working and where they are struggling. If your children return to school, encourage them to manage their own schedules rather than having teachers or you micromanage it for them.
Teaching your kids how to prioritize and manage their time well takes effort on your part. It is worth it though, when they can use that time to serve God and become who He wants them to be.
We may be in a global pandemic at the moment, but life always has its stressors. Your kids may be extremely anxious at the moment, or have barely noticed anyone has any concerns at all. Yet the same child who is calm now may melt down right before his or her next exam or performance.
The key is to teach your kids how to manage their stress in godly ways. To lean on God so that stressful times can still be times when they learn, grow and serve. Stress may never disappear from their lives, but they can learn how to minimize the negative impact it has on them.
Here are ten great tools to give your kids to help them manage their stress in godly ways. Use the current situation to help them practice and incorporate them into their lives.
Listen to what God has to say. Whether they hear Bible stories or scriptures from you or read them independently, there is a lot to learn about stress in the Bible. The names may change, but the Bible has a little bit of just about any stressful situation you can imagine including plagues and wars. Notice the ways people handled these stressful situations. Who leaned on God and grew spiritually? Who panicked and made choices without God that caused even more problems? What patterns do they see?
Make prayer a priority. Kids and teens raised in Christian homes believe in prayer even if they aren’t so sure about other aspects of Christianity. Keep a family prayer journal. Have special times of family prayer. Encourage special times of independent prayer. Have your kids touch base electronically with friends and family and add their prayer requests to the mix. Note when God answers prayers – even if the answer is “wait” or “no”. Periodically go back and see how faithful God has been over time.
Put scripture permanently in their hearts and minds. Find a verse or a passage that seems to really comfort your kids. Encourage everyone to memorize it and repeat it when they start feeling anxious. Older kids and teens might want to memorize a few individual verses and a longer passage like Psalm 23.
Sing it out. It’s hard to feel negative when you are singing. Psalms was a very active book used as both songs and prayers for centuries. Find scripture songs or write your own. When everyone starts seeming anxious or sad, start singing.
Philippians4:8 your home. Turn off the news. You only need updates once or twice a day and young children probably don’t need to hear those first hand. Encourage teens to turn off those automatic notifications from most if not all news sources. Discourage negative books, movies and games. Create an environment that is full of things that are good, pure, lovely and all of those wonderful positive adjectives in Philippians 4:8.
Exercise. Sitting around all day disrupts sleep patterns and can cause depression under the best of circumstances. Exercise works out stress and strengthens the immune system. At this point in time, it seems safe to go for long walks or runs – especially in areas where it is possible to do so and maintain a safe distance from others. try to get everyone walking several miles a day. You may have to start walking a shorter distance and walk a little farther each day to get to that point, but that’s okay. Kids and teens who are in sports or dance may need more vigorous exercise. There are also plenty of online exercise programs that are free and available for working out indoors if necessary.
Be productive. It’s hard to worry about what might happen when you are focused on learning something new or challenging yourself mentally in some way. You may have to experiment a bit if your kids’ schools aren’t providing work. Thankfully there are so many homeschool resources online – many of them free. Don’t forget artistic as well as academic pursuits. Now is the time to practice that instrument, write that song or paint that painting.
Do chores. There is something about taking something that is dirty or messy and working hard to make it clean and neat that is soothing. It allows time to think, but the hard work that is often involved burns off the stress. Your house may never again look as clean and be in as good repair as it will after several weeks of daily chores by everyone. Don’t forget yard work. Planting season is here and watching flowers or food grow can be extremely rewarding (and helpful). You can order supplies online and have them delivered if you want to avoid stores.
Serve someone. It’s hard to focus too much on your own problems when you are focused on helping someone else. Even if you are confined at home, there are things your kids can do to serve others. Get creative, but encourage regular service while you are all at home together.
Create something. God is the Creator. It only makes sense that if we are created in His image, we are designed to create things, too. Get your kids involved creating something – whether it’s a new recipe or a painting to cheer a grandparent. In the process they may also discover gifts God gave them to serve others. Art and music in particular are a great way for kids and teens to work out their emotions in the creative process.
No one knows how long we will be asked to stay close to home. Use this opportunity to teach your kids how to manage their stress in godly ways. They will use those skills long after the current crisis has long passed.
Let’s be honest. None of us really wants to be quarantined for a long period of time whether it’s from this virus or something else. The good news is that a lot of healthy families are being quarantined at home. We don’t know how many of us or how long any one area will find everyone at home before the virus peaks and life resumes as normal.
If you find your family at home for any period of time, don’t waste that precious time. You may have few other opportunities to connect as a family in this way. There are a lot of ways you can take advantage of this time and use it to better prepare your kids to be who God wants them to be.
Reconnect emotionally. Have those long conversations. Find out what everyone is thinking and feeling about all sorts of topics. Get to really know and appreciate each other. And limit time on devices to no more than an hour or two a day outside of time required for school or work.
Have fun together. Play games. Watch silly old kid movies. Tell jokes and stories. Have tea parties. Build forts with blankets. Have a family sleep over. Just enjoy being together.
Start or entrench habits of spiritual disciplines. Family devotionals, independent Bible reading, prayer, meditating on scriptures…all of those habits that will make you and your kids stronger spiritually, but you never seem to have time to practice. Challenge and encourage each other to establish good spiritual habits that will keep all of you connected to God each day.
Serve others. Whether or not people can leave their homes seems to vary from place to place. FaceTime people who may be isolated at home alone. Help others as much as whatever restrictions you are under will allow. Model unselfish behavior by not hoarding supplies, but sharing.
Read good books aloud. Most adults don’t realize it, but even many teens still enjoy hearing a great book read aloud. C.S. Lewis stories appeal to all ages as do many other great books that allow you to have interesting family conversations. You should have access to e-books even if libraries close and many classics you can find online free or at very low cost.
Look for God working in the world today. Things like pandemics can make some people question whether or not God still loves us and cares about us. They may feel like God has disappeared. Point out the small blessings God sends your way each day. Celebrate God’s goodness as He gives people gifts to develop new medicines and vaccines to end the current health issues facing us. Remind your kids daily that God is alive and walking beside us even when scary things happen.
I doubt any of us will be volunteering to be quarantined for fun. Taking advantage of the opportunities it may present your family to grow closer and more godly if it is required of you though, may bring your family more benefits than just good health.