One of my favorite things to do is watch parents literally drag young children through museums. If you are new to this experience, let me enlighten you. Young children generally do not find walking through one of the largest buildings they have ever seen with room after large room of paintings, sculptures and random objects fun. Sure, a few will catch their attention. Trust me though if you are on day three of a touring vacation or your child is tired and hungry, it can be painful.
If you persevere through the whining and complaints… If you make enough bargains of “let’s just treasure hunt to see if we can find this painting” or “just look at this one gallery”, you most likely will raise a child who appreciates museums. You may even find your children ask you at some point to take them to a particular exhibit or museum.
It seems like every day another young person commits suicide. There are many different reasons some children choose such a drastic route to end their pain. One reason that is often cited is an intense feeling of loneliness, sometimes caused by the rejection of peers and others. Young people can be surrounded by peers, live in an urban area with millions of people and still feel as if they are all alone.
Assuming the young person does not have an underlying mental health issue though, there are some things parents can do to help their children prepare for loneliness, being alone and solitude. You can’t solve all of their social issues – especially as they reach the teen years, but you can give them extra layers of protection from severe loneliness.
The best time to help your children be ready to prevent or handle loneliness is before they become lonely. Studies have shown that not only is the need to feel like they belong a basic need, but also when they are lonely, it only increases their sense of needing to feel like they belong somewhere. (Making them more susceptible to the temptations of peers to do ungodly things in order to belong.)
So what can you do as a parent to help your kids be prepared to handle the loneliness we all feel on occasion? Here are some of my favorites (Please note: These may not work for young people who have underlying mental health issues. Please have your child checked by a doctor for loneliness that seems to last more than a few days.):
Growing up can make even the most resilient child anxious. Whether it’s the proverbial monster under the bed or a college mid-term, your kids may find themselves feeling quite anxious from time to time.
If it’s constant and severe, you need to talk with your pediatrician to find the underlying causes. For most kids though, teaching them a few godly coping strategies will help them tame those knots in their stomachs.
There are a lot of things you can do to help your kids handle anxiety. What works well for one child may not work as well for another one. In general though, these tips will keep your children focused on God while also providing some peace in the current “storm” they are experiencing.
Our family was introduced to the Harris brothers about the time the first edition of this book came out several years ago. Our then young teen daughter loved reading the book and realizing she wasn’t the only kid on the planet who made God, serving others and sharing their faith priorities in their lives.
Do Hard Things (New 5th Anniversary Edition) by Alex and Brett Harris is a must read for all tweens and teens. It does a great job at banishing the myth that the teen years should only be about playing and avoiding responsibility as the way to have fun and enjoy life. Instead, they make a strong case that actually living a life doing the hard things is where real joy and fulfillment are to be found for young people.
This week, I am actually on a mission trip to the country of Honduras. Our team will be working with several hundred public school children and serving others in the community. This trip is a little bittersweet for me, because it is the first time in many years I have gone on a mission trip to another country without my husband and daughter. This time my husband didn’t have enough vacation time and our daughter is completing her study abroad year in Europe. Our family has always loved our family mission trips and yours can too.
Below is a post I wrote some time ago about things we were doing with the kids in our church to encourage them to do mission work. Many of these things you can do on a smaller scale at home. Prayerfully consider taking your family on a mission trip. Done properly, mission trips can help others and provide opportunities for spiritual growth in your family.