Great Ways to Help Your Kids Express Strong Emotions

Have your kids ever bitten or punched someone when they were extremely frustrated or angry? Or maybe your children have pitched a tantrum when upset. Part of the problem is a sense of being unable to adequately express the strength of their emotions in ways they believe are being heard. Other children may appear to shut down entirely, unwilling to talk about what they are feeling and thinking. Helping your children find ways to adequately express what they are feeling and get the emotional decompression they need can be accomplished by teaching them some alternative strategies to replace inappropriate ones.

Here are some great ways to help your kids express their emotions.

  • Increase their emotional vocabulary. The word “angry” doesn’t feel strong enough if your kids are furious and feels too strong if they are merely irritated. Teaching them more words for various levels of emotions can make a huge difference – especially in younger children.
  • Encourage them to pray their emotions to God. Show them some of the Psalms that express obviously strong emotions. Explain that for thousands of years many people have not only read and sung the Psalms, they have prayed them as well. Teach them that God wants them to tell Him about their emotions and ask for His help in expressing them properly. This can be particularly helpful for children reluctant to talk about their emotions to the people around them.
  • Provide art supplies. Allow them to paint or draw anything they want. The images themselves will at times depict what is upsetting them, but often the underlying emotions are expressed by their artistic choices. You don’t need to analyze or understand their works of art. You can try asking open ended questions like “Can you tell me about your painting?” Don’t worry if they keep the conversation on a shallow level. They are still having benefits from the process of creating the art.
  • Encourage listening to music or playing an instrument. Explain that the right music can help them better control their feelings by calming, soothing or energizing them. Some children benefit from listening to music that matches their current emotions, while most find music that represents their desired emotional state is more effective. Check in periodically to see if they believe certain songs are helping them or making them feel worse and encourage them to replace songs that aren’t helping.
  • Provide opportunities to help with household chores like cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming and others in age appropriate ways. The repetitive, mindless nature of most chores can prove soothing. It can also keep them occupied in positive ways as they sort out their feelings.
  • Encourage hobbies that have some physicality and repetitive tasks in them. Knitting, crocheting, wood working, model building – even putting jigsaw puzzles together – can prove soothing and calming.
  • Encourage outdoor exercises. Sunlight helps regulate moods and the physical element can help lessen the impact of string emotions. Children should be encouraged to find a type of exercise that they enjoy so they will happily do it when stressed.

Helping your children learn how to control their emotional state gives them an important Christian life skill. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them learn and practice.

Fun Way to Teach Little Ones to Pray

Often parents start teaching their babies to pray by teaching them to fold their hands and bow their heads when an adult says a prayer. While prayer can be said in any posture, it is a great way to help set apart talking to God from regular conversations and to teach that God should be respected.

The next step – once they can speak a few words – is to teach toddlers rote prayers that are said for every meal or at bed time every night. There is another option, however, that I believe more clearly teaches how most Christians talk with God in prayer. With a little effort, you can make it fun and easy for even the smallest child to pray with a family member or independently.

Grab some magazines, family photos, colored card stock, glue sticks, a hole punch, metal rings (laminating film is nice for longevity) and your toddler. Toddlers often have a difficult time thinking of things for which to pray. Explain to your toddler that you want to help him or her make a special book to remind him or her of things he or she wants to either thank God for or ask God’s blessings about.

Start by helping your toddler find photos of things for which to thank God (for which He has blessed your child). As you find the photos, let your toddler glue them to a “thank you” page. Remember, a toddler has a very short attention span, so you may only add one or two items a day. That’s okay. Your toddler can begin praying for those items and it gives you a reason to talk about prayer every day you work on their prayer book.

After you have several items in that section, you can begin a “God bless” section. This will involve family photos and pictures of others close to the family. You can also cut from magazines photos of world leaders, recent events that concern your child or things like a photo of a hospital to remind him or her to pray for the sick.

As your child gets a little older, you can add sections for “God is Great” and “I am sorry for”. Although tiny children don’t sin according to the Bible, it is good to get them in the habit of repenting for when they are old enough to sin. It is also a subtle way to begin teaching them about the things God says are sinful.

If you have a small home laminator, it will make the pages sturdier. Punch one or more holes along the edge and put a metal ring through each hole to keep the pages together. Help your children use the book to pray with you and then begin teaching them how to use it to pray independently. When the book gets long, remind them they can choose just a few items about which to pray each time they pray. If they pray several times a day, they can cover a lot of their items.

Prayer is critical for the spiritual growth and health of your children. It’s great to start them with good prayer habits as early as possible.

Fun Way to Introduce Your Kids to God’s Role in Science

Many people mistakenly believe that God can be completely separated from science. Actually, God created science. By creating the Universe and the Laws that make it work, God also created the things that scientists study. For centuries, scientists were often Christian, but in a post Darwin world, even Christians felt pressured into removing God from science entirely. Interestingly, many of the underpinnings of this faulty belief system are based on ”truths” long since rejected by even secular scientists. While many professional scientists are perhaps not ready to admit to the existence of God, their increasing awareness of the complexity of the things in our Universe cause even skeptics to admit the Darwinian notion of chance is not viable.

Christians don’t need to reject science – just science that is influenced by an atheist bias (especially if Christian scientists have supportable and compelling alternate theories). The key is introducing your children to science at home. Science that acknowledges God’s role in it’s creation and that does not undermine biblical truths.

A great, fun way to begin having those discussions is by using the story of Noah’s Ark to teach your children about the science needed for building boats. Start by telling your kids the story of Noah building the Ark. Point out the specificity in the instructions God gave Noah. Note that if Noah had altered the dimensions or materials in any way, the Ark may not have floated. (Note: For children who are older and interested in science, this article has more details of the science behind the building of the Ark.

Give your children scrap materials like aluminum foil, paper, craft sticks, etc. Challenge them to build a boat that will not only float, but hold weight. When the boats are completed, try floating them in a tub or sink of water. Add pennies to each boat until it sinks. Which boat stayed afloat the longest? Older children may want to compare the ratios of the dimensions of their boats to the Ark. Ask them to imagine how long it would have taken Noah to figure out how to build a sturdy boat the size of the Ark (that could hold that many animals) without God’s helpful knowledge of the science He created that was needed to build the Ark. Remind your children that all reliable science is based on the science God created….

For more science activities connected to Bible stories in meaningful ways, check out our children’s activities under the lesson plans tab on our website…

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids to Go the Extra Mile

One of the most overlooked scriptures in the Bible is perhaps Matthew 5:41. Jesus was preaching what we now call the “Sermon on the Mount”. If you recall, it has a lot of practical advice for people who follow God. There are two underlying principles in the sermon. The first is that God looks at our hearts and not just our actions. Actions can be faked, but we can’t hide our hearts from God.

The second principle should be life changing for all Christians. God doesn’t call us to do the bare minimum to please him. He’s not happy that we are merely ”better” than the average person. He calls us to go the extra mile. Go so far above what could be expected or even hoped for that people are shocked. Shocked enough to ask why we are different and who is God that He motivates us to live our lives in this way.

Going the extra mile isn’t easy. As strange as it may sound, your kids may get teased for going above and beyond expectations. That’s why it is so important for you to start teaching them this principle when they are still toddlers. It is also why you need to find fun ways to encourage them to go the extra mile when it isn’t so fun – because most of the time going the extra mile means we have to sacrifice something we want for ourselves in order to be able to do it.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • What’s an extra mile? The bar for excellence has gotten so low in our world, that defining the ”extra mile” will be difficult. Take your kids on a walk one mile from your house (If they are really young, make it a distance that will be difficult, but not too difficult for them.) As you walk, explain that in the time of Jesus, there were no cars, tanks, jeeps, etc. Most soldiers had to walk and carry everything they needed. They were allowed to stop any random person on the street and ask them to carry their ”stuff” for about a mile. Jesus was telling them that if they were asked, they should go two miles instead of one. Stop when you reach one mile. Explain that this would have been the stopping point allowed by Roman law. (For older kids, you may want to have them carry a backpack for more authenticity.) Explain that Jesus wants them to keep going – even if they are tired after a mile. Walk the remaining mile to get back home. Ask your kids how the people must have felt when they heard this teaching. Can they think of real world examples of going the extra mile?
  • What is an extra mile today? Have your kids think of all of the things they are either asked to do by others or opportunities they might have to help others. What would most people say is the first ”mile” in each case? What would the extra mile be? To make it more fun, have them interview people of different ages and backgrounds – even Christians and people who aren’t Christians. Do they see any patterns in the answers people gave them? If they could have interviewed Jesus, what do they think his answers would be?
  • Going the extra mile around the world in 80 days style. Pick a fun place some distance from your home. It could be somewhere in your town or you could circumnavigate the globe. Calculate how many miles it is to your goal. Each day, have everyone share at the end of the day times when they felt like they really did go the extra mile. If everyone agrees the person went an extra mile, then you move one mile closer to your goal. It’s important to keep a high but not impossible to reach definition of the extra mile in mind as you go. Your first goal might be a short distance to keep your kids motivated. Consider having a family reward when you reach your goal. For example, the first goal might be to the ice cream place a few miles away and when you reach your goal, you go out for ice cream. It’s important to emphasize that often there is no reward for going the extra mile, but God expects us to go it regardless. This exercise is to help them develop consistency in going the extra mile, so an occasional reward after working hard for several days, weeks or months can be a celebration of improved consistency.
  • Shower someone with extra miles. Choose someone your family knows who is not a Christian. How can your family go the extra mile consistently, over a long period of time to serve this person? As time passes, notice if the person becomes curious. Make sure you are honest about wanting them to learn about Jesus if they ask why you are being so kind to them. See what happens. Not everyone will want to visit your church or ask questions about God, but many will.

Have fun with going the extra mile. You might find it’s the best thing your family has ever done.

Protecting Your Kids From Predators at Church

Over the last few decades, there have been numerous reports of children and teens being sexually molested at various churches. While a couple of denominations have dominated the headlines, it is something that sadly could happen at any church – including yours. I hasten to add that this type of behavior is condemned by God and Christianity. Those who behave this way and those who may cover it up are not doing what God commands them to do. In one of the most famous exchanges between Jesus and his disciples, Jesus reinforced the importance of protecting children from any sort of harm. He also let it be known that the punishment for hurting them would be severe.

The truth is that predators look for churches, ministries and non-profits to find their victims. They want to take advantage of easy access to a large number of children in a place where those running it tend to trust others at face value when they say they want to help children. Thankfully, many places are being more careful about screening volunteers, but not every predator will get caught in a background check. Those with criminal records might move on, but if they’ve never been arrested, they may pass the average guidelines.

The answer isn’t to keep your child away from churches, ministries and their programs. It’s to make smart choices so they stay safe – even if there is a predator in the building. Here are some important ways to protect your kids.

  • Personally take your children to class or the restroom. Chances are high that your kids are safe when lots of people are around, but sometimes the confusion can act as cover for someone.
  • Make sure your church conducts background checks on all volunteers. At a minimum, this should include a criminal records check and reference checks – including calling those in other places where the person may have worked with children or teens.
  • Make sure your church has child safety rules in place. These rules should include not allowing only related adults in one classroom (couples teaching together should have a third adult in the room), classroom doors must be open at all times or have a window in them, children should not be allowed to leave an environment unless accompanied by an adult or peer and adults should not be alone with a child in a room with a closed door. Ministry leaders should regularly monitor any environment to make sure young people are safe. (Especially during worship services and class time in bathrooms and other private places.)
  • Do not allow your child to leave the worship service alone. Due to the nature of my ministry, I meet a lot of people who have had negative experiences. Many of these happened either during a worship service or when there weren’t many people in the building. This can happen to teens as well as small children.
  • Be very cautious about allowing your children to go places with other adults – especially to their homes. It’s often the ”sweet grandpa” type or the charismatic minister who has the parents’ permission to take a young person somewhere alone or to his or her home who causes trouble. It may sound paranoid, but meetings should include more than one child, be in a public place or involve more than one adult.
  • Pay attention to your kids’ reactions to adults. Kids can’t always verbalize why they believe an adult may be dangerous to them or even how. Some kids are very perceptive and pick up on subtle signals even before the person has crossed the line with them in some way. Very young children do go through a stage when all strangers and new situations may cause a meltdown. If your child is normally fine being left with others, but balks at a specific person, pay attention.
  • As soon as your kids are old enough to be taught about ”stranger danger”, constantly reinforce that they should tell you if an adult doesn’t make them feel safe. Let them know over and over that they will not be in trouble if an adult asks them to do something bad. (Of course, also teach them that they can and should say ”no” if possible.) One of the most common weapons of predators is the threat that the child will get in trouble if the adult tells the child’s parents what happened. If your kids know you will be angry with the adult instead, they will be more likely to ignore the threat. Also, as they get older let them know that if an adult threatens to harm you in order to get them to do something, they should ignore it. Reassure them you can handle any threat – no matter how scary it sounds. (The norm is threatening to kill the child’s parents.)
  • Make sure even little children know it is not appropriate for adults to touch certain areas of their body without your/their permission. Obviously, doctors will check those areas, but once a child can go to the restroom without adult assistance, they should know to deny access to areas covered by a bathing suit.
  • Give your kids permission to yell, kick, scream or do whatever is necessary to get away from someone who has grabbed them and taking them somewhere against their will. “Good” kids may be afraid to scream during a worship service if someone does grab them. Reassure them, they will not get in trouble.
  • Spend lots of quality time with your kids. Predators look for kids who don’t have strong relationships with their parents. They often groom them for months before trying anything. The grooming basically consists of giving the child the attention the child craves but doesn’t receive from parents. Having a strong, healthy relationship with your kids will protect them from most predators who use grooming.
  • Don’t assume you know what a predator looks like or the preferred prey. While men are still the predominate predators, women can be, too. Don’t assume a predator will look ”sleezy” or openly leer at children. The average predator looks like an average person. Likewise don’t assume your child won’t be a potential victim, boys can fall victim to a predator as well as girls and teens as easily as small children.
  • If you have a personal or custody situation where someone might attempt to pick up your child from an environment without your permission, make sure everyone involved is aware. You don’t have to give details, but you should let those who are caring for your child know there is a potential danger to your child and that they should release your child to only you or someone else you approve.
  • Don’t assume your church is different than any other church when it comes to predators. Predators aren’t only part of one denomination. They can be anywhere and are much more common than most people realize. As our culture begins to attempt to normalize adult sex with children and pornography, the danger will only get worse. Every story I have been told involved a priest/minister, deacon/teacher or trusted ”grandpa” type adult loved by everyone. Take the precautions to protect your kids.

It is sad to think predators are harming children in ministries, but Satan will do anything he can to destroy a church, Christians and even the growing faith of your kids. Don’t give predators a chance to succeed.