“You’re bad!” “No, you’re bad!” This sounds like an argument you might walk in on between two angry preschoolers. Unfortunately, it’s how many adults in our world right now are acting – especially when it comes to politics. Many in our country have fallen out of relational mode and have landed in enemy mode.
The environment of our country right now is profoundly impacting what our children internalize. Without help to interpret the things they hear and find Jesus’ peace, they receive those words as truth and internalize the fear, anger, prejudice and sometimes even hatred around them.
How can we help our kids navigate the world around us that has fallen out of relational mode?
In truth, we ourselves have likely slipped into enemy mode here and there and it is hard to evaluate what our children need, let alone help them find peace if we aren’t in relational mode. In order to give our children the help they need, we first have to find our own footing. At the end of this post, you will find a couple of exercises to help you get grounded in relational mode and to build up your capacity to stay there.
Once you are feeling grounded, evaluate what your kids need. In this case, one size does not “fit all” and the solution for your kiddos varies based on where they are stuck. (Click the link for an overview of the different levels of pain where your child’s brain can get stuck and a guide to what they need at each level.)
Have they heard unhelpful statements from others around them who are in enemy mode? If so, they need help interpreting what they are hearing and seeing it with the lens of loving others (even if others believe and act differently than we would.)
Are they unsure how to handle conversations with friends when things get heated? They need examples. Share some stories of how you stay relational and keep the relationship bigger than the problem when things get tricky.
Are they feeling anxious, upset, fearful or angry? Validate their feelings and then help them think through what they need when they feel this way or what they can still be grateful for despite the circumstances.
The good news is, Jesus can meet them in any of these places of distress. The steps below are a tool that you can use to get back to relational mode and share with your kids..
- Start by thinking of some joyful moments to appreciate. (Even better if they are moments that feel like a gift from God or when you felt God’s closeness.) After spending a few minutes reflecting on these moments, choose one (or more) of the following next steps. Anytime you start to feel distressed or lose peace, go back to your original appreciation thoughts. (See this blog for more examples of praying this way with your kids.)
- Pray for those with different perspectives than you. Ask Jesus to inspire you with a heart to pray for them.
- What does Jesus want you to know about those who believe differently than you? Ask Jesus for His perspective.
- Ask Jesus what is on His mind about the events going on in our country.
- Practice appreciation regularly so you are growing the good stuff in your brain rather than focusing on the bad things and giving the weeds room to grow (hint: turn off the news!) Look for practical ways to add this to your routine. In our house, we like to talk about things we are thankful for on the way to school each morning and share 3 highlights from our day at the dinner table each evening.
To learn more about relational mode, check out Chris’ newest book The Joy Switch for teaching and practical exercises to help you find your way back to the best version of yourself.