Help Your Children to Meet Their Many Challenges
OUR young people are under intense pressure. They are exposed to the spirit of Satan’s wicked world, and they must contend with “the desires incidental to youth.” (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 John 5:19) Moreover, because they strive to ‘remember their Grand Creator,’ they have to cope with ridicule—even harassment—from those who oppose their beliefs. (Eccl. 12:1) Looking back to the time when he was growing up, a brother named Vincent says: “Somebody was always harassing me, bullying me, or picking a fight with me because I was a Witness. Many times it would get so bad that I did not want to go to school.”a
In addition to pressures from the world, our sons or daughters may also have to fight against their own desire to be like their peers. “It is not easy being viewed as different,” says Cathleen, a sister in her late teens. A young brother named Alan admits, “I was often invited to go out with my schoolmates on the weekends, and I really wanted to go.” Further, the desire of young people to participate in school sports events, which can easily lead to bad association, can be strong. “I love sports,” says a young sister named Tanya. “The coaches in school were always trying to get me to play on the team. It was hard to refuse.”
How can you help your children to meet their many challenges? Jehovah commissioned parents to provide guidance for their offspring. (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4) The goal of God-fearing parents is to develop in their children’s hearts a desire to obey Jehovah. (Prov. 6:20-23) In that way, children will be motivated to resist the world’s pressures even when their parents are not watching.
For parents, it is a challenge to make a living, raise a family, and care for congregation activities—all at the same time. Some have to do so as a single parent or while facing opposition from an unbelieving mate. Still, Jehovah requires that parents set aside time to provide support for their offspring. Hence, what can you do to help your children to build a bulwark against the peer pressure, temptations, and harassment they face from day to day?
A Personal Relationship With Jehovah
First of all, our young people need to know Jehovah as a real Person. They need to be helped to ‘see the One who is invisible.’ (Heb. 11:27) Vincent, mentioned earlier, recalls how his parents helped him to develop a personal relationship with Jehovah. He says: “They taught me the importance of prayer. I can remember that from a very young age, I prayed to Jehovah every night before going to bed. Jehovah was real to me.” Do you pray with your children? Why not listen to what they say to Jehovah in their personal prayers? Do they just repeat a set pattern of words? Or do they express in their prayers how they really feel about Jehovah? By listening to their prayers, you may be able to discern their spiritual progress.
Personally reading the Word of God is another important way that young people draw closer to Jehovah. Cathleen, mentioned earlier, states: “Reading the Bible all the way through at a young age helped me. It gave me confidence that even if people were against me, I had Jehovah’s support.” Do your children have their own Bible-reading program?—Ps. 1:1-3; 77:12.
True, children differ in the way they react to parental guidance. Also, their spiritual progress may depend on their age. Yet, without guidance, it will be hard for young ones to come to know Jehovah as a real Person. Parents have to inculcate in their children God’s words so that the children can hear Jehovah speaking, as it were, wherever they may be. (Deut. 6:6-9) Your children have to believe that Jehovah personally cares about them.
Communication—How to Make It Meaningful
Communication is another vital way to help your children. Of course, good communication involves more than talking to your children. It includes asking questions and patiently listening to their answers—even if those answers prove to be different from what you would like to hear. “I ask questions until I feel that I understand what they are thinking and what they are dealing with in their life,” says Anne, a mother of two boys. Do your children feel that they are being heard? Tanya, quoted earlier, says: “My parents really listened to me and remembered our conversations. They knew the names of my classmates. They would ask about them and about other situations we had discussed in the past.” Listening and remembering are vital for successful communication.
Many families have found that mealtimes afford good opportunities for meaningful communication. “Eating together was important in our family,” explains Vincent. “We were expected to be at the table with the family whenever possible. Watching television, listening to the radio, or reading during the meal was not allowed. Since most of the time the conversation was light, it provided a calm moment each day that helped me to deal with the chaos and pressures I faced at school.” He adds: “Being accustomed to talking with my parents at mealtimes also helped me to feel comfortable talking with them when I needed help with more serious matters.”
Ask yourself, ‘How often each week do we eat together as a family?’ Would adjustments in this area give you an opportunity for more and better communication with your children?
Why Practice Sessions Are So Valuable
A weekly Family Worship evening also encourages meaningful conversation and helps young ones to deal with specific problems. Alan, mentioned earlier, states: “My parents used the family study period to draw us out. They considered topics that were relevant to what we were dealing with.” Alan’s mother says: “We used some of the study time to have practice sessions. These sessions helped our children to learn how to defend their faith and to prove that what they believe is true. This gave them the confidence they needed to handle the challenges that came their way.”
Indeed, when confronted with peer pressure, children often need to do more than just say no and walk away. They have to be able to answer such questions as why and why not. They also need to feel confident about what to do when being ridiculed because of their faith. If they cannot defend their beliefs, it will be hard for them to take a bold stand for true worship. Practice sessions can help build that confidence.
The box on page 18 lists some scenarios that could be acted out during your Family Worship evening. Make these sessions realistic by challenging the answers your children give. Along with such practice sessions, consider some of the practical lessons taught by Bible examples. Such training at home will no doubt equip your children to meet challenges at school and elsewhere.
Home—A Safe Haven?
Is your home the kind of place your children look forward to returning to at the end of each school day? If it is a safe haven, it will help your children to face their daily challenges. A sister who is now a member of a Bethel family states: “When I was growing up, one of the most important things for me was that our home was a safe haven. No matter how bad the situation was at school, I knew that when I came home, everything would be all right.” What characterizes the atmosphere in your home? Is it a place where “fits of anger, contentions, [and] divisions” are common, or is it known for “love, joy, [and] peace”? (Gal. 5:19-23) If peace is often missing, do you try hard to find out what changes are needed in order to make your home a safe haven for your children?
Another way to help your children meet challenges is by taking the initiative in providing upbuilding association for them. For instance, could you include some spiritually-minded brothers and sisters from the congregation in your family’s recreational activities? Or could you arrange for a simple meal in your home with the traveling overseer or others engaged in full-time service? Do you know any missionaries or Bethelites with whom your children could develop a friendship, even if just by letters, e-mail, or periodic phone calls? Such relationships can help your children to set straight paths for their feet and develop spiritual goals. Think of the good effect that the apostle Paul had on young Timothy. (2 Tim. 1:13; 3:10) Paul’s close association with him helped Timothy to keep his mind focused on spiritual goals.—1 Cor. 4:17.
Commend Your Children
Jehovah is pleased to see young people take their stand for what is right in spite of the pressures from Satan’s world. (Ps. 147:11; Prov. 27:11) No doubt, you too rejoice at seeing our young people choose the wise course. (Prov. 10:1) Let your children know how you feel about them, and be generous with loving commendation. Jehovah set a fine example for parents. At the time of Jesus’ baptism, Jehovah said: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.” (Mark 1:11) How his Father’s assurance must have strengthened Jesus to deal with the many challenges he was about to face! Likewise, let your children know that you love them, and acknowledge what they are accomplishing.
Granted, you cannot completely shield your children from pressures, harassment, and ridicule. Still, you can do much to help them. In what ways? Assist them to develop a personal relationship with Jehovah. Create an atmosphere that stimulates meaningful conversations. Make the Family Worship evening practical, and make your home a safe haven. Doing so will no doubt equip your children to meet their many challenges.
a Some names in this article have been changed.
[Box/Picture on page 18]
PRACTICE SESSIONS CAN HELP
Here are some examples of situations that our young people encounter. Why not practice some of these scenarios during your Family Worship evenings?
▸ A coach asks your daughter to join the school team.
▸ Your son is offered a cigarette on the way home from school.
▸ Some boys threaten to beat up your son if they see him preaching again.
▸ While your daughter is working from door to door in field service, she encounters a schoolmate.
▸ In front of the class, your daughter is asked why she does not salute the flag.
▸ A boy constantly ridicules your son for being a Witness.
[Picture on page 17]
Do your children have their own Bible-reading program?
[Picture on page 19]
Do you include spiritually-minded ones in your recreational activities?