how to support your child through life’s struggles

how to help your child through strugglesIt never ends.

And it never will.

Forever is a long time. Especially when you’re just 14.

Since he was seven months old, my son Micah has struggled with cystic fibrosis. It means twice daily chest therapy. Multiple nebulized medication treatments. Pills every time he eats to help his body digest his food.

The way Micah has responded to this challenge over the years has beyond inspired me. It makes me so proud to call myself his mama.

But sometimes the reality of a chronic disease hits him hard.

Will I have to do this when I go to college? he asked me recently.

I wanted to say, “No! You will never have to do this again!”

But cystic fibrosis doesn’t take a break for the pursuit of higher education. Or for anything, for that matter.

Micah just longs to be carefree. Unburdened from the physical and emotional weight of chronic illness. Who can blame him?

I want him to be healed. I want God to heal him. I pray for it everyday.

Yet, I know sometimes God’s plan is not ours. I trust that He is good. All the time. Whatever the outcome of my prayers.

I don’t write those words lightly. I have wrestled with truly believing this truth over the years. At times, I still do.

Over the years, with God’s help, I’ve done my best to help both my kids navigate difficult and heart wrenching struggles. Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful:

1. Help them see the big picture. In John 9, Jesus is walking when he sees a man blind from birth. “His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'”

If I didn’t know that God has and will continue to bring good things out of Micah’s illness, I wouldn’t be able to bear it. But I already see how God has used it to grow compassion, perseverance and faith in Micah. We dialogue about how we don’t always understand or like how God works in our lives, but we can know that it always for our ultimate good. These are hard conversations to have. I ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. But I think it’s important to help our kids see the purpose and good that God can bring out of our struggles.

A number of years ago, after we saw God perform some miraculous things in Micah’s health, I sent an email to our family and friends, telling them about how well he was doing. This is one of the responses I received:

Micah, I am so glad your doctor said you are getting better all the time. Someday you will be able to share this miracle with other people and give them hope that they can overcome their problems. God and good doctors have done it for you and you can do it for others.

Purpose in the pain. They need to see it’s possible.

2. Make it safe to let them share their feelings. Our inclination as moms is to try to make it better. Or to explain why it’s for their good. There is a time for that, as I said above. However, there’s also a time to just listen. To not try to fix it. To just empathize and tell them it’s okay to feel angry. To wonder, “Why me?” We can’t let them stay in that place, of course. But expressing their feelings safely is an important and needed release when our kids are hurting and under stress.

3. Reward them for pushing through the struggle. Every three months, Micah has to go to the pulmonologist for a quarterly checkup. It sometimes involves needles . It’s definitely not a joy ride. A lot of times, after we’re done, we’ll go to a favorite restaurant nearby, or, at the very least, get a snack at a convenience store. Even little rewards help them know we recognize it’s hard. And we see that they’re persevering. I’ve seen this acknowledgement really help motivate and encourage both my kids in their difficulties.

We can’t shield our children from all life’s struggles. But we can help them learn how to rise above them.

Oops, gotta go … I think I hear Micah coming home from baseball practice.

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5 Comments

  • I came across this post on Pinterest. I read it and repinned. Thanks for sharing this great knowledge. My kids are young, but I know life will throw great struggles their way and it’s best to become as prepared as possible. The verse you shared from John is perfect! Thank you. 🙂

    Reply
  • Wow, I’m so sorry for your son’s illness. I can’t imagine the many hours of worry, pain, etc. that your family has endured. I have so much respect for all of you, and I certainly pray that a cure for this awful disease be found quickly. Thanks for sharing this encouraging glimpse!

    Reply
  • one of the biggest ways I’ve helped my struggling older two see the purpose in suffering is to be honest with when I’ve seen it in my own. I think when we try to sermonize their struggles (especially with teens… although I’m a total newbie at this season!) they tune it out. But when we sort of “trip” over the take home lesson in our own struggles in their hearing, it assimilates. That’s what I’ve seen, anyway. . .

    Reply
  • Very good points, and I couldn’t agree more! It is so hard to not “fix it” and help them see that, though we may not understand, God can use it for our best…if we let Him.

    I love the illustration that compares God’s view of things and ours like this: A child sits on the floor, looking up at the underside of a cross-stitch that his mother is working on. To him, it looks like an awful tangled mess. He makes a comment about how ugly it looks from below and how she must be making some sort of mistake, and his mother says, “Would you like to see it from my view?” He nods and stands, coming beside her to look down on the cross-stitch work only to see the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. She says to him, “It may look like a tangled, ugly mess from below, but from above you can see it through my eyes and see the beautiful masterpiece it is becoming.” Everything depends on perspective. God makes ALL things beautiful in HIS time. We may not understand now, but I trust that one day we will.

    God bless you and Micah as you work through this daily struggle, and know that I am praying, too, and am so thrilled that you have seen some of the beautiful in the chaos already. 🙂

    Reply
    • {Melinda} Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Julie. 🙂 I have heard that story, too and have thought of it many times over they years as I’ve not been able to understand what God was doing in my life or in someone’s life that I loved. Thank you for your prayers. God has been very good to Micah — He has always been faithful through every up and down we’ve had. So grateful.

      Reply

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i’m melinda

I PROVIDE WOMEN WITH RESOURCES FOR HEALING AND WHOLENESS

I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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