As I walked my daughter to school the other day, I could see that something was bothering her. “What’s the matter?” I asked. She shook her head. I came up with some guesses, “Is it something someone has said? Are you worried about your work? Have you forgotten something?” Then I wonder – have I just given her 3 things to worry about that weren’t there before? We get to right to the classroom door, then she turns before she goes in and says “I’m worried about what will happen if you die?” … REALLY, NOW?
The question is not that surprising – a neighbour with a young family died suddenly recently. I do my best in the 30 seconds we have. “I have no plans to die today, but even if I did, you would be OK, because God completely has you.” And with a hug she skipped through the door, leaving me watery-eyed.
Our children are worrying…
Research carried out by the mental health charity Place2Be among 700 children aged 10 and 11 suggested that two thirds of them worry “all the time”. Their top concerns are:
• Their family’s well being
• Wellbeing of friends
• Failing at school
As a mum with children that age, I see that they feel under pressure with school work SATs, test results and what high school place will they get. I hear them talk about their concerns about their friends, the fall outs, difficulties and concern for their mates who are ill or having a hard time. We’ve had conversations when my older boys have finally struggled to get the words out… “What happens if I get really sick?” “What happens if you die?”
They are growing up, they are aware of the things that are difficult in the world, they are starting to ask good questions, they can see that a hug and a biscuit can’t fix everything anymore. So, should we worry that our children are worrying? What should we do?
The good advice offered by the experts is that children should be encouraged to talk about their worries, parents should listen and we should be kind to one another. We should also remember that worrying about these things is normal, but if our worries become serious and persistent we need to ask for help. This is a great start… but is there something else we, as Christians, can say?
YES! We have a Heavenly Father who has something brilliant to say!
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
This is what we have to say – we read to them the advice of the one who made us and the answer he has given us. We have something to say and we have something to pray. The God of the universe is offering us his ear. He wants us to tell him about anything and everything that worries us, nothing is too trivial or too tough. He wants to hear it. He wants us to ask him for what we want.
He tells us to take time to think positively, too: to remember the good things we have and to thank him for them, because it does our hearts good to remember his kindness.
We ask him for help – knowing he is God. We trust him with the outcome, with our hearts, with our children’s hearts, with the future, knowing that we have a peace that not even death can shake won for us in Jesus. Bringing our worries to him helps. They may not disappear forever, but however often our worries return, we can return again to God.
Talk to your children – so my blurted out sentence at the School gate was not enough, I needed to deliberately make time to talk more. We read the verses from Philippians together, we wrote down all the things that worried us on a piece of paper. We then we put them in an envelope and addressed it to ALMIGHTY GOD, we’re giving the whole list to Him. We wrote on the outside of the envelope all the good things God has given, a family and all the ways we know He is good. This helped us all.
Perhaps for your family this is too artistic a stretch – but don’t do nothing – make time, talk about what worries them and then open a Bible – read any Bible verse you have googled about worry out loud and pray – no matter how embarrassed you might feel, or the expression your child might pull, or how wobbly your prayer might sound – you have done amazingly. To do nothing, is to definitely get it wrong!
So we have something to say, and we have something to pray when facing worry – “Heavenly Father……. ”