Thursday, June 9, 2011

Parenting in a Dangerous Environment

“…Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.”  Romans 8: 38b

Some concerned young mothers have written me about raising their children in unstable and potentially dangerous environments. Today conflict, war, and international tensions have escalated rapidly causing soul searching in parents about how to parent their young children in such an environment.

I would not say that serving in Pakistan from 1978-88 was particularly dangerous. We raised our two young children there – actually ten miles from where the Most Wanted Man was recently captured and killed.  Not everything was easy but overall it wasn’t threatening. Today it has changed somewhat. But I did grow up in a potentially  dangerous environment. More of that can be read in my book, Woman to Woman, Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend. So I will share here more from the view of a child rather than the parent.

First of all, there are dangers anywhere we might live. The dangers in the West are different than the dangers of Afghanistan, Somalia, or Darfur If your child is afraid to be alone or checking under the beds or closets that’s a sign of him being affected. Dads may need to understand this is not boot camp for the kids, nor is Suzy being required by God to be a good strong soldier of the cross.  It’s important to talk about your child’s fears or questions openly and not spiritualize scary things like: “God will take care of you” which makes Suzy feel like God cares but do my mommy and daddy care? Give lots of affection. If your children are convinced they are more important than reaching all the people in Afghanistan (or wherever) they will most likely feel safe. Be wise about talking freely with colleagues in prayer meetings, over the supper table, etc. about scary things in the presence of your children’s hearing. The highway from their ears to their hearts is open and impressionable. I didn’t grow up having a stuffed animal but I think every child should have one. What kinds of books are on your bookshelf? What are the book covers depicting? Children pick up books from time to time and get ideas like I did.  How do you report in church meetings if your children are present? Sometimes the dangers may prove to be more magnified by what our children hear and see right within our home or church than in the land of service! I heard many a scary story in deputation meetings.  If they have nightmares for an extended time that is a sign that something is troubling your child. I had nightmares all my childhood. Try to understand their nightmares.

Should you allow your children to go through potential fears and dangers?  I can’t answer whether that is right or wrong. All I can suggest are some practical insights. Have open eyes, open ears, open wills to leave if necessary, open hearts and open arms that hold them close.  Love will take you a LONG way. May God bless each one of you dear concerned mothers.

Dear heavenly Father, please bring peace and assurance to godly concerned mothers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.