When Your Child is Hurting." Preparing my children to be confident adults is one of my passions. I've realized that so many adults are hindered in life because they don't know how to deal with this reality: Pain is a given. Pain comes in many forms, and most of us do anything to stay away from it ... at a great cost to ourselves.
Today I want to talk about overcoming insecurity. There isn't a fast fix for this, but it can be accomplished. I'll also have a giveaway, which I'll tell you about at the end of the post. First, let me tell you about my oldest daughter.
Our daughter Cathrine joined the Whitwer family in the fall of 2005. She didn’t join our family in the traditional way, after nine months of pregnancy and 10 hours of labor. Cathrine journeyed a different path. Her story started in war-torn Liberia, Africa in 1995. Her first ten years were desperate survival: never enough food, no education, and little compassion. When I watched her walk down the airport walkway holding my husband’s hand, her little face was bleak and scared. She barely raised her eyes to see her new family.
Her younger sister Ruth, on the other hand, was immediately part of the family. She wanted someone to hold her, enjoyed the spotlight, and lavished affection on us all. Cathrine was a different story. Although they shared the same birth mother, we’ve learned she treated the girls differently. Their mother adored Ruth, while blaming Cathrine for everything her little sister did.
As a result, our oldest daughter was a picture of insecurity. It was obvious nothing she did was ever good enough. Thankfully, God gave us great compassion for her mother. We know she did the best she could in very hopeless circumstances, so we place no blame. However, we had a challenge to invest confidence in this beautiful child who is now our daughter.
The goal of my book is to help parents deal with the everyday hurts of life. As such, I resisted telling Cathrine’s story because it’s not an “everyday” story. Her background and her early childhood deprivation, are quite unique. Add to the fact that she doesn’t look like the other children, even those who share her dark coloring. She doesn’t speak like the other children, and she doesn’t process information through the grid of American thought. However, I see the same need for confidence I see in my other children. In the four and a a half years she has been part of our family, we have seen a remarkable transformation.
Cathrine no longer walks with her head down nor does she cling to our hands crying in a new situation. Although she struggles significantly with education, she approaches it with confidence. She attends church camp and makes friends. She tries scary rides at the theme parks, and proudly buys the pin to prove she did it. She’s a strong contributing member to her soccer team. Cathrine is absolute proof that parents can help an insecure child, even with painful experiences in her background.
One of the greatest ways to instill confidence in a child is to have family standards.
Family standards, traditions and rituals are extraordinarily important to kids. That's true in my house. If we have pizza two Friday nights in a row, we have started a family tradition that better not be broken. More importantly than fun shared experiences, family standards communicate to a child that she belongs in the family and is part of a team. Children grow up thinking, “We believe this and we act in this way” and it develops a connection between parents and children.
Dr. Kevin Lehman in his book, Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down, makes this observation: “When a child feels he belongs, he tells himself, ‘I am worth something. I’m important. I fit in. Children don’t get very far in life before they run smack into situations where they’re ‘on the outside looking in.’ They aren’t welcome in the ‘in group.’”
Family unity may not seem like an obvious source of self-confidence, but to our children it means a lot. Every investment you make in your family, is also an investment in each child’s confidence level.
There are other valuable ways to help children develop confidence:
Teach God's Word as truth and a solid foundation. In a very shaky world, children need to know there is Someone who will never change, and truth they can count on.
Start traditions. My friend Ginny has "Red Breakfast" every Valentine's Day. Red pancakes, juice, strawberries, cake ... you get the picture.
Write a family creed. This is a short description of what your family believes, character traits you value, how you treat each other, and more.
Look for and voice your child's potential. This is how we mirror God's love for us. He always sees our potential.
When Your Child is Hurting" and give away a really cute key holder from my business, Rose Lane Cottage.
Check back on Monday, when I'll list the winners.
Happy Mother's Day!