“The stress of facing a crisis with my children is definitely my favorite part of parenting!” …said no parent ever!
Yet, have you ever noticed how we seem to learn the most during the hard times? One of the greatest lessons I have learned about parenting is not to fear the challenges our children face, but to be grateful for them because they become teachable moments we might not have otherwise.
When our children were much younger, Jeff and I found ourselves in what felt like a crisis situation with our neighbors. Every time we went outside to play in our backyard, their very friendly (but also very large) labradoodle would run over barking, jump up on our one year old, and push him to the ground. Their daughters would knock on the door to see if our girls could play, then hide in the bushes and throw things at them when they came outside. They called our girls words they had never heard before. They even stole our snowman out of our front yard… with Jeff watching!
I can tell you honestly, I was not thanking God for that “opportunity.” I was figuring out how we could move!
But those encounters led to some really important conversations about how our faith determines our actions instead of our feelings and how what we see on the outside is often a reflection of something deeper going on beneath the surface. We talked about being kind and setting healthy boundaries— not something I planned to address with a four year old, but there we were!
Our neighbors obviously had some personal struggles going on; however, we didn’t know the extent until a few years later. Once those issues were addressed, their family dynamics became much healthier. We ran into them at the pool one day and my girls were surprised because they were actually kind!
Learning the truth and seeing how their girls had changed became another teachable moment. It enabled us to talk about forgiveness, grace, and second chances. These are gospel conversations they might not have understood without experiencing it themselves.
And that is something to be grateful for!
“These are gospel conversations they might not have understood without experiencing it themselves. That is something to be grateful for!”
When your daughter is dealing with friend drama, you can call the other moms or seize the opportunity to talk with your girl about what real friendship looks like (and doesn’t look like), as well as what kind of person she wants to be, both now and when she grows up.
When your son and his friends make a dumb choice and get into some trouble, you can yell at him or cover for him, or you can take the opportunity to talk about peer pressure, consequences, listening to the Holy Spirit, and the power of influence.
When your child has a personality struggle with a boss or teacher, you can rescue them or teach them how to adjust their actions to align with different leadership styles. This will serve them well in life as they find themselves under different authority figures, some of whom they likely will not completely agree with.
Now, don’t get me wrong. When we catch our kids searching for something inappropriate on-line or caught up in some sort of crazy friend drama, you will not find Jeff and I skipping in circles, singing Oh Happy Day! No, we are as disappointed and frustrated as everyone else. But the advantage of having four kids is we’ve learned that most of these struggles are a normal part of growing up. They are not an exception; they should be expected.
The important thing is how we handle them.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Paul David Tripp mentions this idea throughout his book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. He puts beautiful words to what my heart has learned over the years:
Be thankful for these little moments. Don’t look at them as the bad moments of parenting, as hassles and interruptions; these are the good moments of parenting. These are moments of grace… Parents, if your eyes ever see or your ears ever hear the sin and weakness of your children, it’s never an accident, it’s never a hassle, it’s never an interruption; it’s always grace. God loves your children and because He does, he has placed them in a family of faith so that you can be his tool of convicting, forgiving, and transforming grace. You are faced with the resistance of your children because God is a God of amazing grace. His grace has the power to turn very bad moments into very good moments. Isn’t this what the cross of Jesus Christ is about?
—Paul David Tripp
God is a Master at taking bad situations and transforming them into something good. King David’s indiscretions led to a conversation with the prophet, Nathan, which transformed David into a man after God’s own heart. Peter’s betrayal of Jesus led to a conversation of repentance and restoration which transformed not only Peter, but countless others as well. And God transformed Jesus’s death on the cross, arguably the worst thing that has ever happened, into the best thing that ever happened to us!
We do not need to fear or stress over the difficult situations we face as parents. God can transform each one of them into something good! When Jeff and I find ourselves faced with yet another parenting challenge, we remind ourselves (or more often, he reminds me!) to take a breath and view it as a “moment of grace.” I am grateful our children are learning these lessons at home and that we’ve been given the opportunity to walk through it with them. That will not always be the case, I know.
So, for now, we will be grateful and embrace these challenging moments as teachable opportunities.
The wind was blowing against my face as I stood there, trying not to look down. The harness was fastened securely to my body. The guide tied the rope around an enormous tree and then his 5,000 pound pickup truck, assuring me I was safe.
The rope was not going to break.
The tree was not going to uproot.
Everything was ready… the rest was up to me.
“Now, all you have to do is let go and lean back,” he said, shrugging his shoulders as though he wasn’t really asking much. Didn’t he know we were standing on the edge of a cliff, several hundred feet in the air?
The last thing I wanted to do was let go and lean back!
He must have noticed my white knuckles gripping the rope, because he went on to remind me of what would happen if I didn’t listen.
“I know your instinct is to hold onto the rope and hug the side, but trust me, you don’t want to do that. If you lean forward, you’ll slam into the rocks and it won’t be pretty. This is what you came here for! Just trust me; count to three, let go, and lean back, parallel to the ground. I won’t let you fall. Trust me!”
I could feel the sweat on my forehead. I was about to either throw up or chicken out (or both), when a verse popped in my head:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight.”
Friends, have you ever found yourself having a hard time letting go?
Honestly, this has always been a struggle for me. I hold onto:
Friendships and relationships
Momentos- objects that remind me of the past, of things I don’t want to forget
Traditions- they are the heart of our celebrations!
Expectations- both of myself and others
Regrets/past mistakes- I am pretty quick to forgive others, but not so easy on myself.
Are there things on this list that sound familiar to you? Maybe you have a hard time letting go of control or fear or anxiety. Whatever it is, we all know what it’s like to struggle to let go of something we really want to hold onto. It’s not easy, for sure.
Which brings me to this weekend.
Tomorrow morning we are going to pack up our Yukon (with half a Target store full of matching dorm decor) and make the seven-hour drive to take our oldest daughter to college. We are so excited for her and so grateful she actually has the opportunity to go, given the ongoing pandemic!
She’s my baby.
She’s the one who first made me a momma, the one we prayed about for years before the test finally came back positive. She’s the one that “mothers” her siblings and runs to the store for us and raps Hamilton songs in the Chick-fil-a drive-thru with me.
How am I supposed to let go of my baby?
How do you take your heart out of your chest and just drive away?
(And I thought teenage break-ups were hard! Sheesh!)
So, I find myself returning to these verses in Proverbs. I have prayed them over her strong-willed heart since she was little, and I will probably pray them over her every day of her life. But especially now, on this new adventure, these are the verses I’m praying.
For her, yes.
But also for me.
Because it is not my natural instinct to let her go. No, my instinct is to hold her close, to protect her, to keep all my little birds gathered together in my nest, tucked safely beneath my wing. Why should she fly away when she can stay here with us?
Oh, wait. She was born to fly, wasn’t she?
It’s the reason we’re here. It’s the reason we’ve spent the past 18 years training her, discipling her, parenting her, and guiding her. We didn’t do all that work so she could stay home and watch Youtube!
We did it so she could shine, so she could bring light to a world so full of darkness.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”
Standing on that cliff, I knew it was time. The guide smiled at me and nodded encouragingly. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, let go of the rope and leaned back. I took one step, and then another, slowly gaining confidence that I wasn’t going to fall. Before long, I was pushing back from the mountain, leaping and laughing, embracing the freedom and living my best life on the way down.
I trusted the guide. I believed the rope was going to hold me.
He was right; this was what I came here for. I was made for this!
And so is she.
It’s time to trust the Guide and let go.
What is it you need to let go of? Expectations? Fear? Control?
I’m praying God will give you the strength to do it, and that you will find joy and freedom as you do.
And if you think about it, will you ask the Lord to fill my momma-heart with an extra dose of peace on Monday? And pray for Jeff… I’m not sure a daddy ever really lets go of his little girl.
I am SUPER excited about partnering with you this month as we pray Scripture over our college students and teens! As mentioned in my previous post, these are not “perfect verses” or perfect prayers. They are simply a place to start! (You can read more about how I got the idea for 31 Days of praying Scripture over teens here!)
I encourage you to read the daily Scripture before you pray. I have done my best to keep the meaning of the verses in their intended context (we never want to pray Scripture for our own benefit in a way it wasn’t intended). Feel free to use the prayers I have written or pray your own- there is nothing magic or special about these prayers! And if these don’t resonate for your child in their given circumstance, hopefully it will spur you on to find some verses that do.
(Note: I selected these verses and wrote these prayers for young adults who are already walking with Jesus. If you are praying for a teen or young adult who is struggling with their faith or salvation, please reach out and I can give you some different verses to pray over them!)
There is power in prayer, but there is even more power in the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” As we pray the Word of God over the young adults and children in our lives, I believe that God will be working in ways we may not see here on earth, but that will impact His kingdom eternally. May it be so.
I also encourage you to pull out a photo of the college student or teen (or in my case, both!) who you are praying for and keep it with your Bible this month. As you pray, imagine the Lord placing a shield of faith around them, protecting them from the attacks of the enemy, so that these seeds of truth may be planted firmly in their hearts and minds without being stolen away.
Here’s a photo of our girls, just for fun:
I have several other students I will be praying for as well. Mamas, you know who you are- I’m covering your kids with you!
Now, onto the fun part…
Day 1: Philippians 3:13b-14
Father, as ______________________ begins a new school year, please help them forget what is behind and press on toward what is ahead. Let them step into this new adventure unhindered by the past, filled with hope for the days to come. May they press on towards the goal of knowing You, for which You have called them heavenward; may their relationship with You, both now and forever, be the prize they seek to gain.
Day 2: Hebrews 10:35-11:1
Father, I pray you will fill ___________________ with confidence in Your Truth. Help them persevere when they face trials, trusting that You will honor their faithfulness as they do Your will. Help them not shrink back when they face doubts or opposition, but give them faith to believe in You. May they be sure of the hope they find in You and certainthat You are present and working, even when they can’t see or feel You. Open the eyes of their heart to know You are there.
Day 3: Psalm 1:1-3
Father, may ____________________ be blessed as they walk daily with You. May they not keep company with those who delight in doing bad things or who would draw them away from You. Instead, may they delight in meditating on Your Word and in keeping Your ways. May they be like a tree planted near streams of water, so that their faith will not wither under pressure, but instead will yield fruit over time. Lord, as they drink deeply from Your Word, may they prosper in whatever they do for Your glory.
Day 4: Proverbs 3:3-4
Father, I pray You will write Your love and faithfulness on the tablet of _____________’s heart. May they allow these virtues to flow in and through them to the people they encounter each day. As they seek to live out their love for You, may they win good favor in the eyes of those around them and, most importantly, with You.
Day 5: Joshua 1:7-8
Father, please help _____________________ be strong and courageous. As they face new situations and a new environment, may they be careful to obey Your instructions and listen to the Holy Spirit, not turning away from You even a little bit, so that they may be successful as they follow Your path. May they keep Your Word always on their lips; may they meditate on it day and night, so that it will influence their thoughts, choices, and actions. May they prosper and find success through their faithfulness to You.
Day 6: James 1:5
Father, when ___________________ lacks wisdom and is searching for answers, may they not be deceived by the abundance of information and opinions around them. Instead, may they seek the truth from You and from Your Word, knowing that You give generously to all who ask without finding fault. And when they do seek wisdom from You, Lord, may it be given to them along with a heart to apply it.
Day 7: Matthew 5:14-16
Father, help ____________ remember that they are the Light of the world, a reflection of You in a world of darkness. When they are tempted to hide their faith or their true self, give them courage and strength to let You shine through them. May others be drawn to You by the light they see in them.
And that’s it for week one! Check back in next week for 31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teen & College Student: Week 2!
Also, if you know of someone who might find these verses helpful, would you mind sharing it with them? And I would love to know if you are joining me in this prayer challenge. If so, would you mind giving a shout out in the comments (here or on FB)? Just type, “I’m praying” or the names of those you’re praying for. Thanks!
In two weeks, we will take Sarah and drop her off at college.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of preparation going on in our home right now!
What is the best way to prepare for something new? Do you make lists or make piles? Do you wing it until the last minute?
I would imagine we all get ready in different ways.
I am a planner, and I have found that if I don’t prepare in advance, I miss things that are important. I might miss buying a Math book or forget to pack underwear. You know, important things.
We all know this school year is a bit different, what with the uncertainty of COVID and all. However, it was going to be different for our family anyway, with our oldest heading off to college! So a few weeks ago, amidst the growing piles of dorm stuff, I decided I needed to prepare.
I learned a long time ago that while my lists are helpful, the best thing I can do to prepare for something big is…
Yep, it’s true! When I forget to pack underwear, I just run to the store and buy more. It might be inconvenient, but it’s not exactly life changing. But when I forget to pray, I feel it. It changes everything.
Prayer makes all the difference.
I knew I wanted to cover Sarah (and her friends) with prayer as she steps out into her new college adventure (whatever that ends up looking like!), so I selected 31 Bible passagesto pray over her, one for each day of the month. They are not the “perfect college verses” or even necessarily the most applicable; they are simply a good place to start. And I knew if I didn’t plan for it in advance, I would find myself scrambling to find something every day, or worse- forget altogether.
So I chose some verses, and then went ahead and wrote out some prayers.
If you are anything like me, I tend to pray either very generally for my kids (Lord, let them love You!) or very selfishly (Lord, keep them safe. Lord, don’t let me kill them if they sass me again!). While there is nothing wrong with these prayers- I am a firm believer that God loves for us to come to Him with whatever is on our hearts- I have found thatpraying God’s Word releases an entirely different kind of power.
Some of these passages are verses I already pray over my kids on a regular basis. Some of them were shared with me by sweet friends (thank you!), and some of them came from my time with the Lord this past month. While I wrote the prayers with college students in mind, they easily apply to all teenagers, and many can be adapted for younger children as well.
I have decided to share them on my blog, thinking they might be helpful for some of you who are walking this life stage along with me. I will post a week’s worth at a time, and it is my prayer that God will use our collective prayers to empower young adults everywhere to claim His truths. May they shine brightly with the love of Christ in a world so desperately in need of Light!
Please feel free to share these Scriptures with anyone who might find them helpful. And start making a list of verses yourself… then share it with me! It takes a village, friends!
Check back here tomorrow for the Week One of 31 Days of Praying Scripture over Your Teen & College Student! I am super excited about what the Lord is going to do!
I’m sure no one else is having this problem, but it seems like every time I turn around, my kids are on electronics.
EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. TURN. AROUND.
One minute they are eating breakfast, the next minute… electronics.
One minute they are doing their chores, the next minute… electronics.
One minute they are playing outside, the next minute… yeah, you guessed it.
I am blaming it on the pandemic! When this thing started FOUR long months ago, we had no idea our not-really-school-but-still-kind-of-school year would eventually fade into our not-really-summer-but-still-kind-of-summer months, leaving us stuck in this weird in-between place.
Only with even less structure to our days.
What’s a parent to do?
I mean, don’t these kids know that when we go to their annual check-up the doctor is going to ask me how much time they spend on electronics? Umm… is there an option for EVERY SECOND OF EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY???
Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad.
(but if I’m honest, it really is)
Friends, it’s time for an intervention!
A little bit of electronic time is fine and can even be beneficial! But seriously, in our house, we have used up every ounce of “a little bit” before breakfast…
So, I am obviously not really writing this post for you, I am writing it for me. My guess is there may be others of you out there struggling with this same problem; but if not, I clearly need your help! So feel free to add suggestions in the comments or message me with ALL THE THINGS to help me be a better mom!
In the meantime, here are 13 ways I’ve come up with for helping my kids unplug from electronics and plug back into life!
13 Ways to Help Kids Unplug from Electronics and Plug into Life:
Hobbies (music, photography, art, movie-making)
Outside play (basketball, skateboarding, bikes, pool)
Creative Time (drawing, painting, crafting, Legos, etc)
Local Adventures (ice cream shops, hikes, parks, tourist attractions)
*Obviously how you apply these things will vary depending on the age of your kids, among other things. Bible Time could be individual “Quiet times” in their room, reading a Bible story together, learning about missionaries, or memorizing a chapter of Scripture in a month as a family (or some combination of these options). Exercise might be riding bikes in the neighborhood, a pick up basketball game with neighbors, a video workout on Netflix, swimming, trampoline, etc. Cooking could involve your teens making dinner for the family or your little ones making cookies with mom or an older sibling. You get the point.
And there’s one more thing I feel like I should add, mainly because God has made it very clear to me that this is key:
Changing my kids’ behavior will be ineffective without also changing my own.
If I’m honest, I- the mom, the one in charge, the role model and example for my children– spend WAY too much time on electronics myself.
I find myself filling in the cracks of my to do list with social media. I will pick up my phone to send an important text and put it down 30 minutes later after getting sucked into the Facebook vortex or scrolling through Instagram. I go online to find a recipe and end up following a rabbit trail of various news articles and personality quizzes.
I cannot ask them to get off their phone if I am constantly on mine.
I know, I know- we all are desperate for connection right now, so I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk to our friends. And many of us are online for work, so we can’t exactly unplug anytime we want. I get it! Since entering the “writing” world, I find myself constantly distracted (not just online, either… sometimes with chores, in a book, and even just in my own thoughts!).
But I also know the Lord is telling me that, while it’s important for me to help my kids unplug from electronics, it’s even more important for me to be extra intentional about how I am spending my time.
Over the years I’ve learned that when I am purposeful about when and how I’m going to get my “work” done (which may be business-related, or it may be prepping dinner, cleaning the bathroom, or replying to emails, etc.), it enables me to be present for my family the rest of the time.
Full disclosure- I’ve done a pretty rotten job of this lately.
So, in addition to helping my kids intentionally structure their time and better organizing my own schedule, I am also looking through the list above to see which of these things I need to invest in with them.
Which ones would be really fun if we did them together? If you’re a mom of littles, you may be asking yourself, “Which of these things are they able to do by themselves or at the table with me while I do something else, and for which ones should they have my focused attention?”
Then finally, how can I remind myself to stop and be fully present when they want to share their thoughts and creations with me or when they want me to join in the action?
Believe it or not, we only have ONE month of summer left (I am not even going to think about pandemic-schooling yet, so Shhhhhhh!!!). Let’s challenge each other to unplug a little -or a lot, whichever the case may be- from electronics and spend more time truly plugged in to our people.
If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments! I figure after a week or so, I’m going to need some more suggestions…
For most of us, that means a day off of work, yummy food on the grill, and quality time with family, preferably near water of some sort- a pool, a lake, or an ocean.
I wonder how many people actually pause the celebrations in order to reflect and remember?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but growing up in an Air Force family gave me a much larger worldview than many people have. While I didn’t enjoy uprooting from my friends every other year to move to yet another “home,” there are many aspects of the military life I am grateful for today. One of the many virtues my “brat-life” gave me is an appreciation of freedom.
We often hear it said, “Freedom isn’t free,” and it’s true. But even after 9-11, I’m not sure most of us really grasp the dangers constantly lurking in the shadows, and the efforts required to keep them at bay.
Freedom looks different when you live on a military base overseas where cars are routinely checked for explosives and “bomb threat drills” are commonplace at school.
Freedom looks different when a family member is gone for months at a time (or more), missing milestones and everyday life, while stepping into harm’s way on a daily basis for the benefit of others.
Freedom looks different when those family members finally come home, but they are different, changed. The price they pay continues through their emotional isolation, struggling marriages, and continual nightmares.
And freedom looks different when someone’s parent, brother, sister, or friend doesn’t make it home at all. When they pay the ultimate price.
Friends, freedom definitely comes at a high cost. What makes it even more valuable is those who are paying that price have chosen to do so. We live in a country with a voluntary military (as opposed to mandatory required service), so these men and women willingly sign up to defend us and protect our nation’s ideals, both here and around the world. They do so knowing what is expected of them and what possible outcomes lie ahead. But they believe in freedom, protection, and liberty enough to answer the call.
Theirs is a call of courage, of commitment, of sacrifice.
Over the past few months, we have been reminded just how many freedoms we enjoy daily that we often take for granted. Education, employment, and entertainment, to name a few… so many things that many people in the world will never have access to. The loss of those things has been felt tremendously in recent days. Perhaps now we have a greater understanding and appreciation of our freedom.
So today, as we enjoy the many liberties we so often take for granted in this great nation, let’s take a few minutes to remember those who sacrificed so much to ensure these freedoms. Let’s treasure these moments with our families, and remember those who have an empty seat at their table today.
And let’s try to live in a manner worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf.
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” –John15:13
I know most of us are still at home with our kids as we continue social distancing and “crisis-schooling.” And if your house is anything like mine, you probably have plenty of plastic eggs in a variety of colors littering the floor, counter, and anywhere else they may have landed. What in the world do you do with them now that Easter is over?
Well, one of the things that makes learning so fun in a school classroom is learning centers. These are areas where teachers are able to get creative by taking basic learning concepts and teaching them as a game or activity instead of in worksheet form. When we were homeschooling, I found this was a wonderful way to reinforce concepts we were learning that otherwise felt redundant or boring. Who wants to force their kids to repeat their math facts one more time? But make them into a game and suddenly my kids were begging for more!
So I thought I’d share a few ideas from our homeschooling days of ways you can use those colorful plastic eggs after Easter as part of your “crisis-schooling”- or maybe just to keep the little people in your house busy for awhile. (And if your little people have turned into big people, I have a few ideas for teens, too, so skip to the end!)
Color Sort: Start with mismatched eggs and have children match each top with its correct bottom and tell you the color.
Big A, Little a: Use a sharpie to write an upper case letter (A) on the top and a lower case letter (a) on the bottom of an egg. Repeat with different letters. Use mismatched eggs so they are matching the letters, not the colors. Take the eggs apart and let them match away!
Number Matching: Use a sharpie or stickers to write a number (3) on the bottom of an egg and the appropriate number of dots/marks/etc. (***) on the top of an egg. Mismatched colors are best for this one, too. Take the eggs apart and have them match the numbers with the same number of dots.
Noise Makers: Now, you may not like me much after this one, but little ones love to shake things and make lots of noise, so this is the perfect combination! Fill eggs with different hard items such as rice, beans, sand, cereal, and rocks, and then glue or tape them shut. Have kids try to guess what’s inside them and/or use them as musical instruments!
Activity Egg Hunt: (See below; last item in Elementary)
Easter Egg Math: Write the equation on one half of the egg (4×2=) and the answer on the other (8). Mismatched eggs work best so they are actually doing the math and not just matching colors. This works well with all ages because you can do adding, subtracting, multiplication, division, and even fractions- whatever your child needs to work on!
Easter Egg Word Families: This is a great game for beginning readers. Google a list of simple rhyming words or word families such as “rat, mat, sat, fat” and “sock, rock, lock, clock.” Then use a sharpie to write the ending sound (“at” or “ock”) on the top half of the egg and the beginning sounds (“r, m, s, f” or “s, r, l, cl”) spaced evenly around the bottom half of the egg, so that when the two halves are connected they form a word. Then show your child how to twist the egg to form different words.
Easter Egg Letter Scramble: I wish I had known about this activity when my kids were younger. I found the idea at hangingaroundinprimary.com and it looks so fun! Use Scrabble tiles (or cut out individual letters on squares of paper) to form words, then put all the letters for each word inside an egg. Set a timer and see how quickly your child can unscramble all the words. You can do this with sight words, spelling words, Easter-themed words, etc.
Easter Egg Compound Words: Write two words that form a compound word on each half of an egg (butter fly, rain bow, race car, base ball, fire works, moon light, sun shine, etc) so they will make one word when put together. Mix up the tops and bottoms, and have children attempt to form the correct words (and laugh at the new words they create).
Easter Egg Contractions: Write different contractions on individual slips of paper (won’t, can’t, shouldn’t, hasn’t, she’ll, etc) and then write the two combining words on each half of the egg so they line up together. Have kids locate the correct slip of paper and put it in the corresponding egg.
Activity Egg Hunt: We have done multiple variations of this game and it will keep your littles entertained for days! Write various activities on slips of paper and put them inside the eggs before you hide them. When children find an egg, they open it up and do what it says, then either put the egg in their basket or leave the egg there for others to find (if there’s more than one child hunting eggs). If children are too little to read, they can bring their paper to you or you can put pictures in the eggs instead of words, or even team them up with an older sibling. Activities can range from physical tasks like jumping jacks, sit ups, and shooting baskets, to singing silly songs, telling a joke, or acting like an animal. Check out Aliceandlois.com for a free printable of ideas for younger children. And keep reading for some ideas for the whole family!
Work-out Egg Hunt: If you have been eating a few too many cookies the past few weeks like I have, or if your work-out routine (what’s that? Lol!) is getting a little predictable these days, this might be a fun way to shake it up! Fill each egg with a slip of paper containing different circuit training activities, such as 20 sit ups, 50 jumping jacks, 30 squats, 20 lunges, 20 burpees, etc. and hide the eggs around the house or yard. As you find each egg, open it and do the activity. Leave the eggs for someone else to find and either keep count of the eggs or do as many as you can in 15 minutes.
Photo/Video Egg Hunt: There are lots of ways to be creative with this one, so use your imagination! You can hide the eggs and have your kids take pics of all the eggs they can find in a certain amount of time, or you can fill each egg with a photo or video task, such as “Do a self-timer pic of yourself doing something crazy,” “Make a Tik-Tok (if your kids don’t have tik-tok, they can make a pretend one),” “Do a slow-motion video of yourself doing a trick shot,” or “Video yourself reciting your favorite Bible verse while hanging upside down from the couch.” If your teens are not into social media, try something like “Video yourself shooting 5 baskets in a row,” “Video yourself singing the chorus of a Hamilton song,” or “Make a video reciting the Periodic table” (hey, some kids might find that fun… Mine would rebel!)- fill in the blanks with whatever your kids are interested in. Then look at the photos and videos together afterwards as a family!
Smartphone Clue Hunt: This is a really cool idea I found over at blog.bitsofeverything.com! She has printable bar codes you can cut out and scan which will lead your teens on a clue hunt to different places around your yard. If some of the clues don’t fit at your house, no worries- just leave them out! She also has printable clues in case the technology gives you trouble. Hop on over to her website to find everything you need, and read through the comments for some additional ideas (like adding a golden egg with Chick-fil-a gift cards or how to adapt and make your own barcodes to scan)!
So, that’s just a few ideas to keep your family busy and the eggs off the floor! Feel free to share any other ideas you come up with!
Friends, it finally dawned on our kids last weekend that we would not be able to go to church this Sunday.
“Wait, you mean we’ll be stuck at home on EASTER SUNDAY?? Mom, it won’t be Easter if we’re not at church! That’s never happened before! This is not okay. We have to do something…”
If you know me well, you can imagine how excited I was about seizing this teachable moment. My girls say I have a “small group leader voice” that I use in moments like this… umm, whatever. But if I do, I’m sure I pulled it out for this one!
“Well, guys,” I said (probably in my SGL voice), “that’s not exactly true. What are we really celebrating on Easter? Think back to what happened that first Easter morning…”
Where do we find the disciples? (hint: They weren’t at the temple, where they?)
Where do we find Mary? (hint again: Sshh! She wasn’t at the temple either.)
And where do we find Jesus?(okay, so they got the point!)
The reality is we have never had a better opportunity to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus more authentically than this year. After all, the first Easter happened outside in a garden and inside a living room and wherever else people happened to be when they heard the good news. The life-changing news.
“I have seen the Lord!”
Do you remember what it was like the first time you saw the Lord?
I mean, when you truly realized what Jesus had done for you- that He loved you enough to die for you, suffered unspeakable pain and loss for you- and not because you and I were worthy, but because we are worth it to Him?
I was a teenager when someone shared with me that I wasn’t here by accident; that God created me and loved me and had a purpose for my life. For the first time I began to understand how much Jesus willingly went through for me and what it cost Him. It still overwhelms me to think anyone could love me that much!
And then I found out the rest of the story…He is alive! He rose from the dead, appeared to a bunch of people, and went up to heaven, leaving His Holy Spirit here to live within us and guide us. Wow.
He didn’t just love us in the past, but He loves us now, and He wants to love us forever!
That’s pretty good news! And it changed me.
Friends, have you seen the Lord? I mean, really seen Him? Have you seen Him working in your life, changing your heart, guiding you in wisdom, transforming your perspective, bringing beauty from ashes? When you do, it changes everything.
He changes everything.
So this Easter, as we gather in our homes with our children, let’s make the most of this opportunity to tell them the Good news. Let’s not just read them a story from a Book (although we should!), but also share the truth of a God who is alive today, who loves them unconditionally and is active in their life. Let’s help them connect the dots between His story and their story, so they too can tell others, “ I have seen the Lord!”
In case you’re looking for some ideas, here are a few things the Heath Fam is planning to do over the next few days to celebrate Easter and Holy Week at home:
(Btw, you should know I always have A LOT of ideas… and we usually only do about 20% of them! But I figure 20% is better than 0%, right? #winning)
Talk about what was important enough for Jesus to do and say in His last week of life.
Thursday morning:Read/discuss how Jesus washed the disciples feet (John 13:3-17) and think of ways our family can serve others, then do it- make cards, give to the Food Pantry, etc.
Thursday evening: Remember why they were celebrating Passover Feast (read about Moses and the plagues from a Children’s Bible or watch The Prince of Egypt) and make the connection between Passover & Easter, then read Mark 14:12-26 and take Holy Communion together. Maybe take the kids outside to pray, as Jesus did, for God’s Will to be done here on earth, even when it comes at great cost to us.
Friday evening:Recount the events following the Last Supper leading up to Jesus’ death. Maybe watch a reenactment from a Jesus movie? We are hoping to do an informal Good Friday service with our kids using readings from the events preceding the crucifixion and Jesus’ last words from the cross. If we do, I’ll try to video it and share it on Facebook in case it’s helpful to some of you. *Editing to add a link to an on-line Good Friday Service with Chris Tomlin and Max Lucado!
Saturday: Discuss how sometimes God is silent and it feels like He’s not working, but it’s only because we can’t see what is happening behind the scenes…
Sunday: Time to celebrate!! Lots of ideas:
Wake the kids up with some jammin’ praise music!
Read about that first Easter morning when Jesus appeared to His friends.
Worship online with our church family (First Redeemer) and… possibly have a cul-de-sac worship service with everyone in their own driveways.
For littles, use Resurrection Eggs or make resurrection rolls.
Your celebration can be simple or extravagant; do whatever works for your family. And feel free to share more ideas in the comments! But don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate Easter like never before. Oh wait…
CONGRATULATIONS!! If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a milkshake or something! The posts in this series have been quite a bit longer than I usually write, but the information on this topic is just so important, I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it. So thanks for sticking with me! Hopefully, you have found it helpful.
If you are just joining us, this is the last in a three part series on Parenting Teens in a Virtual World. Click HERE to read Part 1 and HERE to read Part 2. This post will make a lot more sense once you have all that information!
Today we’re going to talk about what to include in a teen technology contract. But first, I want to give you three reasons WHY creating and signing a technology contract with your teen is so important.
First, it makes your family expectations clear up front. It’s hard to argue with something you signed.
Second, it makes the consequences clear so they don’t have to be negotiated in the heat of the battle.
And third, it gives you and your teen some accountability to help you both stick to your guidelines.
So now that we all agree on why we want a technology contract, where do we start?
If you have used the first two parts of this series as conversation starters with your teens, you should have a pretty good idea by now of which boundaries are important to you and what guidelines you want to set in place.
Just to recap, here are a few things for you to consider:
Approval before making new accounts
Parent phone checks and sharing passwords
A family charging station
“Turn in/Off-line” times
What they may not view or post (bullying, profanity, porn, pics of others without permission)
What they may view and post (“Anything your mom, nana, and pastor would approve of”)
Social Media breaks (both scheduled and spontaneous)
Technology-free zones (ie. No tech in bedrooms, Face-time only in family rooms, etc)
What to do when you receive unkind, unwanted, or inappropriate messages
Video game restrictions- ratings, content, private chats, time limits
Deleting texts, screenshots, etc.
CONSIDER YOUR FAMILY VALUES
Your guidelines should be based on your family values. For instance, our girls are not allowed to post a photo of themselves in a swimsuit unless they clear it with us first. Obviously, this is not a rule most families have, but we feel very strongly about teaching our girls to see themselves as more than just the sum of their “parts,” and this is one of the ways we enforce that value. They also agree to only Face-time with boys in family spaces and not in their bedrooms, which we hope will help them learn to set boundaries in their relationships. You certainly don’t need to copy our guidelines! But I encourage you to create a contract that enforces the values you have spent so many years investing in your kids.
KNOW YOUR TEEN
Know which areas will pose the greatest temptation to your teen and which dangers put them most at risk. Use your contract to provide some accountability and protection for them. Take your responsibilities as their parent to heart; set your boundaries and guidelines accordingly and commit to enforcing them so they know they can count on you.
DISCUSS APPROPRIATE CONSEQUENCES
No matter how awesome your teen is, there is a good possibility they will break the contract at some point. Don’t freak out- just expect it… and then if they don’t, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! In the meantime, discuss appropriate consequences for various guidelines and include them in your contract. That way, when it comes up, the consequence is easier (okay, less difficult) to enforce because they already agreed to it.
REEVALUATE THE CONTRACT OVER TIME
As your kids get older, they will have either proven themselves trustworthy or untrustworthy. Either case will likely require some adapting of your contract. If they consistently represent themselves well, treat others kindly, and maintain healthy time (and place) restrictions, you may want to honor them by changing or being more flexible with some of your guidelines. Likewise, if they are continually disregarding time limits or other boundaries, you may need to revise the contract with clearer expectations or more effective consequences. Whatever you do, don’t be like us… we have gradually relaxed our boundaries without ever revisiting our contract and are now finding it difficult to enforce anything because we don’t remember what the contract says!
If you have not talked with your teen (guy or girl) about pornography, do not put a device in their hands until you do. I cannot emphasize this enough!! Your kids WILL see things, hear things, stumble across things, and likely even search for things at some point. It is not a question of IF but WHEN. And once they see it, it will call to them- forbidden things usually do.
Once you’ve covered the basics and opened the door to conversation, here’s the bottom line you want to communicate: Don’t view it and tell someone if you do. This is super important!! Bad things grow in the dark… your teen needs to feel safe bringing it into the light. They need to know they will NOT get in trouble if they tell you, it is normal to be curious (even about same gender), and they will likely be tempted to do it again. They will need an accountability partner and you want it to be you, or someone you trust.
I love how Scarymommy.com addresses it in her teen contract:
“I agree not to view pornography. I understand that sex is a wonderful and healthy part of an adult life, but that pornography is a different thing than sex, and not healthy for a young person (NOTE: I would delete the phrase ‘for a young person’). I understand that I cannot control the images I see once I start looking at a pornography page or video, and those images will never leave my brain, and that can be harmful to my emotional and spiritual health. I agree that if I accidentally stumble across pornography or a friend shows it to me, I will stop watching (NOTE: I would add ‘and tell one of my parents’). I understand that pornography is a complicated reality and that many of the young women and men in the videos that pop up online are hurting and being treated badly. It’s natural to be curious” (but I agree to do what Iknow is right instead of what I feel like doing.)
Just FYI, I stopped there because she goes on to say that they can make their own choice about viewing pornography when they are a young adult, and I strongly advise against including that. After more than 25 years in ministry of various kinds, Jeff and I have seen way too many lives and marriages damaged and destroyed by pornography addictions. I do not believe it is healthy, respectful, or beneficial to anyone, male or female, young or old. It is harmful to those who are involved in making it, those who watch it, and those in relationships with them.
Moving on, here are some sample contracts to give you ideas:
This one by yourmomhasablog.com really focuses on the teen’s heart and relationship with Christ. I love how she includes Scripture to go along with each of the guidelines, and that she calls it an “agreement” versus a contract. Whatever you decide, it is wise to have each point start with “I agree…”
This contract by commonsensemedia.org is more generic, but also covers some areas that aren’t mentioned in the others.
Hopefully, this will help you develop your own contract or agreement with your teen and enable you to better navigate this journey into the digital world with them. There is some scary stuff out there, but we don’t have to be afraid! As I mentioned in part two, our best weapon against the enemy is prayer.
Social media and technology offer a great opportunity for our teens to grow in the areas of kindness, respect, purity, character, integrity, forgiveness, and boldness, among other things. Let’s agree to walk this journey with them- prayerfully, consistently, and with wisdom- and trust the Lord to direct their paths.
**If this series has been helpful to you or created good conversations in your family, will you please share that with me, either in the comments or in a private message? I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for stopping by!
Do you remember what it was like when you were having your first baby? If you were anything like me, you read all the books and talked to all the people and bought all the stuff, because that’s what good parents did. But the reality was, we had no clue what we were doing!
I will never forget the first night we brought Sarah home from the hospital. She was screaming her little head off and then doing this weird gagging thing, like a cat with a hairball. As her face turned purple, we panicked and called the nurse line, and all I could think was, “How in the world am I supposed to keep this little person alive?!”
Parenting teens in the technology age can feel a lot like that.
It’s scary and dangerous and there are so many unknowns. It can be hard to know where to start and even harder to control. We want to protect our children and give them independence at the same time, all without causing World War III in our homes. Is that even possible?
In Part 1 of this series, we covered some things you can do before your teens enter the digital world (you can read about that here). Today I want to share some things we have learned as we’ve navigated this challenge with our teen girls over the past few years. Much of this wisdom was passed down to us from people much wiser than we are. Some of it we have figured out on our own, and some of it we are still trying to implement.
Please do not think we have mastered any of this! On any given day (including today), you will find us either confronting or ignoring any number of these suggestions in our own home. We have loosened our boundaries in certain areas where our girls have proven themselves trustworthy (and also, let’s be honest, where we have gotten lazy), but many of these things really are essential for the well-being of our teens.
So I encourage you to read through this and discuss these suggestions with your teen. Hopefully this conversation will help you as you develop boundaries and expectations for your family and put together your Technology Contract (more on that in Part 3!).
The following bullet points are written as though addressing your teen; there are some additional details in the talking points section directed towards parents. This is obviously not exhaustive- feel free to add any additional suggestions in the comments!
Keep all maps & locations turned off. Always keep your privacy settings as private as possible.
Never give out (or post anything which will give out) private information, such as your full name, age, address, phone #’s, school or activity locations, etc.
Only “friend” and “follow” people you know personally very well. Ask permission before following famous people, etc. Be careful about who you are allowing to influence you!
Never block your parents from seeing any of your posts. If you feel the need to block them (other than for a surprise party!), chances are you shouldn’t be doing it.
NEVER agree to meet someone in person without your parents knowledge, even people you think you know well. Online traffickers are sneaky and manipulative; it just isn’t worth the risk.
Always ask people’s permission before you post a photo of them or tag them in a photo.
Before you post anything, stop and THINK: Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind? If not, don’t post it! And don’t post anything your parents, grandparents, siblings, and youth pastor would not approve of. This includes profanity, bullying, humor at someone else’s expense, naked or “sexy” pics, etc.
If you see something inappropriate, tell your parents immediately, and DO NOT DELETE/UNFOLLOW/ETC it until your parents have seen it. This includes negative comments, images, bullying, and more. Please care more about doing the right thing than protecting your friends. (NOTE: Most teens don’t know you can be held legally responsible for images you receive that are not reported, not just what you send.)
Keep an updated list of all your accounts and passwords where your parents can access it. Understand that having your parents “follow” you and occasionally check your phone provides some accountability to keep you safe and help you make wise choices.
Stay away from temptation. Don’t use the “Search” and “For You” features unless you are looking for someone specific. Don’t Facetime from your bedroom. The Bible cautions us again and again to flee temptation for good reason; just stay away. And if (or when) you do accidentally see something you shouldn’t, tell a parent or trusted adult. It may seem like it’s no big deal, but trust me- bad things grow in the dark. Bringing it into the light will help you process your feelings and provide some accountability.
Remember Social Media can be used for “good or evil”… be the one who uses it for good! Make the most of your opportunity to be a Light in a world that needs hope.
Sane: (Stress/Emotional Health)
Have a central charging station (not in bedrooms) where all family members, including parents, charge their phones overnight. Set a time (9pm?) for all phones and devices to be put away each night.
Limit your platforms. The temptation is to do all the things, but no one can really manage more than one or two platforms well anyway. Choose one or two which are most useful to you and keep it at that.
Limit your technology time. It is so easy to get sucked into the digital vortex, where 20 minutes somehow turns into 2 hours! We need time and space to rest, to be creative, and to connect with physical people. Decide now how much of your time you are willing to give away to your phone or video games, and set restrictions to hold yourself accountable.
Don’t confuse important with urgent. You don’t have to immediately answer every text/snap/DM, join every game request, or reply to every comment (even if it shows that you read it). Nor should you expect others to be at your beckon call. Respect yourself and your friends enough to give each other space without constantly taking things personally.
It’s okay to stay silent. You don’t have to tell the whole world how mad you are or how much that person hurt you. You don’t have to confront every lie or engage in every argument. Learning when to speak and when to stay silent is an important life skill- social media offers a great opportunity to develop discernment.
Know when to step away. Social media and technology affect everyone differently; if you feel stressed, angry, or sad and you don’t really know why, try getting offline for a few days. The constant comparison and desire for “likes,” “followers,” “wins,” or “kills” can create pressure without you even realizing it. Stepping away for awhile gives you a chance to breathe and reset yourself. Do this occasionally, even when you don’t feel like it is necessary, just to make sure you are mastering it instead of letting it master you.
Here are some additional talking points for parents, explaining some of these guidelines in more detail. If all of this is new to you, take a few minutes and read through the rest of this.
Talking Points for Parents
Our girls started with Facebook. Since it is a platform used mostly by adults, it helped them learn not to post anything they wouldn’t want their parents, their friends’ parents, youth pastor, etc. reading. It also gave them a safe place to get their feet wet without embarrassing themselves with nerdy posts, etc. This is especially true if they are gaining access during their middle school years. My girls look back at some of the things they posted when they were 14 and are mortified (and grateful it was on FB and not Instagram where all their friends would have seen it! Ha!)
Encourage them to use their platform for good. There are so many ways they can be a LIGHT: texting friends who are struggling, sharing verses or encouraging posts about what the Lord is teaching them, making sure their words are kind and uplifting, confronting false ideology in love with Truth, etc. Make sure you notice when you see them doing this and encourage them!
Keep an eye on their followers and the people they follow. If you take the time to show them how easy it is to gather information on people with a public account, they should not argue too much on this point. But teens often feel like a friend of a friend isn’t really a stranger, and neither is that guy or girl they talked to for 3 minutes at their theater competition or baseball tournament. The people they follow have a voice in their life (this includes the “famous” people they follow). This is a great opportunity to talk about choosing wisely who we allow to influence us.
Hold them accountable. Just knowing their parents are going to see what they post (and what their friends comment) will provide a level accountability which helps keep them out of trouble. Require them to give you all their passwords; “like” their posts and talk to them about what they’re doing so they know you’re paying attention.
Our kids know that we will both follow them on social media AND monitor their social media and texting activity from their phones. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. I don’t care how great your kid is or how much they love Jesus, follow rules, etc. It is imperative that you check on them occasionally. There is no such thing as a perfect kid, and there are all kinds of things that happen that are difficult for them to talk to us about. They need us to walk alongside them in this journey.
***NOTE: This is not an opportunity for you to spy on your kid or learn all their secrets. It is more about scanning to make sure you’re not missing anything… are there signs that they are depressed or anxious, lying to their friends or you, being bullied or bullying others, etc.? And if you find something, try not to freak out! We have had to have multiple conversations with our daughters about things that we have found, and it has rarely been as bad as it seemed. Take time to pray about it before your confront anything. Often you can approach it in a way that doesn’t relate back to their phone; just bringing up the topic creates an opportunity for them to share what is going on. We need to choose our battles wisely. If we are constantly confronting them with things they post and text, it is likely they will eventually shut us out and hide their online activity from us. That is definitely not what we’re going for.
Limit their platforms. Seriously, as an adult I have a difficult time monitoring how much time I spend on social media. This is an even greater challenge for teens! They don’t need access to everything. Help them determine which one or two apps will best serve their purpose and limit it to that. Snapchat is extremely difficult for parents to monitor, so I don’t suggest starting with it. We showed our girls an article interviewing the creators of Snapchat in which they share how they created the app for the sole purpose of “sexting.” This was eye-opening to our girls and helped them understand why it was not something we wanted them to use. Our oldest daughter does have it now, but that came after several years of earning our trust in how she handles herself online and in real life. She shares her snaps with us… mostly they just send each other pics of half their face or with the camera looking up their nose. Not sure why that’s fun, but apparently it is…
Help them recognize when their connectivity is stressing them out and let them know it’s okay to step back for awhile (or for good). Some people cannot handle the constant comparison to other people’s lives or the pressure that comes with waiting for “likes.” They might find themselves feeling anxious or left out or angry; they may start being tempted to do things they don’t want to do or become someone they are not in order to fit in. If so, they need to step back. One of our girls would bring us her phone on her own every few weeks and ask us to keep it for a few days so she could have a break. She knew she needed a break, but she also knew she wasn’t strong enough to step back on her own.
Beware of the Search Feature: the “Search” feature is one of the most dangerous parts of Social Media. A friend told me this was the reason her boys wouldn’t ever have Instagram, so we checked it out… within the first five minutes we saw a man expose himself, as well as a college-age girl “vlogging” in her car, who then ended up masturbating on camera! WHAT???? So we basically just explained to our girls the kinds of things they would see, that they couldn’t “un-see” those things, and that our expectation was for them to not use the Search feature (or videos/people you might like, etc) unless they were searching for a specific friend. Protective software (like Covenant Eyes) does not monitor inside apps, btw, so we basically just had to trust them. Again, we know them well enough to know that they would not really be interested in that, just like they are not interested in viewing the trash on Tik-Tok. But we still monitor and try to keep on top of whatever they ARE watching.
Parents, we must follow through! If we say we are going to follow their accounts or check their devices, we must actively do so. If they agree to set time limits, we must enforce them. Our teens have enough friends; they need us to be the parents!
Above all, pray. Pray for your teens- for their protection, their safety, their purity, their influence, their relationship with you, their friends, and their relationship with God. Ask the Lord to reveal anything hidden that needs to be brought into the light, and to prompt your heart when something isn’t right. Every single time I have found something in our girls’ digital life that needed addressing has been a direct result of a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Of all the things we do, prayer is the most effective tool we have in navigating these digital waters with our teens.
Do you have anything to add (to this very long post!!)? Feel free to comment! And click HERE for Part 3 on developing a Technology Contract with your teens…