Have you ever faced big stress and your children add to it by acting out?
Here you are, trying your best to hold it together, keeping the family boat of life steady in turbulent water. Randomly, it seems, they begin melting down, raging and/or being generally uncooperative. The family boat is now spinning wildly on top of the turbulent water, and your stress cortisol levels skyrocket!
Been there, done that, have the t-shirt?!
In times past, the parental model appeared to revolve around stoicism. To keep all matters of stress—family trouble, sickness to the point of death, financial difficulty, relational strain, etc.—completely quiet and out of earshot of the children to protect them.
This is honorable.
However, parents carry those heavy burdens, which consume massive amounts of energy, and could erupt into a parental outburst disproportionate to the missteps of the children.
Today, social media, which fuels much of the cultural climate, has fostered an environment where almost nothing is private. It has flipped the social relating model to full exposure without privacy. Thus, children are shielded from virtually nothing. It’s complete sensory overload, and damaging to healthy growth stages.
Neither of these models are good and healthy.
The reason children act out in various ways when you’re facing big stress is because your children sense and feel it. They don’t have language for it. But they are feeling it—and carrying it (sharing in your suffering as we do with Jesus and His people, Phil 3:10). Thus, they release the tension and concern physically (act out in some way) for which their soul and spirit do not have language.
Their soul may erupt into verbal-emotional or emotional-physical outbursts because they have no other way to process the load they feel. Their spirit may erupt their body and/or mouth in an attempt to get your attention because something is not right, and they know it. (This is excellent when their spirit is seeking to be heard, because as we lead them to intercede with us, they have ability to release solutions we did not even know Father had.)
Here is the paradigm shift. No matter how hard you try to handle your parental responsibility and shield your children from the trials you are facing, they are in the battle with you, feeling it and sharing the load.
Take the time to center yourself so you can speak from a steady place and not a fearful one (they will follow your lead).
Use age-appropriate language (leave trauma, fear-invoking, and sordid details out).
Give them a brief overview of what is facing you (If you’re under strain and don’t know the source, just be honest on that point, and let them know it’s not their fault. Don’t dump your emotional load on them, and don’t keep it all in.).
Tell them you would value, and need, their prayers (you and your children are a micro-church).
Tell them this truth from Matthew. Open the Bible and read them Matthew 18:19-20: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (NIV). It only takes TWO to come into agreement about an issue on earth to get it resolved—with JESUS showing up to honor the agreement! That is one parent and one child. If there is more, great. If not, it’s enough. (Some situations do take more prayer pressure than one sitting. That doesn’t mean you’re not getting the breakthrough. It means there was more than one part to break through.)
Start with your thanksgiving and praise, then offer your prayer request. Ask if they have anything to add. If they do, great. If they do not, it is a good starting point! End by agreeing verbally: “In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ AMEN.” (Our AMENS are our hearty agreement on earth to His YES from Heaven, 2 Cor. 1:20).
My prayer for you:
Father thank You for these parents, children and families. Turn their hearts to You and to each other. Grace them and empower them to fulfill Your royal law to love each other by helping carry each other’s burdens. Encourage the parents that these trials are training times for their children, not just greater loads to carry parentally. Give them grace to understand where these outbursts are coming from; grace to step back emotionally; grace to redirect the tension into a holy training time and plan of action (starting with family prayer). Encourage the parents with the truth that, together with the Lord Jesus Christ, their micro-church is being heard on High and answers are breaking through. Strengthen, encourage, grace, heal and fill them, parents and children, with Your Holy Spirit, as You, Lord Jesus Christ, teach them to carry each other’s burdens and learn how to use their spiritual weapons (of prayer, faith, etc.). Thank You for personally showing up in the midst of the prayer times! In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ amen.
Crystal Wade, copyright 2018