Should we Shield Young Children from Our Stress?

Fun question for today, I think we got this from Joey in our Five Minute Fatherhood group. And that was basically, should we shield young children from our stress or another way he kind of put it was, “How, or to what extent do we cushion our children from the demands placed upon us as adults while still including them as part of the family team on mission? I suppose it’s important to preserve their childhood without the burdens of adulthood, but I also don’t want to shield them to the point of destroying that family team element.” I love this question because I think it’s actually a really, really, really good question. I actually believe there’s some things that we should include kids on earlier. I think so many times we shield them too much or we pretend like the real world is not the real world.

I know that might sound weird, but our philosophy is, we have toddlers and we’re already talking about things like death, and we’re already talking about things like… Some other things, because they’re out there and they’re probably thinking about them already because they see it every day. Little bugs die and this and that, but it’s okay to be appropriate. So another way I like to say it is, we tend to mirror our kids, meaning we like to be honest and real with them from day one, but we tend to mirror how their intensity of asking. So if it’s a four year old inquisitively, just like, “Oh, that’s interesting. What’s that?” Then I’ll maybe give a couple sentences back with almost that same tone.

But if it’s a 15 year old asking the philosophical nature of death and all these things, that might be an hour conversation, it’s more serious. I just think you have to match their tone, that’s a helpful rule for us. I don’t know. We’re still in the young stage, so I don’t know how that progresses. I definitely think stress is a good way to put it. You’re not wanting to put stress or burden on them. You’re wanting to inform them as resilient disciples of Jesus. And so those are two different things. How would you say that, Jeremy?

Yeah. It’s important to understand you guys, that children, they don’t know what any of this stuff means. So if you ever watch a tragedy take place, a car accident in front of my four year old, what you’ll notice is what they do is they spin around and stare at their parents, especially their father. And man, if they see you freaking out, if you’re on an airplane and you’re scared to death, they feed off of your faith or off of your stress. And so a lot of this is, if you’re really trusting the Lord and you’re going through a really challenging season, then it’s important for you, you can bring your children into that because you can also bring them into your faith or into your trust. “Hey guys, we’re having a really hard time paying the mortgage and we need more finances. Can you guys pray for us? Let’s pray together as a family team.”

And then they see you release that and they don’t know what it means to have struggle with paying the mortgage. What they know is, “What are you saying?” And if you’re a panicking, they’re panicking. And what I would say is, you don’t want your kids to be exposed to your panic. You want them to be exposed to your faith. And so if you’re still wrestling through… You’re the leader, so if you’ve ever been a part of a team and the leader gives up hope, the leader starts to panic, then we’re all freaking out. So I think that’s a much bigger variable than the age of the child. And so if you are responding appropriately and in trust, I think actually the younger, like Jeff was saying, they’re just going to learn that at a younger age. But man, if you’re struggling and wrestling and you’re unloading your stress on your kids at a young age, that’s not probably super healthy for them to try to absorb that and they’re just not spiritually prepared to figure out how to handle those things.

And so I’d encourage you guys, treat your family like a team, go to them when you need help and support, but make sure that when you’re having these conversations with your children, that they also see you model what it’s like to go before the father, cast your burdens on him, letting that anxiety bleed out of you as you build up your own trust and faith, and your kids are going to learn how to do that. And that’s going to be really good equipping for them in the future.

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