How to Support Your Child through Life's Struggles

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We can’t shield our children from all life’s struggles. But we can help them learn how to rise above them.

It never ends.

And it never will.

Forever is a long time. Especially when you’re just 14.

Since he was seven months old, my son Micah has struggled with cystic fibrosis. It means twice daily chest therapy. Multiple nebulized medication treatments. Pills every time he eats to help his body digest his food.

The way Micah has responded to this challenge over the years has beyond inspired me. It makes me so proud to call myself his mama.

But sometimes the reality of a chronic disease hits him hard.

Will I have to do this when I go to college? he asked me recently.

I wanted to say, “No! You will never have to do this again!”

But cystic fibrosis doesn’t take a break for the pursuit of higher education. Or for anything, for that matter.

Micah just longs to be carefree. Unburdened from the physical and emotional weight of chronic illness. Who can blame him?

I want him to be healed. I want God to heal him. I pray for it everyday.

Yet, I know sometimes God’s plan is not ours. I trust that He is good. All the time. Whatever the outcome of my prayers.

I don’t write those words lightly. I have wrestled with truly believing this truth over the years. At times, I still do.

Over the years, with God’s help, I’ve done my best to help both my kids navigate difficult and heart wrenching struggles. Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful:

1. Help them see the big picture. In John 9, Jesus is walking when he sees a man blind from birth. “His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

If I didn’t know that God has and will continue to bring good things out of Micah’s illness, I wouldn’t be able to bear it. But I already see how God has used it to grow compassion, perseverance and faith in Micah. We dialogue about how we don’t always understand or like how God works in our lives, but we can know that it always for our ultimate good. These are hard conversations to have. I ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. But I think it’s important to help our kids see the purpose and good that God can bring out of our struggles.

A number of years ago, after we saw God perform some miraculous things in Micah’s health, I sent an email to our family and friends, telling them about how well he was doing. This is one of the responses I received:

Micah, I am so glad your doctor said you are getting better all the time. Someday you will be able to share this miracle with other people and give them hope that they can overcome their problems. God and good doctors have done it for you and you can do it for others.

Purpose in the pain. They need to see it’s possible.

2. Make it safe to let them share their feelings. Our inclination as moms is to try to make it better. Or to explain why it’s for their good. There is a time for that, as I said above. However, there’s also a time to just listen. To not try to fix it. To just empathize and tell them it’s okay to feel angry. To wonder, “Why me?” We can’t let them stay in that place, of course. But expressing their feelings safely is an important and needed release when our kids are hurting and under stress.

3. Reward them for pushing through the struggle. Every three months, Micah has to go to the pulmonologist for a quarterly checkup. It sometimes involves needles . It’s definitely not a joy ride. A lot of times, after we’re done, we’ll go to a favorite restaurant nearby, or, at the very least, get a snack at a convenience store. Even little rewards help them know we recognize it’s hard. And we see that they’re persevering. I’ve seen this acknowledgement really help motivate and encourage both my kids in their difficulties.

We can’t shield our children from all life’s struggles. But we can help them learn how to rise above them.

Oops, gotta go … I think I hear Micah coming home from baseball practice.

 

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