let kids watch beauty and the beast

How to Help Your Child Navigate Life

Children grow up. They move out. And they bring with them the not-so-quiet confidence of youth not yet tempered by experience. How they navigate life through the transition depends a lot on the relationship you have built with them up to this point.

helping children navigate life

We are standing at the cusp of this transition with our eldest. The subtle shifting from directing to offering advice has been easier than I expected. Then again, she’s a pretty responsible and driven young lady. I imagine there would be much more trepidation coming into this phase of parenting if I didn’t agree with the decisions she is making!

Help them lay a solid foundation.

We all want to see our children weather the storms well and not have their values swept away in the first strong crosswind. In our home, we look to Christ and what He taught and how He lived.

And we fail. Especially the last several years, I feel like our lives have been marked more by just getting through it than actual involved, proactive parenting. Sometimes, I feel like my daughter has become this courageous, dedicated, loyal, determined, faithful young woman in spite of me and the years the locusts have eaten.

But then I think maybe there are some things we did right. Before Mattias’ death and after. Chief among those, I believe, was the determination to help them lay their own foundations, not grow up sheltered by ours. Besides, the Holy Spirit and a desire to live for Christ will take them so much further than fear of what we might say if we ever found out.

Give them a good compass.

After all, you can’t navigate without knowing what direction you are heading. I have worked hard to replace my somewhat reflexive, “What were you thinking?!” (which really just implies that they weren’t thinking) with a calmer, “What were you thinking?” (which invites them to reason through their own decision making process). What I want is for them to learn to analyze their own motivations, know their own weaknesses and consciously learn to own their own actions and reactions.

And to apologize well. That we’re not so good at. A couple of my children are actually quite adept at the apology that makes it quite clear that they are not at all sorry. Any tips on that one are welcome!

Practice using the life boat.

I try to make our home a soft place to land. I strive to strike a balance between supervision and trust, guidance and freedom. They need enough structure and “fences” to form healthy habits and draw nearer to God. But they also need enough freedom to fail while I can still help them talk through what happened and guide them through making better choices. Experience may be the best teacher, but she isn’t very kind and she has very little grace. I believe it is better for my children to gain that experience a little at a time as they grow and move toward independence rather than moving suddenly from being under my complete control to absolute freedom overnight.

I want my children to know that while I may not always be pleased with their decisions, our home is always safe. No matter what happens, we will be here to help them figure out the best next step.

Help them release the docklines and see them off.

There is a time when a child is an adult, whether they are ready for it or not. I think we have to respect that, even if we disagree with the choices they are making. Ironically, I think the more quietly we step away from the helm, the more likely they are to return to ask for our advice and listen when we give it.

This is when we get to make that beautiful transition from being a parent to being a friend.

This last bit is not something I have had to deal with just yet. My daughter is making that transition and is doing it quite well. I’m sure this would be far more difficult for me if I felt like she were straying too far from the values she was raised with. But my role changes when they are an adult regardless. And I think of an interview I did with Lisa Hodgen (Me and My House Ministries) for one of my first magazine articles. I doubt she knows how much her words blessed me as I was barely starting out on my homeschool journey and she shared with me her heart after having a child leave home and walk away from the faith.

“She still has these things, a foundation to return to, when God opens her eyes, bringing light to deliver her.”

She reminded me that we all have to decide on this faith for ourselves and that building that foundation is not in vain. Christ is never more than a step away, no matter how far or how hard we run.

And we get the privilege of loving them through it all.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Click on the tag to see the rest of the series!

let kids watch beauty and the beast

Cherish the Uncertainty of Life’s Adventures

It was supposed to be a little trip to pick up some pumpkins for the pigs.

Cherish the uncertainty of life's adventures

Just a little trip.

What’s more, it’s through our version of Amish country and seeing the buggies out is always a treat.

But things didn’t go exactly as planned.

First off, I took a wrong turn. My son took this as a sign that we should not be doing this. A few pumpkins is not worth the time or the gas. Which I had precious little of.

So we stopped to refuel. We ran into a friend who told us about Santa and hot dogs and a raffle for our robotics club.

“Can we go? Can we go?”

Of course we could go. It was just a little trip to pick up the pumpkins. We’d be back in plenty of time. My son again attempted to talk me out of this fool’s errand. He does not like car trips. Even if they are little ones through Amish country. A life with no electricity holds no fascination whatsoever for him.

And perhaps there is a point when you cut your losses. When you realize you have already invested enough time and energy into a dozen or so pumpkins and it is time to move on. If so, that point is well beyond where my stubbornness kicks in.

And it would take less than an hour to get them, putting us where we wanted to be right on time. It would work out perfectly. Because who wants to sit around for an hour waiting for Santa? (Don’t answer that.)

At any rate, that’s how I ended up driving south for the second time (only this time on the right road), allowing me to make yet another wrong turn. This one, however, did not lead me in a convenient circle. This one led me down a gravel road that ended a little before I realized. As in I was suddenly on nothing but mud.

What’s a little mud? I have four wheel drive, right? Thing is, I didn’t. I pushed that little button and nothing happened. And I don’t know how many of you know this, but if your four wheel drive isn’t activated, you have rear wheel drive which is essentially useless in slippery conditions.

Then I began the long slow slide down the hill which ended with me facing east west on a north south road.

And I had given my daughter the cell phone. In fact, I had joked that if I wasn’t home when she got home to call the police and send an ambulance my way.

“This is why you don’t make these kinds of trips for pumpkins.”

My son was full of wisdom. So I sent him out of the car to push until we got the car out of the way as much we could.

All we had to do was get to a phone before my daughter left for Lincoln.

“Worst case, we go back to the car. Dad will be off by midnight at the latest. I think there’s a hotel in town, but if not, we’ll be fine in the car.”

And with that, we marched. A quarter mile through mud and another half mile through town. With my son pointing out each and every step would have been unnecessary had I only taken his sage advice. My goal was the gas station (and ignoring my son. Let’s not underestimate the value nor the self control behind saying nothing at all). But then I saw Subway.

Subway, precious Subway. What a sight to behold! Warmth and chairs and drinks and food and a phone.

And the worst case scenario became the best case scenario. Not only did I get hold of my daughter, but she AND her friend drove down to rescue us. We’d go home all in one fabulous trip.

But as we talked over soft drinks and cookies (can you believe that as I handed out cups, I told them they could get whatever they wanted?) you know what my children said the highlight of their week was?

Getting stuck in the mud and hiking to Subway. For them, it was an adventure. They saw tracks of deer, raccoon, coyote and even fox. They got to slip around in the mud and tease their mom and, for a little while at least, everyone knew how to drive better than mom. They laughed and hiked and loved the whole misadventure of it. And when asked what he thought the best part of the week was, even my son answered,

“Mom seeing the error of her ways.”

Which I think is thirteen-year-old-speak for “I kinda had fun, too.”