Strait up HOW screens are effecting our kids (without the mommy guilt)

addicted-to-video-gamesMy family and I took two months off screens this summer.  How did that go?  Let me fill you in, but first let me answer for myself first and then tell you what my kids really thought about the experience.

After two months of being off social media I am back and refreshed from the time away. I didn’t realize what a normal part of life it has become. It was strange to not share special moments with friends. Sometimes it felt disconnected and lonely – that’s when I remembered this thing called the phone. The greatest discovery for me was how much my brain needed the downtime. It freed up my creative brain space to get some projects done, as well as I was able to be more present with those surrounding me in the moment. I can say my appreciation for spending time sharing with friends over coffee became much more appreciated. 

Before I tell you what my kids thought of the process, I would like to share with you why I did this.

I noticed my children were becoming obsessed with screens, particularly gaming.  At the same time I noticed an increase in anxiety, irritability, meltdowns, distractibility, trouble following simple directions, and little interest outside of playing video games.

When “no” became the regular answer when asked to do fun things with the family, I had a problem with that.  This is when I knew that something needed to change, but what?  HOW were screens effecting my children so much?

Here’s how screens are effecting children in general from a neurological point of view.

Immediate Gratification 

Video games keep the gamer engaged by giving them a sense of control and choices which lead to instant rewards, being gratified immediately. Instant rewards send dopamine levels, the feel good chemical in the brain, through the roof.  The problem with feeding reward systems and dopamine in the mind is that it takes more and more to appease it.  What’s interesting is that research is finding in children the same reward circuits that are being activated with video games are the same reward circuits that feed harmful addictions.

The other problem with raising dopamine levels through the fast-paced rewards that are given through video games is that it puts the body into a high state of arousal, followed by a crash.  This is where we see our children become disregulated, moody, anxious, and sometimes aggressive.  Dopamine is what makes the player want to play more.  Game designers are geniuses at creating intensity in their games to satisfy the inner reward system.  Coming down from high dopamine levels causes a child to become disorganized or anxious.

The other problem is that serotonin, important for being social, having a stable mood and coping with stress, becomes more disregulated with video game play, making games more like self medication. This hyperarousal and inability to process is where the prefrontal cortex is compromised.  The prefrontal cortex gives the ability to plan, have empathy, and problem solve.  When the prefrontal cortex is compromised it hinders attention span and the ability to handle stress.

 

Stress

The hyperarousal that video games create is caused by the constant state of being in “fight or flight brain”, making it hard to relax or think things through.  When a child lives in their fight or flight brain continually, it becomes hard to regulate calmness.  The nervous system is in a state of stress, and if that is prolonged, it can actually cause damage to the nervous system.  If you’ve ever experienced a child who normally is fairly even keel turn savage after being asked to stop playing a game, it’s because their nervous system is on overload.

 

Loss of Curiosity

To be human is to be curious, inspiring creativity.  Unfortunately, slow cooked creativity that comes from a curiosity about life can’t compete with the high levels of dopamine release a video game can provide. Normal things become boring.  Nature is too slow.  Relationships become a let-down compared to the instant gratification rewards a game offers.  There’s no comparison.

 

“Wait, I thought you said there would be no mommy guilt?”.  It’s hard to read the reality of what happens with too much game stimulation isn’t it?  However, remember these are just facts to keep in mind.  I started observing these three dangers in my boys and knew we needed a break.  Interestingly enough, when we were about one month and a half through, I noticed how much my boys actually need games for downtime.

“Wait, didn’t you just say in a round-about way that video games are bad?”

I gave the facts, yes, but also realized after couple of times when I allowed the boys to play for a limited time near the end of the summer that it actually refreshed them.  I realized at that moment that it was going to take time and great intention on my part to navigate the waters of balancing screens in our home.  Coming back into the fall and permission again for screens, my goal is to train my boys to learn how to handle them.  My youngest, for example, cannot handle the same amount of time on a screen as my older son without becoming moody and disregulated.  I’m teaching him to notice the signs and get off the screen before it gets out of control.

As for what my boys really thought about this process, they will tell you it was horrible, but deep inside it has built the awareness inside of them that screens can easily get out of control.  We all noticed the difference in our mood over the summer (but they won’t tell you that…)

There is no easy answer when it comes to screens. I wrote another blog on navigating screens which you can read about here.  I think it’s important to stay flexible, keep communication lines open and be transparent through the process.  It’s important to look for the signs mentioned above and navigate accordingly.

No mommy guilt needed.  There’s no pat answer.  Every child is different.  You CAN teach your children to be masters of the screen, rather than the other way around.

 

 

 

Why limiting screens is not the issue. The real danger is…

KNUTSFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 29: In this photograph illustration a ten-year-old boy uses an Apple Ipad tablet computer on November 29, 2011 in Knutsford, United Kingdom. Tablet computers have become the most wanted Christmas present for children between the ages of 6-11 years. Many parents are having to share their tablet computers with their children as software companies release hundredes of educational and fun applications each month. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

As a family we have decided to break from screens this summer.   Disclaimer: I don’t believe screens are the enemy.  They are not “bad”, nor am I encouraging the avoidance of them.  In fact, the way I handle screens with my boys is to be able to manage the vast freedom they require.  We cannot guard our children forever against the waves of information and sometimes sketchy material they will come across with one click of a button.  It has always been my desire to teach my son’s how to navigate through this, encouraging the value of guarding their heart above all else to be the filter in which they decide what is permissible and what should be avoided.  This is no easy task.  It would be much easier to allow children to watch and play whatever they want or take screens away all together than to teach them how to manage their freedom.  It’s all hands on deck that takes time and dedication on the part of the parent.

Why are we taking a break?  Limiting screen time is NOT the issue.  Here are the issues:

With the debut of the iPhone and iPad in the last eight years, there hasn’t been substantial research about how increased screens have effected young minds.  The good news is that research is starting to arise.  The bad news is that it’s not looking good and our job as parents helping our children navigate just got harder.   I always say to my boys that I will not limit their screen time until I see a need for limitation.  When I ask for them to get off and they argue, that’s when I have a problem with it.  When the suggestion of bike rides and walks together become “lame”, that sends a red flag.  When friends come over and all the kids come to us parents with sullen faces and proclamations of, “We’re BORED without video games”, it’s clear screens have become an issue.  In the last year these very issues have increased in our home, therefore the need to wind down, reset, and get back to reality.

Our children have become overstimulated and unable to process the delay of gratification because of screens.  The problem with video games, multi-tasking, and constant iPad use is that this type of activity releases dopamine (the feel good hormone) in the mind.  When you’re used to the high arousal state screens constantly provide, it’s hard to see something like nature as fascinating.  The dopamine needs to be fed, and at higher levels each time.  Video game creators are constantly leveling up video game stimulation by creating visuals that are faster and more complex, increasing the intensity in rewards, which then increases the adrenaline experienced.  How can a bike ride compete?  It’s pale in comparison.

Research has started to show how screen use impacts the central nervous system.  It puts the body into a state of constant arousal that is followed by a crash.  Does your child experience mood swings? Concentration problems?  Limited interests outside of wanting to stay in front of the computer?  Other side effects of overuse of screens are; depression, inability to handle frustration, poor sportsmanship, unable to handle emotion, social immaturity, trouble sleeping, and keeping eye contact.  This is what coming down from “dope” (dopamine overload) looks like.  Dopamine demands: MORE.  It becomes an addiction to arousal.  Does that sound like children today?  Curiosity dies replaced with a dependancy on screens to escape the nemesis “boredom”.  Sometimes the loss of screens can cause anxiety.  Screens to many children have become a form of self medication.  I know this became true for my oldest son.

Screen time overkill (much like what it’s like around my home in the middle of Canadian winter) puts a child in a state of chronic stress due to the part of the brain that is activated in active screen time.  Screens bypass the prefrontal cortex, where empathy and creativity is formed, and utilize the fight or flight part of the brain.  Using this part of the brain continuously puts our body in a state of chronic stress.  No wonder students are more stressed out and anxious than ever.  They never get a breather. Chronic stress leads to disregulation – the ability to modulate responses appropriate for the surroundings present.  Ever seen a child who is locked in defensive mode?  It’s survival mode, trained by constantly living in the fight or flight part of the brain.  This then increases the cortisol hormone which impacts blood sugar levels.  Children with attachment to screens often crave sweets as well.  This type of stress affects a child’s ability to sort new facts and retain new information.  You could accurately say it increases the appearance of what looks like ADHD, and if they have ADHD, like my boys do, it only makes it worse.

When my oldest started to not want to leave the house due to missing out on his Mindcraft or Growtopia game I knew we needed a change.  When I realized that my five year old had been handed over to screens for the year we were dealing with our oldest son’s depression and anxiety issues, he experienced a change for the worse.  We observed much of the effects I listed above in him.  It’s humbling to look at the the negative patterns that have been created by my permissiveness.  But there is also hope because we as parents have the power to create boundaries and paths to resilience for our children that can help them manage the world of screens.

At this point, a reset is needed. The goal of a screen – free summer is to give my boys nervous system a break and hopefully see some of the negative attachments and behaviours disappear.  My husband and I are also looking forward to this reset from screens ourselves.  Make no mistake, adults are effected as well.  I plan to document the results as well as the feedback from my children on this journey this summer.  I will be sure to update you in the fall.

In the meantime, be sure to read the blog that preceded this one, as I feel it addresses something far greater than screens in terms of what our children need today.

 

 

 

What kids need more than ever, and what we’re not giving them. You may never guess what it is

children question markI asked a group of teachers that I have worked with over the span of eight years this question, “Do you feel the way you teach kids has changed in the last ten years?”  All responded with a resounding, “YES”.  We used to be able to teach students for a consecutive 30 minutes, that window has now closed to aproximately 5 minutes – and for me that’s teaching dance, not math!  Boredom in school is rising. Children are more stressed and anxious than ever. What happened in such a short period of time?  Most teachers feel that screens have had a large part to play, with the iPad and iPhone making a huge market debut in the past eight years.

I have my theories on screens you will hear about in a further post, but for now I feel the dynamic shift in children today can be found in a deeper place than screens.  It’s something that even we as adults have neglected to give ourselves, thus preventing us from experiencing freedom from stress that we deserve, along with our children.

That one thing we are not giving ourselves and our children is downtime.

Now you may think, “I have plenty of downtime”, however, my question in response is, “What are you doing with your downtime?”  TV?  Scrolling through Facebook?  I’m sorry to say, that’s not downtime.  Although it seems like “brain-dead” activity, your brain is very much “on” during these types of activities. When children play on iPads or video games, they aren’t resting, they are almost overdosing on dopamine levels (that feel good hormone that keeps us wanting more stimulation) as well as using the fight or flight part of the brain which doesn’t add to healthy brain integration.  This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it has serious implications if consistently repeated and if it’s what we are considering “rest”.

Typical North American family day: Wake children up, rush to get dressed, eat, brush teeth and out the door for school and work. Mom or Dad may have to bark out commands like a song on repeat in order to see children out the door. Hop in the mini van only to realize someone forgot their lunch.  Rush back in the house, retrieve the lunch, and speed to recover the 5 minute commute time lost.  Drop the kids at school, parents head to work.  All have a full day of engagement of people, tasks and routine.  Hop back in the mini van only to wait in traffic to pick up children either from school or after school care.  Kids come home wiped from the day to their electronics so parents can figure out what to whip up for dinner.  Sometimes it’s drive through to get kids to soccer, dance, music, or other extra cirricular activities which involves yet more driving. iPads, iPhones help children cope with the continual commuting.  Family comes home and crashes, exhausted from the day only to press repeat the next day.

We were never meant to keep this kind of pace.  Adults find it hard, kids suffer harder.  The average amount a father talks to his children a day is 10 minutes.  Compare this to a father in early Russia where a father would spend a few hours of meaningful conversation with his children they called “soul talk” (Robert Bly, Sibling Society).  Children need language and conversation in order for their brains to develop.  They need adults to talk to them about family, God, desires, failures.  Children who don’t get rich conversation from adults never learn to distinguish emotions.  You could say today’s youth are experiencing an epidemic of empathy. They literally don’t know how to relate to others emotions.  They are numb from the withdrawal of positive adult interaction and community participation in their lives.

Both children and adults need downtime free from responsibility, screens, social media and tasks to be able to rest, explore creativity, take a walk, connect with loved ones, take a break from being “on”, having to perform and just “be”.  To come back to a place where belonging and safety create a blanket of refuge to refresh the soul from the day. To be able to play and laugh.

I ask myself on the daily: did I laugh with my children today?  Did they experience freedom of play and creativity?  Did I?  If not, then I owe it to myself and them to create space for this.  That means saying “no” to what society has said is normal, and saying “yes” to what truly is healthy.  This looks different for every child and family, but the need remains the same: downtime is key to mental and family health.  Your children do not need to run around everywhere, getting involved with everything and neither do you.  I actually had a conversation with a friend about just this where she pulled her kids out of competitive sports that was demanding sometimes up to five nights a week from her family.  I love what she said about extra-cirricular overkill, “You can’t have my family”.  Many caught in the rat race of “busy” don’t realize we actually have the option to say “no”.

Our children need more time for unstructured playtime where they have to figure out what to do.  Children today have NO IDEA how to do that.  We have scheduled them silly, exhausted ourselves giving them numerous options for entertainment, and what have we created?  Stressed out kids who only know instant gratification.  Kudos for our effort Gen X parents, but this isn’t what our kids need.  My friend shared this quote with me that I feel is fitting, “The greatest failure in life is succeeding in something that doesn’t matter.”  We’re succeeding in giving our children opportunities we never had, but now they’re stressed out.

So, how can you slow down your life and make it more simple?  How can you find more time to sit and have meaningful conversations, allowing for more breathing space to ease anxiety and bring a greater sense of wellness to your home?  These are some ideas.  I would love to have you add to the list in the comment section.

  • – Start with your personal current schedule and evaluate.  What are some things that you cannot change, such as your job?  Perhaps a change of job is possible to create more space?  Sometimes it’s not, but there may be opportunities to make work more flexible.  Just a minor adjustment can make all the difference.  How about your own personal activities outside of family and work?  Are they serving you and your family or are you serving them?  One thing I have loved about having kids is that I have had to narrow down my interests to the things that truly mean something to me, rather than involving myself everywhere.  Whatever brings me the most life hasn’t been axed, everything else has.  This kind of focus has been invigorating.
  • – Look at your family’s schedule and evaluate.  What’s one thing your children love to do?  Create space in your weekly calendar for your children to enjoy that one thing and have the rest of the evenings/weekends off.
  • – Don’t be afraid of the statement, “I’m bored”.  Gen X parents tend to jump through hoops for their kids when they hear this.  We medicate our children from the “bored virus” with screens, outings, and suggestions that kids don’t know how to figure out their own creativity.  We need to allow them to feel the tension of boredom to make room for the innovative mind to manifest.  Wait for it…
  • – Meet your neighbours.  I remember my street growing up.  There was eight children within four houses.  Our motto was, “You’re a kid, I’m a kid…. wanna play?”  Sometimes all our kids need is the spark of other kids on the street to invite playtime back.  Even my pre-teen son enjoys my kindergarten son’s friends!  He never says “no” to a game of hide and seek when initiated.
  • – Make family connection a priority.  Go on a walk, sit down and talk with your children, play a game.  Be available.  I make it a priority to not be on my own screen while my children are home.  I enjoy sitting outside listening to the birds and seeing my children come out to just sit with me.  If we are always busy even at home, it defeats the purpose.
  • – Find curiosity and creativity again.  The world is spectacular and you are creative.  You will be surprised at the life you find when you discover this, and your children will follow your lead.
  • – Always keep looking for ways to guard simplicity.  Guard it with your life.

It may not be easy at first, but I can say as a recovering “go-go-go-aholic” that it becomes the breath of fresh air you and your kids will never want to lose.

How about you?  How do you give yourself and your children downtime?

 

One way you can effectively communicate to an impulsive ADHD child

not listeningTypical scenario raising two boys with ADHD: impulsive behaviour going from zero to sixty and only looking to get worse.  Mom enters the scene, tells her boys to stop.  The word “stop” reaches their ears but doesn’t seem to register.  Mom gets closer, gets down to their level and says it again, “stop”.  The boys look at her, stop for a moment, then proceed like they didn’t hear her at all.  Hyperactivity shows no signs of simmering down.  Mom’s “STOP” starts to get louder and more intense but it doesn’t phase the boys at all.  They are on a rollercoaster ride and can’t get off.  Problem is, so is Mom, but she’s on a rollercoaster of frustration and it’s about to get LIVE up in here.  Scene ends with Mom losing it.  The boys stop, then look at their Mom then at each other like, “What’s her problem?”

Press repeat.

Does this situation sound familiar?  If you have a child with ADHD then you have probably experienced the same scenario.  ADHD is defined by poor attention skills, unable to control impulses, and hyperactivity. They may experience frequent memory lapses, lack social skills, and make jokes when it’s not appropriate.  Their emotional states go through up and down swings of emotion.  It is literally a deficit of attention, a disorder in life skills. Their attention is situational on whether their interest is peaked or not.  Here’s the thing, they are not purposefully inattentive or disobedient.  Neurologically, there are forces that inhibit them from control.  “I want to control myself but my mind won’t let me” (from Scattered Minds, Gabor Mate). “ADD is not a problem of knowing what to do, it’s a problem of doing what you know.” (Improved Delay Responding, Russell Barkley).

That’s all great to know, but how do we teach our children how to function in a world that requires them to get a grip on their impulsiveness?

The other day I was beside myself trying to communicate with my boys about how their careless behaviour was driving my frustration through the roof.  I was asking for their cooperation and didn’t know how to communicate in a way they could understand.

That’s when I grabbed a glass of water. waterfilling

I said to my boys, “Let’s pretend this glass is me and the water is my frustration level”.  When I see behaviour is getting out of control and I tell you to stop. When my words aren’t being heard my frustration starts to build.”

I poured more water in the glass wateralmostfull

“If my words continue to not be heard, my frustration only grows until finally it’s reached the top and overflows.  This is where I’ve had enough”. (you may see crazy-mom at this point)

They looked at the overflowing glass of water, seeming to understand. wateroverflow

“I don’t want to have the kind of relationship with my boys where I am always overflowing with frustration.  It’s important we listen to one another’s words and cooperate so we can enjoy one another as a family”.  I reminded them of this so they would remember that I’m not trying to “fix their behaviour” as much as I am seeking to save the connection of our family.  Frustration only separates the divide between child and parent, which then only increases bad behaviour.  It’s a vicious cycle and I was tired of being in it.

Now when my boys are out of control and my words aren’t reaching them, I grab a glass of water and show them where my frustration level is.  This visual has been effective.

What helps a child with ADHD more than anything?  Dope.  That neuro loving Dopamine we derive from loving connections.  This is what they need.  Frustration only blocks it.  Once we can communicate past frustration, connection can happen once again.  The good news is that our children want this desperately.  They want to do good, we just need to keep being creative to help them see that through.

Three ways to get past the judgment of other parents

JudgingotherwomenYou don’t need to have a child with special needs to be a parent who has experienced judgment.

When it comes to parenting, there’s nothing more disheartening or disturbing than feeling the “eye” from others questioning your methods. I remember a well intentioned young adult approaching me once while out for a walk with my boys by a icy pond.  He wanted to let me know that my son was at risk walking on the (very strong I would like to add) ice and that he was surely going fall in the water and get hypothermia.  “I feel you are quite negligent”, he said.  It took every ounce of self control not to lose it as I was already having a rough day.  I responded with a snarky question, “Are you a parent?” and then went on to tell him I appreciated his concern, but we were good.

I’ve had many other well intended souls give me advice on what they think I could be doing better.  “Have you thought of giving them less sugar?”, “Have you tried such and such a product?”, “Have you ever thought of seeing if they need demonic deliverance?” (for real, someone asked that).

The glares, the concerns, the ignorant statements are not going to go away, so here are three helpful tips in how to get past it and move on.

  1. It’s important to come at parenting from a place of worth.  The glares are only feeding the lies you are constantly telling yourself: “I suck”. They wouldn’t affect you if you didn’t struggle with this belief.  Are we so fragile that one look can destroy us?  That an ignorant comment from a stranger can create such shame? Many days I can give a sobbing “Ye, ye, YES”.  Many times our reactions to outside criticism and downright hurtful words take root inside only because of the self doubt we keep choosing to believe.  Constant questioning our ability to parent will torment us.  We need to build our lives on the foundation of our worth as a child of God so when the waves of criticism crash into us, we will not be moved.  I am enough whether I’ve had a good parenting day or a rough one.
  2. Remember, no one woke up this morning wanting to be a jerk.  People mean well. This perspective has saved my heart from becoming judgmental and hard towards people.  Sometimes people’s responses come from their own shame they have felt from others.  It’s hard to pass anything else on when you’ve experienced no different.  And when people give you advice, chances are you’ve tried everything they’ve suggested.  Instead of being annoyed think: “Wow!  I’ve done my research.  I’m resourceful.  Not to mention I’m that dedicated to my child’s success in overcoming their obstacles.”   That’s a good parent right there 🙂
  3. Don’t let fear of what others think dictate how you treat your child.  This has been my greatest weakness.  My children will do something completely embarrassing, such as drop an f-bomb in a park of toddlers (for more on that, read the blog before this one) and I let the expectations of other parents overcome what I feel I really should do in that moment.  When this happens, its because I am caring more about what I look like to others, rather than how my child feels and what they need.  It never ends well.  It usually ends with my child feeling embarrassed or ashamed because I’ve made certain the judgment of the other moms are appeased.  I will show them I am the boss!  I will prove my worth!  I will not let anyone think I don’t have control over my children! ….  but I will lose connection with my child in the process. It takes a big gulp of humble pie to put blinders on and care more about your child in those moments than yourself.

My heart has felt great sorrow many times over with the overwhelming shame that accompanies judgment – especially when it has come from people close to me.  Yet in the moments I have chosen to sacrifice my pride for the betterment of my child, I hear a whisper “That’s what love looks like”.  Love is hard, but that’s why it’s worth so much.

So friend, know your worth, be confident in what your child needs, and know you’re doing an amazing job.  Stay brave.

Four rules that will change even the most chaotic home

chaotic home

We’re standing in a long line up to go to the pool when I see my sons in the corner of my eye playing with the pay phone.  My inner alarm triggers and I call out for them to stay away from the phone.  All looks well until we make it past payment only to find a security guard on the other side waiting for us.  My youngest had called 911 from the phone and the security guard had quite the speech prepared for me along with the glaring eye.  “What kind of mother are you?”, was spoken without words.  This happened not even a week after my youngest had called the police from our home phone, having the police show up at our door.  I was out at the time.  My husband texted me, “The police were just at our door.”   Note to husbands: this is not a good thing to text.  This would be now the second time my husband has texted this to me as a result of my youngest schemes.  He has a knack for trouble and my heart isn’t that strong.

My two boys are playing at the park when all of a sudden my youngest pulls his brothers hair, and hard.  Out comes the F bomb, megaphone style for all the toddlers, and their mothers, to hear.  From there it’s all slow motion to me; the look of horror from the 2 year olds, the mothers shifting their glare from my son to ME looking like a hoodlum in my hip hop teacher work attire.  “So that’s how you speak to your children?” Oh the judgment.  But then my eyes lift from my embarrassed state to my son completely horrified at the shame he has just experienced.

I have plenty of these. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “Why did we leave the house?” after coming home from similar moments,.  Different story, same feeling: embarrassment and shame statements like “What am I doing wrong??”.  It’s in these moments you see other families through rose coloured glasses.  The girls dressed in white, walking down the mall perfectly with their hand in their Mother’s while my boys either run through people like  moguls or using the mall as a parkour course.

The greatest barrier I have had to overcome in my parenting life is getting over what I wished my sons would be and embrace who they are.

I’m not saying the above scenarios are ok and I should just brush them off, however, if I don’t live by the truth that every child would do better if they could, then all I am going to communicate to my boys is shame.  Shame will tell them that THEY are a problem.  My boys both struggle with mental limitations.  They get frustrated and don’t know what to do with it, thus throwing fits of rage or breaking down in tears.  They lack the ability to problem solve when faced with something that overwhelms them.   My job isn’t to wish they “knew better”, but to help them “get better”.  Many adults struggle with thinking kids should just know better.  The ones who do get celebrated, and the ones who don’t get shamed.  As a parent, I see how easy it is to fall prey to this.  It’s a constant discipline to not resort to shame, and get down in the dirt WITH my kids to see things from their perspective and learn how to problem solve together.  (you can read more about this in my blog: The two things you can do right now to help solve issues with a difficult child).

So here are four rules, or rather, PRINCIPLES I like to use to help my boys.

  1. I know you want to do good.  Stating this verbally to my boys reminds them that I know they didn’t wake up wanting to be a jerk on days they are spewing horrible words towards me or one another.  It tells them that in when they call 911… AGAIN, that I know they aren’t trying to cause trouble.  I call out the good in them and correct the behavior.  It keeps connection strong and opportunity for me to hear their side.  “Oh you mean you didn’t think 911 worked from a payphone?  Well now you know that 911 works not only on the house phone and payphone, but it works on every phone, ok?  You understand that now?”  Phew, a nod of understanding learned through a hard lesson.
  2. Your heart matters more to me than your mouth.  My boys both have a problem with bad language.  However, it comes out in times where they don’t know how to manage their frustration or their anger.  I’ve told my boys that the most important part of ourselves is our heart and we need to guard it well.  When I hear harsh language it tells me that their heart isn’t doing well. We don’t correct the language, we work on the heart and how to manage frustration/anger.  If I believe they want to do well and give them the tools to do so, positive language will follow.
  3. Home is safe.  If we can’t make mistakes at home, then where will we make them?  When I am embarrassed yet again for something my boys have done I need to be thankful they experienced that with me and not out on their own.  If they know they are safe at home to not be shamed for mistakes, and given the proper direction to move forwards, there’s greater chances of them becoming who both they and I wish for them to be.  They can’t be shunned for feeling anger and frustration.  They need someone to show them what to do with it so one day they can not only function, but thrive as healthy adults.
  4. If you say “no” to me, then I will be saying “no” to you.  One of the greatest battles I experience with both my boys is opposition.  “NO” is a common answer to things like, “It’s time to get ready”, “It’s time to brush your teeth”, “It’s time to do school work”.  It’s hard to work with a strait-up “No” (with a foot stomp and arms crossed).  I used to get flaming mad.  My British upbringing told me this was outright disrespect and I would be up in arms demanding they listen to me only to find the arms stayed crossed, the foot would stomp again and the “NO” would get louder.  I have learned a much better response that not only works, but teaches them that in life “no’s” create more “no’s”, but “Yes’s” will invite more fun, creativity, and happiness.  So my simple response to them in their “NO” is this; “That’s fine.  However, I will also be saying ‘NO’ to you for the rest of the day if ‘no’ is the direction you would like to take”.  They know what this means.  NO your friend can’t come over, NO you can’t play your video game, NO you can’t have a treat.  They know it’s not to be mean, but to show that NO’s block out everything.  Their “no’s” quickly become “yes’s”. What’s really important here is not their compliance, but to afterwards show them what collaboration and cooperation does.  I often reward their yes’s with more fun and activities they’ve been wanting to do.  “Yes’s” create fun!

All of these principles get to the root rather than just shaming behaviour.  They also keep connection at the core of the relationship.  I’m not perfect at these by any means.  Living in constant chaos and their battle with toxic negativity can be challenging, but these four principles have changed my parenting for the better.

 

 

Saving my son from depression

Togetherness

Togetherness

It’s been four intense years.  It feels like an eternity longer.  My face shows it.

If you have a child that struggles with clinical anxiety/depression you know of the exhaustion of which I speak. It’s not only the intense emotion that rises and falls unpredictably (and never goes with your schedule), it’s forever living in the unknown.  It’s the days upon days of feeling like you’re living in trauma. Who will I get today, let alone this minute? Dr. Jekel or Mr Hyde? Hiding the knives because of a threat once again to kill himself, and us.  Fear floods.  Shame whispers; “It’s all you, you know.  You’re the reason he’s like this”.

“How do we rebuild the ruins of a family devastated by depression?”

I’m here to say in the midst of crisis that the ruins of a family can be rebuilt, but get ready for a marathon run, not a sprint with easy answers.  It will take bravery, but bravery you never realized you already have.  This is going to give it a chance to show itself in all its glory and surprise you.

Four years ago I lived in tears wondering what kind of parent I was.  My son was out of control, throwing massive fits of rage where he wasn’t afraid to hurt myself or him.  He was particular, fussy, and had a “glass-empty” outlook on life.   We decided it would be beneficial to get him assessed, so we forked up $5000 for an assessment to avoid a two year wait because we needed answers, and immediately.  The assessment gave us the answers we needed.  What a relief to feel we weren’t “bad parents”.  Indeed we had been dealing with something that was bigger than us.  As selfish as it sounds, you will never know the relief it is to a parent to discover that you aren’t crazy.  Our son was diagnosed with ADHD (along with every boy in the world), Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Depression and on the slight spectrum of Asbergers.  Phew.  We could now move forward in working with our son in the way he needed and be done with all this drama.

We could finally breathe… or so I thought.

Turns out, I needed a PhD in order to understand the complexity of my son’s issues.  Knowing what we were dealing with wasn’t going to be enough.  I still found myself in despair over his uncontrollable anger and low moods.  I started to read book after book.  I researched all I could about O.D.D., ADHD, depression and anxiety (this hasn’t stopped).  I worked with his school to get him on an I.P.P. (Individual program).  Every time it seemed I found something that worked, it would be soon be shattered by the unfortunate mental state of my son who was clearly wasting away. We would go from appointment to appointment hoping that THIS ONE would give us answers, only to find we were turned away or there was uncertainty as to what to do. I was sinking under the waves of the unpredictability.

 

I was carrying our families mess on my shoulders and dying inside.

It all hit hard when one day we decided to take our psychiatrist’s advice to take our son to the hospital when he again threatened to hurt himself and us.  I remember the ride there like it was yesterday.  Kicking, screaming from the back seat, throwing all kinds of profanities at us.  I remember the feeling of desperation, wondering if my son would ever be well? Wondering if our family would survive this….?  He was admitted to the mental health unit where he ended up spending three weeks.  It was exhausting going to the hospital for every possible visitation hour and figuring out what to do with our youngest child.   Every day he would ask the same question; “Why am I here??  How could you do this to me?!”  We would again explain why he was there, but nothing we said seemed to help him understand.  He went from an angry, outraged boy to a scared, fearful boy whose anxiety was now through the roof.

We were hopeful again when they decided to try medication, but again let down by the zombie it turned our boy into.  After being released from the hospital and seeing the medication wasn’t working, we were thankful when the psychiatrist decided to take our son off the medication, replacing it with probiotics and iron supplements.  We appreciated her desire to do this naturally, but were frustrated yet again as we had tried as much natural remedy that we knew along with intentional connective parenting.

Why wasn’t anything working??  Would there ever be any relief?

The school year started and my son’s anxiety sky rocketed.  Every day was a fight to get him out the door.  He was slowly corroding away on the inside and didn’t know how to deal with his inner turmoil at school other than to get into trouble.  I saw him quickly declining, making bad habits and choices that, if continued, could lead him down a path I’ve seen in youth at risk I’ve worked with.  If there’s one thing I know about youth labeled “bad” or “troubled” is that they didn’t start that way, nor ever desired it in the first place.  The same was true for my son.  He was trying to attach himself to anything that would bring temporary relief to the pain he felt inside.  Somehow being “bad” made him feel good.

I needed to intervene or I was going to lose him.

I made a bold decision to take him out school and start home schooling.  Never in a MILLION years would I have ever considered home schooling either of my boys, but this was an emergency.  For the first week he slept a lot, spent more time frustrated than making any progress, but that was ok.  The goal wasn’t to finish math, it was to bring his anxiety down. His escalated fits became less intense, declined quicker, and became less frequent.  I’m happy to say that something finally worked!  I’m not saying all children with anxiety should be home schooled, but I will say this:

In rebuilding a home with a child dealing with depression and anxiety:

  1. Bring them back in.  Any child struggling with anxiety or depression isn’t mentally capable of performing normal tasks like everyone else.  They can’t just “suck it up” or do their homework, or focus on learning fractions when their mind is like sinking sand.  You can’t focus on minuscule things like the tidiness of their room or the fact they swore.  They need to be reconnected back to a safe haven where they can be nurtured and given space to breathe and belong.  We would never expect someone recovering from a major illness to be up to par.  And all the more, how are children to learn to cope if we keep putting pressure under them to perform and keep up?  No wonder so many are struggling with little improvement without being drugged to the hilt or turning to weed to cope.  Bringing our children back into us doesn’t mean homeschooling, but it does mean doing whatever it takes on the home front to start back at the beginning: creating an atmosphere of safety and refuge for them to be restored.
  2. In the midst of their frustration and anger draw them closer.  I give my son permission to feel. I don’t try to “fix” his anger.  He needs to feel it.  I lean into him and tell him he’s safe.   If I can, I hold him and tell him nothing will break my connection with him.  One psychologist told me this; “When a child is angry, they are hurting.  Don’t send those hurting away from you”.  Powerful stuff there.  I think the danger is if we think that bringing them closer is going to make everything better.  It’s not.  Now you stand there in the mess and take it for the team.  It’s so much easier to send them away.  However, let me clarify: this doesn’t not mean taking abuse verbally or physically.  I have put my foot down many times my son has hurt me physically and verbally.   I am the one to remove myself, making myself very clear of the way I will and will not be treated.
  3. Slow down your life.  Free up your schedule as much as you possibly can.  I have had to come to the place where I will not sign my son up for anything as he can change his mind rapidly.  I don’t force him to go anywhere he doesn’t feel like going at this point.  This isn’t forever, but until anxiety levels settle this has proven to bring security to his emotional well being.  Many parents may find it hard, but whatever you can let go of during this season, do it.  My and my husband’s very presence at home calms our son. I have had to sacrifice some of my work in this season, but my son’s health depends on it.  Less Starbucks for me.  Not a sore price for my son’s soul.  I also wake up a few hours before my kids so I can pray, have a peaceful coffee, exercise, then be ready for whatever the day holds, good and bad.
  4. Let go of your expectations. Many times it’s been my expectations for my son to “get over” how he’s feeling that has actually caused more anxiety to arise.  He softens and calms when he knows I have “no strings attached” to how he performs on the day to day.  To some this may seem risky, like children would take advantage of this.  Some might, but I believe what our son’s psychologist said to me before leaving the hospital: “Every child would do better if they could”. I believe that because when I give my son room, he is always looking for ways to shine – and looking to see if I notice.

 

Are things perfect around here?  Not in the least, but I can say I’ve seen my son transform from what I described in the beginning of this post, to being more optimistic about life, having more energy and the drive to think better.  It’s been a 180 degree turn around and for that I am forever thankful.  I’ve changed too. I realize now that working with our son is for the long haul.  I’ve stopped trying to get to the “quick fix” and surrender to each moment we get to journey with him.

We have created an atmosphere in our home that says “You are safe. You are welcome.  You belong”. And that alone, consistently over the long term, has made a huge difference.

If you’re in a similar journey, I want you to know you have what it takes to make it through.  You are brave.  Keep going, friend.  I’m cheering for you.

The two things you can do right now to help solve issues with a difficult child (that doesn’t cost any money)

preteen angerIt has been said parenting isn’t for the faint of heart.  They weren’t kidding.  This is hard stuff we’re in.  Add behavioural difficulties on top of it and its enough to drive yourself to anxiety or stiff drinks (I’ve experienced both).  When you’re a parent of a child going through behavioural challenges, you don’t have a whole lot of time to read or research tips that can help you in your journey, which is why I have decided to write this blog.  I have, and will continue to blog on the subject as it’s been a method for me to solidify my learnings in my own heart, as well as provide hope, help, and encouragement to you in the struggle.  I don’t claim to know it all or be a professional in the field, but I hope my words can in the very least communicate, “It’s not just you”.  You are not alone

 

So, ready?  Here are the two greatest nuggets of wisdom I have not only read about and researched, but have experienced as success for myself as of late.

 

1. Get curious about your child’s issues

Our children did not wake up wanting to be difficult.  This may surprise us because difficult behaviours seem very intentional on their part, but I assure you every child has a heart to connect with their family and do well.  If this isn’t a reality, something has been damaged or has made this difficult for them.  The key as a parent is to get curious as to WHY.  It’s brave terrain to be open to what you may discover.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading on many different ideas doctors have as to the origins of where ADHD has come from (because that’s one of my son’s diagnosis’).  Environment seems to keep coming up as something all varying opinions can agree on.  If this is the case, then my son has experienced an environment that has enhanced his mental struggle.  When I read this, it all sounded great in theory until I realized that that would lead directly back to ….. me (gulp).   Half shocked and appauled I decided to be brave to ask my son this question I felt I should ask:

Me: “Son, what do you remember of me when you were little?”

My son: “Yelling at me, yelling at Dad, swearing, unhappy”.

Me: Silence.  Shame overtakes me.  I swallow deep, I can’t seem to breathe.  Words aren’t coming.  I don’t know what to feel other than horrible about myself.  What kind of Mother am I??  I’m not fit for this.  I think of all the phrases that start with “I can’t”…  But then I get brave and respond by saying;

“Son, I am so sorry”. 

His reaction revealed this seemed to be enough for now to keep conversation lines open and connection’s bond tighter.

 

This is a hard blog to write because this means I have to admit I was wrong and had a part to play.  This is hard for many parents.  No one wants to admit we don’t have it all together.  The truth is, when my oldest son was born I had just lost my business, three members of my immediate family had all passed away who I was very close to,  I moved to a new city where I felt very much alone, and having conflict in my marriage on top of it all.  Add a newborn with no sleep and you could easily say I was battling depression.  Fast forward a few years later where my son’s mood and behavior started to show to be a challenge and me having no idea how to deal with it – and you can only imagine how many ugly words slipped out of my mouth in my frustration.

 

That’s my story.  You may find you have no part to play in your child’s behaviour.  You may discover they’ve been struggling with peers or stress at school, but the key is to be open to hearing what they have to say as it reveals the WHY the behaviour is manifesting.  From there, communications lines are wide open, your child feels heard, and solutions can be discovered.

 

2. Take care of your mental state first

The greatest thing I have learned after owning my own shortcomings in parenting is to get curious about WHY I’ve been struggling as well.  Going on a journey of healing and wholeness is the best gift a parent can give to themselves and their child.  After all, the only person we control in this life is ourselves.  I have found greater success in working on myself rather than draining myself of all my energy trying to make my child behave better.

This has caused me to look at my life through the lense of my child who desperately needs a mom who can keep it together in the midst of his emotional storms.  I had to examine the way I was living my life and make changes to create a better environment at home that was less stressful.  Here are some of the changes I’ve made that have made a world of difference in the amount of peace that inhabits our home, but even more, in myself:

– I chose to be out less and home more.  This meant limiting my evening outings away from the family to 2 nights a week.

– I chose to only work during school hours and be there to pick up my kids every day.  Not everyone can do this, but for our home I know my children do best when I am present after school.

– I make sure I’m eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis.  When I don’t do this, I quickly notice how my intolerance level rises at alarming rates.

– I get up before the kids on school days to have morning coffee in silence and I meditate on scripture.  If my cup isn’t filled spiritually, I’m hopeless.

– My husband and I have been working hard on our marriage.  It’s a work in progress but we’re learning to stay calm when stress hits and to talk things out.

– I’ve been learning how to calm myself down when my buttons are being pushed or when stressful situations are on the rise.  Slow breathing, speech that is calm.  I’m learning to be proactive rather than reactive.

– I’ve got real about my negative emotions, disappointments and continue to surrender them.  I’ll admit there are many days I dislike the cards I’ve been dealt.  How many times have I cried out, “This is too much for me to handle”.  Being honest about these feelings rather than repressing them is healthly.  I believe the reason for my anger in the past have been because I didn’t get real about how I was feeling.  Somewhere I starting to believe that to be brave meant to deny myself of negative emotions.  That being said, I choose not to stay fixated on these thoughts by surrendering what is completely out of my control and embracing the strength my Creator wants to give me.

– I’ve limited our family outings dramatically to make life less busy and stressful.  My son’s anxiety cannot handle too many extra curricular activities and outings.  A busy lifestyle for him equals his anxiety doubling so I have made sure that our life has simplified and relaxed.

 

I’m not perfect at any of the above by any means, but by focusing on bettering myself these areas I have seen dramatic changes in my son and his desire to connect with me.  When he has an episode, it escalates and falls much quicker than before, not because I have done anything to help his behaviour, but because I’ve been focusing on mine.

 

My greatest encouragement to you today is to stay brave through the storms of parenting.  Our children are worth it and you’ve got this.

 

In your corner,

Connie

 

The number one thing you can do to guard your home against the dangers of too much screen time

screenWhat do I argue the most about lately with my nine year old?

Screens.

 

Not about the screen itself, not about how much time he takes on the screen, but what the screen steals from our home.  It steals his desire for connection with us and enthusiasm for family outings.  Not wanting to go to a friends house with us to visit, little interest in going places most kids would be excited about like the zoo or viewing spectacular Christmas lights.  No desire for outdoor or indoor play and adventure, and when there is a push from myself to do something together like our advent calendar or a game, it only ends in an argument.  Can you relate?

 

In our case, it’s not only an issue of screens, it’s an anxiety issue.  We have a boy who struggles with anxiety, depression, and ADHD.  To him the screen is a safe place to interact with friends, play creative games like Minecraft, and create animation.  For anyone dealing with anxiety (which is almost 1 out of every 5 youth in schools today), the screen becomes a safety net.  No wonder kids are having such a hard time with friendships.  The problem is when we let them use a screen to shield them, we are only contributing to anxiety and the continuation of interpersonal issues such as bullying – which is really only a product of children not knowing basic skills such as empathy.  This is related to the decreased amount of face to face time we all are missing in today’s society.  Today, community is something we fight to carve time for (or give up on because it’s too hard due to busy-ness), rather than something that is a natural flow of life.

 

Up until now I have never limited screens in my house.  In my particular parenting style I want to teach my kids how to manage their freedom, yet at the same time I morn the days we remember of playing outside till dark.  My five year old asked me the other day what computer games I played as a child.  I found his reaction of shock humorous when I told him we never had a computer…. we had SWINGS.  That being said, screens are a part of our children’s world and whether we like it or not, they are here to stay.  They are now the way in which we live, get information, learn, and communicate (and don’t all us momma’s LOVE the intelligence google search has brought us?!).  I believe the answer is for us to guide our children on how to balance it, or as I say in my home stated above, “know how to manage our freedom”.   It is urgent we coach our children in this when they are young so that when they are older and exposed more to the dangers of the internet such as pornography and cyber bullying, they have the skills to navigate well.  And by “older” I mean by the time they are ten, sometimes even earlier.

 

Our greatest tool as parents to guide our children are not more how-to’s.  It’s not limiting screen time like clockwork or taking it away completely. It’s Connection.

 

Connection is your glue that will guard your home always.  This weekend, I had to take away screens due to my children mis-using their freedom.  There was upheaval, there was protest, there was outright war.  However, what replaced the screen was an invitation to connect.  One rule I remember hearing and will always live by is this: never take screens away without replacing it with something better; yourself.  Many parents just take away screens and have their children “figure out” what they are going to do.  This isn’t wise.  It will only cause resentment in the child and temptation to hide things from you.  We need to remember why we want the screen gone in the first place: to get back to the heart of face to face connection.

 

A child that is connected to their family are less likely to become prey to at risk behaviors and rebellion.  They may still dabble, but connection creates “strain” they feel on the relationship which is healthy.  The issue comes when I hear from youth at risk that their parents “don’t even care”.

 

Mentally, connection is important because it develops the pre-frontal cortex which has been designed to connect us with people.  Face to face is the greatest way we develop the prefrontal cortex.  This development is vital in order to integrate the lower part of the brain where the most primitive and powerful emotions such as fear and rage are ignited.  It has more of the reward chemicals associated with joy – dopamine and endorphins than almost any other area of the cortex.  It regulates emotion.  It is vital for self awareness and empathy. When’s its connections are ruptured, it lacks capacity to regulate emotion resulting in fear-based, reactive emotions to flood our minds, influence our thinking processes and control behavior. (adapted from Gabor Mate’s “Scattered Minds, the healing and origins of ADD)

 

In other words (if you didn’t get a word that meant) YOU are your child’s dope (amin).  Don’t let them get it from screens or anywhere else.  Dopamine (where we derive the slang word for marijuana, “dope”), are the happy chemicals that rush the brain.  We love this feeling and were meant to get it from interpersonal connection.  The lack of connection will have us running to unhealthy sources to get it.

 

So now, get off your screen and go connect.  After all, it’s us who sets the example of screen time.  We need to manage this freedom as well.  And remember, you are everything your child needs.

 

How being known BY God changed my whole perspective on faith

being knownGrowing up in the evangelical church I found myself a young person being encouraged to know the ways  of God.  To seek after Him and know His word.  All very valid aspects to my Christian life to this day, but for some reason I found myself floundering in my faith for a decade wondering where was the freedom that Christ promised?  Why did I struggle continuously with the same issues?  Why did rejection and shame seem to get the upper hand in my mind regardless of how many hours I would spend in His word or quoting scripture?

 

In the past few years I have discovered greater freedom by switching my focus from just merely knowing God to allowing myself to be known BY Him.  Allow me to explain the difference.

 

Knowing God:  Focus on knowing His Word, what He says, an emphasis on what is truth – not only being right – but getting it right.  For me, this focused my life much on “should’s”: I should read my Bible, I should spend time with God, I should pray for how many hours a day…..   These should’s ironically only led me further away from God while I drowned in shame. I chose to run from Him because I clearly couldn’t get this Christian thing down good enough.  How could I face Him?

My striving to know God became an obsession with believing the right things, being able to hold myself up in a debate with someone of different beliefs, and held a strong emphasis over my behaviour.   The outer appearance of how I was doing was of utmost importance driving my approval-addict to go into overdrive.  I would be the Christian poster child to all, even if it meant my relationship with God was based solely on how I was “performing”.   I became so fixed on truth and getting it right that there was no room for grace for myself or others inside or outside of my belief system.  When someone “failed”, I believed it was because they didn’t know God enough. When I faced my own failure, I sank into two years of distance from God.  Clearly I didn’t know Him enough either and felt He could feel nothing but great disappointment with me.

Ironically, this focus on knowing God for me was driven by two key aspects of the Fall from the Garden: Fear and Shame.  One thing I know now is that God never uses aspects of the fall to draw us to Him, yet those were my two largest motivators in my faith.

 

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were not supposed to from the garden, their minds instantly became aware of the roots of sin: fear, shame, and pride.  Shame revealed to them they were naked.  Fear told them to hide from God and pride told them it wasn’t their fault.   What was God’s response?  Was it, “You FOOLS!!” or “How could you have done this??”.  No, His response was “WHERE ARE YOU?”  He knew exactly where they were, but here lies God’s heart for us to be known BY Him instead of striving on our own.  In His statement, “Where are you?”, He was saying; “Why are you running?  Don’t hide from me, come to Me and allow yourself to be seen, even in your mess”.

 

Allowing ourselves to be seen by God may be the bravest thing we will ever do. It means coming to the light and allowing Him to peer into every crevace of our soul that has attempted to look good, as well as the parts we have not yet tried to redeem, or the parts we have chosen to ignore.  Standing before Him in our nakedness, allowing Him to gaze right into our eyes despite whether we feel we’ve had time to fix ourself up for Him.  Coming to Him as is; imperfect, incomplete, broken, hurt, angry, confused, addicted, bitter and inviting Him INTO all of it.

 

Why do we find this so hard?  Because we’ve become experts at self redemption.  We want to fix our issues and then present ourselves to God confident that He will accept the great job we have done with our clean up job.  The problem is that in our attempts for perfection lies the greatest imperfection.  The root: pride, shame and fear of BEING KNOWN.  The great deception is that we can save ourselves.   We need to understand that sin isn’t “being bad”, it’s missing the mark; it’s rooted in all our attempts at saving ourselves.  From focus on building our own kingdoms, to doing this in the name of “being a good person”, to drinking ourselves to forget our misery.  All of it comes from the same root – but it all has the invitation to come to the light and take a tall, cold drink from Him.  A drink that we’ve truly thirsted for.

 

Christianity is not about being right, it’s about being known.

Christianity is not a change in direction, that we have so often heard, but a change in connection.

Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make what is dead in us come alive.  Jesus is God’s answer to “Where are you?”.  In Christ we find out who we are and what we are living for.  He becomes our author, our definition.  A faith rooted in ourselves will always struggle with personal worth and calling, but a faith that is based on allowing God to cover our lack, remove our shame and fear and make us whole is a faith that makes one truly brave.  It’s where we allow ourselves to be found.

 

Jesus doesn’t want you to invite Him into your life – He is inviting you into His.  It is Christ, not religion that saves us.  We focus our thoughts on how we feel in God’s presence, but have we thought about how He feels in ours?  You could say our entire Christian faith puts emphasis on serving Christ, but do we ever stop to ponder how God serves us with His great love?  He prepares the banquet, woo’s us with his love, washes us clean.  He is very much interested in a two way relationship.  If you have a hard time imagining that, it may reveal your attempt at self redemption you may not have realized. Jesus takes the concept of “seek Him with all your heart and you will be found by Him” one step further.  GOD SEEKS YOU.  He pursues you.  He comes and prepares a table for you to come and find Him and rest for your weary soul.

 

What is the secret?  What is the key, the ONE THING we must do to receive?  Have faith to just receive.  That’s it.  Allow yourself to be seen, be known by the One who already knows you.  Almost seems to good to be true, but that is the gospel: Cease striving and know that He is God.  Lean back and surrender to grace.

 

I will close with an illustration from something I learned through our son’s psychologist.  When our son with special needs would scream, hit, or be out of control we would send him to his room to “get it together”.  When he was ready to be a good boy he could come out and join the family.  This is the way I was raised.   She, however, told us that we were breaking connection with him – the one thing that could bring healing to his troubled mind.  She said instead of sending him away, we were to bring him closer in those moments and tell him nothing would break our connection with him.   The reality of “being known” by God became real to me through this.  God doesn’t send us “to our rooms” to get it together.  He holds us right there in our mess; when we’re hurling profanities, kicking and screaming.  He will never break connection with us, and just as my arms would soften my son’s rage, His arms break the ground of our hardened heart.  The warmth of His arms allows us to be brave to sink in and surrender to his embrace once again.

 

Being known by God.  Take a breathe and allow yourself to be seen.  May you be found in Him once again.

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