Raising Emotional Healthy Ministry Kids

Pastors, church planters, missionaries, and ministry leaders know firsthand that the line between ministry life and home life is blurry if it even exists at all. 

This blurry line will often mean that you cannot protect your family from negative fallout of church or ministry conflict, you cannot guard them against the hurtful comments, and you cannot shelter them from the pressure to live up to standards imposed by others. Keeping your family from feeling like they are constantly on display or being critiqued is an exhausting and nearly impossible task.

All this can lead parents to be concerned about the long-term impact the ministry might have on their children. This concern is legitimate, but they shouldn’t carry this concern alone. This article is written for parents who are serving in ministry, and it is for the church. We all have a part in raising emotionally healthy ministry kids. Below are three issues ministry kids face and what parents and the church can do.

Expectations and Judgments

One of the most difficult realities that these kids face is the expectations and judgments of others. Pastors, church planters, and ministry leaders live daily with the reality that their lives are being constantly examined. 

Some people hold a higher standard for ministry kids. While it is good that people look to their pastor or ministry leader as an example, it is important to remember that they are not immune to the common struggles in parenting. Ministry kids are learning, growing, making mistakes, and maturing just like other kids. Often they are doing this with unrealistic expectations from those in their faith community. This adds a burden to their young lives and is exhausting for their parents.

What can parents do?

Communicate your convictions to live as a family who seeks to please the Lord, not people. This does not mean that other people’s opinions do not matter, they do. It simply means that those opinions will take their proper place in your family. Let them know that mistakes are a part of life and they do not need to feel the burden of trying to be perfect. Encourage your kids that as a family you will prioritize following God over fearing the opinion of others (Prov. 29:25). 

Parents should avoid using their kid’s failures or childish behaviors as examples in sermons, lectures, or conversations. Instead, share encouraging stories about your kids. Speak well of them often and in their hearing. There will be times you need to share your parenting struggles as you seek advice, but reserve that for trusted relationships rather than casual conversation or sermon illustrations.

What can the church do?

Consider the impact of your comments. “You let your kids watch that!” “That outfit seems a bit immodest.” “I heard your kid skipped youth group for soccer practice.” Before you decide to say anything, pray. Pray and consider if it even needs to be said. Since expectations are heavily felt, let your comments about your pastor or leader’s kids be expressions of genuine encouragement. Know that there is likely more conversation going on at home about these matters. Your pastor is not immune to normal parenting struggles. Offer grace over judgment. Provide encouragement over expectations (1 Thess. 5:11). 

Cruelty and Rudeness

Pastors, church planters, and ministry leaders wish they could shield their children from the harsh criticisms and insensitive comments they personally have received in ministry. People can be very vocal about their opinions of leaders. What they often forget is that while they are criticizing, correcting, or even insulting their pastor/leader, the children are watching and listening. Children who hear or see the unkind words and actions from people toward their parents find it hard to forget the cruelty they witnessed. The years fade but the words still sting. 

What can parents do?

Prepare them for it. Let them know that there will be those who strongly disagree with your leadership and will be very vocal about it. Negative voices can feel like the majority, but in most cases they are more like the cricket in a quiet dark room. Remind them (and yourself) that for every negative voice there are scores of those who love and support you and your family. The burden of criticism is heavier if they are unsure of how you are managing it. When you can, let them know that you are alright. Then seek supportive counseling for yourself if needed.

What can the church do?

Be kind. It really is that simple. Even if you disagree with your pastor or ministry leader, be charitable. Encourage them in front of their family. Tell their kids how much you appreciate their parents and the sacrifice they continually make to serve. Tell the children how much you appreciate them as well. Be known as one who seeks to love and honor the pastor or leader and their family (Rom. 12:10).

Balance and Limitations

Raising kids in ministry is going to be a continual fight for balance. You cannot schedule a crisis and you never know when tragedy will strike. There are going to be times your kids will have to wait while you attend to the needs of ministry. But balance is necessary for their emotional wellbeing. Fight for balance and prioritize the needs of your kids and family. 

With this balance comes the struggle of limitations. Not only will you face the reality of limited time, but also limited resources. Ministry families often live on a tight budget especially when serving in fledgling ministries. Parents often have to say no to soccer camp, music lessons, or extravagant vacationing.

What can parents do?

Make the most out of what you can. When you vacation, unplug from ministry demands and be fully present with your kids. Leave the laptop and the guilt behind. Because sacrificing comes with ministry, doing something just for fun or splurging for a vacation might feel excessive but it is important to do from time to time. And try to do it without guilt. Your kids will notice any guilt or distress you are bringing so, for their sake, seek to unplug and enjoy life together. Those times go a long way toward sustaining your child’s emotional health.  

What can the church do?

Bless the socks off ministry kids. Consider funding a summer camp for them. Surprise the family with gift cards to restaurants. Drop off fun foods they may not be able to buy. Also, ministry kids often feel like everybody and nobody knows them at the same time. Learn their names and introduce and address them by their names rather than the pastor’s son/daughter. Notice the sacrifice of their parents’ time and attention and thank them for it. Tell them that they are a key part of the ministry. And finally– respect their parents’ day off. Save the text, email, call, or message for another day.  

Much more can be said on this topic, and we need to continue to give attention to the emotional wellbeing of ministry kids. But the blurry lines of ministry and home life are not all bad. Your role in ministry affords opportunities for your family to share in moments of seeing God at work in lives in amazing ways. Your ministry life can mature your children emotionally, ignite their faith, and equip them to navigate life’s struggles as they model what they saw lived out in you and their church family. 

Why I Wrote Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids

In February 2020 I was hired as the director of counseling for a large church just outside of Washington D.C. I was given a lovely office where I figured I’d spend plenty of time focusing on the care and counseling needs of individuals and families connected to the church.

That plan changed when I was sent home to work remotely for what was expected to be two weeks. That two weeks was known as 15 Days to Slow the Spread. No one had any idea what was in store for us as a church, a country, or a world as the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that was normal.

When 15 days came and went we were all still at home riding out the pandemic. Families were forced to make major adjustments and I began getting calls from concerned parents. Working from home that year, I spoke to many parents who were seeking help regarding the emotional challenges their kids were facing. If your child hadn’t struggled emotionally before 2020, chances are they struggled during or after 2020. Fear, anxiety, confusion, grief, and sadness began to be common experiences for children and parents needed help understanding the emotional impact the ongoing pandemic was having on their kids.

One might think this was the driving event that motivated me to write a resource for parents addressing kid’s emotional health, but it wasn’t. Before the word “coronavirus” was a household name, a significant trend was already happening. More and more parents were reaching out to me and my colleagues seeking help for the emotional struggles their kids faced. Struggles related to friends or lack thereof, identity issues, bullying, pressures from social media, questions about their faith, and so much more plagued kids and teens.

Parents wanted biblical guidance that addressed the rising emotional challenges of the younger generation. Certainly the pandemic heightened parent’s concern about their children’s emotional health, but the need for help was already there. Seeing this early trend, I wanted to provide parents with a relevant and practical resource and the idea for this book began.

My goal was to help Christian parents know when and how to find help when their child was struggling while at the same time calm fears by educating moms and dads on what to expect from the emotional development of their children. I also wanted to give parents a resource that would help them know what emotional health looks like for themselves. Wise parents assess their own emotional wellbeing and seek to honor the Lord in whatever changes may be needed.

I am thrilled to be able to share this new book, right now, when it seems needed more than ever before.

Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids is readable and useful– not too long but packed with practical help. It is a balance of biblical wisdom coupled with a clinical understanding of the emotional development of children. I have drawn on what I have learned from years of being a counselor and I also share what I have learned in my own experience as a parent. Though I am a continual learner in both of these areas, I pray what I share will be helpful to parents as they seek to raise emotionally healthy kids.

Whether the past couple years have proved challenging for your kids emotionally or if they struggled even before the pandemic, this resource will provide helpful guidance. It is also very helpful for parents whose kids are doing well. The preventative direction will keep you headed in the right direction. Pre-order is now available at www.10ofThose.com.


Join the book launch team!

Want to read an early-release sample of Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids? You are invited to join the launch team. Click the button to learn more.

Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids Workshop

Parents today have the difficult task of raising kids in a time when mental health statistics are far from encouraging. Kids face emotional challenges like no other generation and parents often have more questions than answers when it comes to helping their children navigate these turbulent waters.

If you feel lost or overwhelmed when it comes to your child’s emotional health you are not alone. I want to invite you to a workshop this October in Baltimore, Maryland to learn practical ways you can better care for your child’s mental health and set a course for healthier emotional wellbeing.

Your child’s emotional health is deeply connected to their physical and spiritual health and the Bible speaks to all of these. In the workshop you will be equipped to learn how to wholly nurture them and raise emotionally healthy kids. You will learn what can be expected in various stages of development of the emotional health of kids. You will also receive helpful tips on how to help your child regulate their emotions and moods. But you will also learn how to instill lasting hope in children growing up in a world that faces numerous struggles and challenges with mental health.

Registration is only $10 and that includes a free book! Register today.

Speakers:

  • Eliza Huie is a counselor and author of various books including Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated WorldRaising Kids in a Hyper-Sexual World, and more recently The Whole Life: 52 Weeks of BIblical Self-Care. She is also co-host of the podcast Counsel For Life. Learn more about Eliza at www.ElizaHuie.com.
  • Lindsey Carlson is the wife of a pastor and the mother of five children, ranging from high school to kindergarten. She is the author of Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Maturing in Christ, and teaches and writes on numerous topics related to Christian faith and living. Learn more about Lindsey at www.LindseyCarlson.net.

How Should I Respond if my Child Sees Porn?

How should I respond if my child sees pornography?

This is a question I get asked often. It is an important question, but I want to actually ask this question in a slightly different way. In the way that I feel is more helpful.

How should I respond when my child sees pornography?”

Instead of if, let’s say when. It’s a slight change but is more than likely the reason why you are reading this article. And reframing it this way allows parents to be prepared for what sadly is more than likely a reality. Whether it is an accidental glimpse of an image, a classmate sharing something on their phone, or a curious search on their own phone, laptop, or tablet, your child will likely see porn. It is so easily available and sadly statistics tell us that the average age of the first exposure to porn is just 11 years old and, in most cases, this happens in the child’s own home.[i] As a parent, your response when this happens is very important.

When your child is sees pornography, it is an opportunity for two things. It is a teaching opportunity, and it is a gospel opportunity.

A Teaching Opportunity

It’s an opportunity for you to teach your child about their own sexuality and God’s good design for sex. It is an opportunity to teach them about the incredible value people have as image bearers and how we should never use other people—even if it is just pictures of them—in ways that do not honor them or the God who made them.[ii] It is an opportunity for you to teach your child about what are appropriate pictures to see of others and what are inappropriate. It is also a good chance to teach them what are appropriate or inappropriate pictures to have taken of themselves.

A Gospel Opportunity

It is also a gospel opportunity. When your child sees porn, you have an amazing occasion to bring the gospel to your child in this moment. The fact that pornography even exists shows just how far our hearts have strayed from the Lord and reminds us of how much we all need Jesus. Whether your child saw pornography willingly or accidentally it is great opportunity for you to remind them of the forgiveness we have in Jesus. People who make or engage in porn can have their sins totally forgiven. And children, who curiously explored pornography also can find abundant grace from God when they confess. Remind them that 1 John 1:9 tells us that, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The kindness of God is available for all who to turn to Him.

So, keep these two things in mind—it is a teaching opportunity, and it is a gospel opportunity.

Resources

As a parent I know resources are a big when raising children. In light of that, here are a couple resources I have written on the topic of both sex and screens to help parents when asking this or other related questions.

The first is called Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World. And while the title says Raising Teens it is very beneficial for parents of elementary and preteens as well. In it I share 7 tips for navigating the topic sex. One important tip for parents to consider how their reaction to learning about a child’s exposure to porn impacts their relationship with their child. Discovering that your child has seen pornography is very upsetting but parents must bring their sorrows, anger, or disappointments to the Lord first and ask Him to help move into the conversation in a way that shows the child see that what has happened is not too big for God nor is it not beyond his grace.

The second book is called Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. It is designed to help parents who are raising digital natives. The five quick tips discuss ways to model digital discipline in your home and answer questions like “when should I give my child their own device?”

Both of these books are short and practical allowing the busiest of parents to get through them.

In summary keep in mind that exposure to pornography is likely going to happen at some point as you raise your kids. Reframing these the situation by remembering that this it is a teaching opportunity and a gospel opportunity turns these moments into opportunities of growth. And most of all remember the Lord is our helper you so lean into him in everything you face with your children.


[i] https://www.covenanteyes.com/lemonade/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Protect-family-online-Covenant-Eyes.pdf

[ii] Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:4, Romans 12:10

Perfectly Imperfect

Parents feel the pressure to parent well. But life, especially right now, makes that hard. 

This is why I’m so excited to announce that I will be speaking at the online Perfectly Imperfect Christian Parenting Event on October 23-24th. This completely digital event was designed for parents like you as a time to set aside perfection and receive the practical and spiritual help we need, in an easy and accessible format. 

The goal is to help you check perfection at the door, or couch, and become the perfectly imperfect parent God has called you to be! I’ll be speaking on the Talking to Your Kids about Sex from ages 2-20. In addition to my talk, there will be over 50 other short consumable talks giving you both practical and spiritual advice from other amazing speakers! Check out the line up and register today!

Early bird registration is available at a discounted rate of $29 for the full event. Register today for this digital Christian Parenting event by clicking HERE. You’ll also find a link on the EVENTS page. This is an ALL ACCESS registration. You can watch the teaching until December.

 
Again, register today at CHRISTIAN PARENTING and I look forward to seeing you there!!

https://www.perfectlyimperfect.org/a/34476/LZXgQud8

Three imperative topics parents must discuss with their kids regarding phones.

Since writing Raising Kids in a Screen-saturated World, I have had many conversations with parents about issues with children and smartphones. The conversations often include a level of regret from parents. They wish they would have been more proactive in what having a phone would look like for their child. In these conversations, three topics surface with regularity.

These imperative topics I call the 3Cs. They are Confidentiality, Conditions, and Costs.

Parents can avoid regret and conflict by addressing these topics early. The best plan is to have these talks before you give your child their own smartphone. However, if you have already given your child a smartphone, don’t worry! You will find help here, it is never too late to have these conversation. In fact they may be more necessary now than ever before.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a big issue. For our purposes, confidentiality is about privacy and hiding, both of which can lead to unhelpful and even dangerous realities for your child. So parents must talk about it.

Establish first that privacy is a thing of the past. Children must understand that their activity on a device, including a password protected smartphone, is not private. Your child’s activity on their phone is discoverable and recoverable.

The conversation about confidentiality should include a discussion about privacy and hiding. The scope of your parenting includes your child’s personal activity with their smartphones. Access to your child’s phones is a parental responsibility. Establish ways you will engage with them and their phones that is reasonable and respectful.

Teach them what wise interaction looks like with social media, texting, browsing, and app use. Help them understand the weight of sending something that can never be unsent. Instill in their thinking that even though they may feel a certain level of privacy it is a a penetrable illusion. Walk with them in understanding that hiding is a dangerous path.

Conditions

This conversation is about limits and boundaries. The conversation about conditions answers questions regarding with whom your child gives their number. What social media apps will they use? Where will the phone be kept when not in use? Are there times or places that will be “no phone zones”? Should they have data limits? What will those limits be?

Parents and kids have expectations regarding conditions so it is best to have the conversation right away. This will set the course and help to avoid conflict that regularly arises on this issue. Remember you are the parent and this is a topic where your children need your guidance, even if they push back against it.

Parents must set the stage for what the conditions will look like. If your child really wants a social media app, and you feel it is reasonable, explore it with them. Engage it with them. Your involvement should be a regular condition to them having a phone. Your involvement should be positive as well. If your engagement only comes in the form of punishment or consequences, you are paving a path of resistance.

Costs

What are the expenses and how will your child be a part of them? Most kids will be added to their parent’s phone plan. It will be the most affordable option for everyone. However, just because they are being added to your plan doesn’t mean your child has no responsibility.

Getting a phone is a long-term decision. I have rarely heard of a kids who, after getting a smartphone, willingly reverts back to a cheaper non-data flip phone or no phone at all. So have a conversation about costs right from the start. This conversation helps you child avoid a sense of entitlement and allows them to view a phone as a privilege.

I encourage parents to give their children some skin in the game. Discussions about costs should be age and resource appropriate. If you have given your child a phone as a gift, discuss how and when they will begin contributing to the monthly cost. If you plan on paying for their full phone bill, talk about when that will change. Parents who have not had that conversation will often find that they are still paying for their son or daughter’s phone bill even after they have launched on their own.

Continuing the Conversations

Giving your child a smartphone opens up uncharted territory for most parents. If you have read this article you may have more questions on how to better engage your child regarding wise cellphone use. Maybe you haven’t given your child a phone and are wondering what is the appropriate right-of-passage age. Maybe you have concerns about guarding them from concerning issues like sexting or bullying. Or perhaps you want to learn more about how to wisely walk with them in this world where everyone carries a mini computer in their pocket.

These and other questions are answered in Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. It provides age appropriate questions to engage conversations with your child. You will also find plenty of other resources in the “for further reading” portion at the conclusion of the book. Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World is available from 10ofThose.com.