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5 Ways to Navigate the Scary World Our Kids Are Growing Up In

What did you used to be scared of that you aren’t scared of anymore?

For me, it was the dark. I used to sprint like an Olympian to take the garbage out growing up. I remember even counting the number of steps it took to get from our back door to where the cans were on the side of our garage (73 steps, by the way). I'd count out loud as a distraction to get me through the awkwardness of the chore.

And then there was the fear of whatever was lurking under the bed. I had a collection of stuffed animals that I used to form a perimeter around the edge of my mattress. That way, any creature that might try to reach its hand around to grab me would have to deal with the likes of Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger, too).

These days, like many parents, I have different fears.

You know what I'm talking about, right? This world can be a dangerous place to raise kids, especially as certain headlines prod us into places we never thought we'd end up. No matter how many steps I try to count out loud or borders I build around the perimeter, things just keep getting scarier out there.

I've felt the same awkwardness you do about what's the "right" response. We seem to have five popular reactions:

  • We ignore it: We can pretend like the headlines aren't there or aren't a big deal, but we then stand the risk of losing our voice into it.
  • We imitate it: We can blend in with whatever's happening, but we then stand the risk of teaching our kids how to become who God has uniquely made them to be.
  • We condemn it: We can point out all the things wrong with culture, but we then stand the risk of modeling to our kids how to be a critic without ever offering better alternatives.
  • We contrast it: We can create a seemingly safer version of culture with Christian alternatives, but we then stand the risk of protecting our kids from the world instead of preparing them for it.
  • We can redeem it: We can see beneath the surface of culture to find God's original intent for people and things, but we then stand the risk of only talking about it versus getting into the trenches to help real redemption happen.

Let's flip this around, though. Kids likewise have five dominant reactions:

  • They can ignore us: No matter what lines we draw, our kids may choose to step over them - especially if we don't explain why those lines were drawn in the first place. "Because I'm your parent" doesn't always fly for them anymore than it did for us growing up.
  • They can imitate us: Kids are not waiting to take their cue from us - they ARE taking their cues from us. What's up to us is to decide how we will teach and equip them.
  • They can condemn us: Sometimes kids inherit values from us like they inherit an affection for our favorite sports teams. Other times they throw on the "opposing team's jersey" on purpose just to show us how independent they are and how short-sighted we are. Mark Twain famously said, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
  • They can contrast us:  Our kids may go a step or two further than us on something, or perhaps stay a step or two behind. I see this in my sons, for while one wants to see the next level of movies within our family standards the other one wants to err more conservatively on what he watches.
  • They can redeem us: We consistently underestimate what kids can learn from our generation and somehow correct in their generation. They really can do more than add icing on our cakes if we teach them how to take the ingredients in this world before God to then bake something new with Him.

That's where I'm landing with all of this. While we are in the midst of a broken and flawed world that's marked by the painful consequences of sin, God is still pursuing us even through those consequences.

We don't have to be afraid of the dark, for Jesus says we are the Light of the world.

We don't have to fear what's under the bed if we seek Christ to build the home that bed rests upon.

Let's have a fearless conversation.

What's happening "out there" that scares you "in here?"

How are you navigating it?

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