Once upon a time, we were all kids.
For some of us, that may have been a little further in the past than others, but at some point, we’ve all gone through adolescence.
Now, regardless if our history involves great memories or not so great, the changes in life during our youth perhaps brought some emotional, even turbulent times.
There were probably instances that caused us to seek an escape at some point. Maybe it was from an abusive situation, maybe it was just the pressures of being a teenager, or perhaps it was not wanting to face the difficulties that presented themselves to us.
If we had a good support system, our escaping led us to wise counsel and trusting relationships that were built around us.
If not, it led us further down the path of isolation and unreliable relationships.
Just as it was for us back then, kids today are starving for relationships.
In my opinion, the best relationship they can have outside of their personal relationship with God is a healthy relationship with their biological parents.
No other relationship has as much influence on a child’s formation into adulthood.
At times, we can be guilty of neglecting that important piece of the maturation process in them.
We think we’re expressing our love to them in a way they want by working long hours so we can provide better things for them. Or we overload their schedule with sports, music, education that takes them away from us into the hands of a teacher or coach.
Sometimes we put too much emphasis on how we think the model parent should be and neglect to get back to basics.
There are days that in my own life, I think I was absent the day they were handing out the book on “How to be a Perfect Parent”. You know the one all of our parents read?
Even if there was such an attempt made at writing that, every situation is different and it wouldn’t universally apply to us all.
What we as parents are responsible for though, is the environment we create for our children.
Are we fostering a healthy environment for our children to grow spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally?
There isn’t a cookie-cutter process for each home to adopt with their children.
What we need to ensure is that we prioritize that in how we raise them. Are we attentive enough so that our kids are not longing for and searching for an escape?
Through study, here are some areas I’ve discovered where kids are finding themselves looking for an escape.
These aren’t ways to point out where we fail as parents.
These are areas identified through research that suggest what affects kids to the degree they feel they have to find ways to escape.
Absenteeism – In 2016, the number of homes in the U.S. with children where both parents worked outside of the home was 61%. (Source: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm)
In 1960, that number was 19%.
This is not to discourage couples from doing so, it does, however, make our job as parents more difficult by having to juggle yet another thing that eats up our time.
Divorce – There may be many reasons why couples decide to get divorced, the largest damage is done to the children involved.
While we’ve heard over the years many statistics on how many marriages end in divorce, one area that we’re seeing it impact children is their reluctance to get into a marriage commitment when they move into adulthood. Are we to blame for their views on marriage?
Addictions – It used to be somewhat simple here in that we could point the finger at alcohol or drugs. Now, a whole new arena of addiction has reared its ugly head.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to us at all but we’re addicted to social media in a disturbing way. Just search for instances where parents have lost their head over something social media related with their children and caused harm or even death.
Other causes that I don’t want to detail include abuse of all kinds and loss from either death or having to move away from family or friends.
These things all affect how kids, especially teenagers handle relationships.
In their quest, they learn to escape through things such as social media, drugs, alcohol, inappropriate relationships, bodily harm, etc.
These things, if not addressed, develop into hooks and addictions of their own.
During times of loneliness or feeling lost, this is where they retreat.
They may not readily admit or be able to articulate what’s driving this, but it’s their desire to connect in a healthy, encouraging relationship.
So how can we keep our kids from falling into these escapes? Here are just a few ways I believe we can make a difference in their lives.
1. Make them a priority
It’s hard to see things through the eyes of our children sometimes, yet it’s necessary for them to understand where we see them.
They don’t want to think we love our jobs, friends, hobbies, etc. more than we do them. Although we don’t say it, where we spend our time and resources tells them everything they need to know.
Kids can be pretty easy to please too. It doesn’t require a weekly trip to the Rat Palace (i.e. – Chuck E Cheese), a monthly trip out of town, or a trip to Disney World every 3 months.
Spend a few bucks on a whiffle ball/bat and go outside. Buy a board game you can all enjoy. Walk to the park and let them play on the equipment there. Identify things you enjoy doing together and just being with them tells them that you prioritize them.
If we make them feel important through more than just our words or material gifts, there will be no doubt how important they are to us.
2. Build trust in your relationship
This is definitely not an overnight endeavor but if we are open and honest with our kids, then they will more likely be open and honest with us.
One thing I’m still learning is that by controlling my emotions during times of mistakes or disobedience impacts how they act the next time something happens.
If you want your children to hide things from you, then when they make a silly mistake, fly off the handle and go overboard with your words and discipline. Or make a huge deal about your son or daughter coming to the realization that the other sex is cute, pretty, handsome, etc.
Don’t discourage real emotions, teach them how to have self-control and how to manage them properly. Handle each situation independently and fairly. Over time, they’ll realize you have their best interests at heart and they’ll confide in you.
3. Encourage them to seek mentors
I realize as a parent we don’t want to admit there are other people in the lives of our children that can get through to them but it’s a reality.
This fact gets more pronounced as they age and move from childhood into their teenage years. The value they place on information and instruction will shift from parental to either peers or others they respect.
Don’t discourage the value a mentor, coach, leader, or pastor can bring. If these are individuals that have wisdom to impart, count it a blessing. There are others that want to pour into your children knowledge and guidance, so as long as it lines up with how you’ve raised them and isn’t antagonistic towards your parenting, be thankful.
4. Model forgiveness and understanding
In general, we pick up more on those things that are shown us, than are told us. Speaking instruction to someone and acting it out has completely different results.
If we want to model understanding, we need to be careful to not act too quickly before we’ve fully understood the situation. We are even instructed in the Bible to be quick to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. (James 1:19)
I tell my children all the time that God gave us two ears and one mouth because we’re supposed to do twice as much listening as talking. Since I expect them to listen, I need to listen and not make snap judgments either.
We know we’re not perfect and don’t expect our children to be. In that sense, we need to be quick to show forgiveness. Showing it does not mean understanding your error but not walking through it.
The best way to do so is to take our kids in our arms, explain what our mistake was and ask for their forgiveness.
5. Give them a foundation
There needs to be a fixed point in all of our lives that we can depend on. Something to build on our lives on and a compass that guides us through life.
If we aren’t fulfilling this, we’re doing them a disservice. Building our lives upon an immovable force provides stability, security, and safety. We need to give them God as a foundation.
Of course, it’s up to every person to choose their own path but if we’ve at least given them an understanding of Him, then when it’s time for them to decide for themselves, they’ll know who they can depend on.
Dr. Tim Clinton promotes that “Every child needs and deserves at least one person who is crazy about them.”Every child needs and deserves at least one person who is crazy about them. Click To Tweet
Are you crazy about your kids?
If so, are you showing them that you are by following these methods? Leave the “what if” behind and incorporate these strategies into your family and see the difference it can make.
What about you? Have you faced times when your kids sought to escape? Have you tried these or other methods?
Comment below and share!