Laying the Foundation for Safe and Open Dialogue with Children

This meditation begins our “News Coach” series. News Coach Kelsey Reed explores biblical provision and best practices for engaging children and students, equipping them to discerningly engage the world in which we live.

You Are Enough

As an educator and a mom of three children ranging from six to 17 years old, I am constantly confronted by how poorly I measure up. My 15-year-old keeps me humble, smirking at my attempts to employ rapidly changing slang. My eldest regards my clothing with a critical eye, tucking here and pulling there. But my youngest, with her inquisitiveness (and opinions) about the world, cuts my legs out from under me, sending me to my knees. Their strengths and limitations loom large in my mind, along with my own. The philosophies and physical dangers of the world threaten, and I don’t have the words, the energy, or even the foresight to keep them at bay. The call to live righteously—moving into the world to transform it for His name’s sake and train my children up to do the same—seems too great a call. I consider the weakness of my flesh and conclude with the prophet: “I am undone.” I’m not enough.

When the challenges of discipleship burden my mind and heart, I find myself praying desperate prayers. I beg for Him to equip; I cry out for His Spirit to intercede. And I am reminded in the begging and crying that I am His child. He is my Father. The only perfect and able parent and master teacher has intentionally entrusted to me the discipleship of the ones He has given into my care. But He had to hem me in, reminding me of my limits and His limitlessness, before I could grasp more deeply: His strength is made perfect in my weakness. Perhaps this is where you are standing today. Perhaps you, like I, need the reminder that He loves us, we are His, He loves to give us Himself. He is enough.

As newly minted “News Coach” with God’s WORLD News, it is my delight and privilege to come alongside you who are in the trenches. I want you to know that I get it. I’m slogging through the same mud—laundering it, finding the same landmines, praying the same desperate prayers. Please let me remind you that the Father in all of His wisdom and love placed your children in your home for you to be their parents. Teachers: He has paved the way for you to be in the classroom, serving and shaping, through your training, creating, communicating, engaging, and even imparting discipline for growth. Parents, teachers: His plan is you. By His provision, you are enough.

For thought:
Where have you felt your limits acutely in the last week, month, or even year? How might your limits propel you to lean further into His abundant supply?
GWN News Coach Kelsey Reed, in the studio with Nick Eicher, discusses content and context for talking about news trends with young people for a segment on The World and Everything in It.

Too Much

Since starting with God’s WORLD News, I have been waking up around 4am; and no, it is not intentional. After collapsing into my bed at 11 (the house finally still after the last teen has turned towards sleep), my mind shuts off from sheer exhaustion. But sure enough, at about four, my head is “pinball-machining” once more. It seems that my brain, on overload from the sheer amount of information I’m taking in, has decided that four is the natural hour for reflecting on all of that content.

This is not ideal. This mom needs more than five hours of sleep to approach or receive my family members with love and grace.

In our day and age, we are bombarded with information. It is like drinking from a fire hydrant, or (excuse the metaphor) being force-fed at an all-you-can-eat buffet. From a discipleship point of view, it is just as unhealthy. So, how do we know when to say “enough”? Same word, different application, and a vital one. We can get too much, even of good things. Perhaps the Lenten season has stoked my meditation. I am maturing in my understanding, recognizing the wisdom of fasting: for focus, for discipline, for reining in excess.

Human beings, wired to learn and absorb, must have the opportunity to turn off the content streams and develop time to reflect, differentiate, discern. Today, I want to encourage parents and teachers to first do the self-care of unplugging, muting, disengaging. Then, as with the now-proverbial oxygen mask, once you have taken care of your need for quiet, come alongside your children to help them do the same. Create time for rest, outdoor play, quiet minds. Model it for your children as Christ modeled it for His disciples—for us. It is in those quiet spaces of sitting at His feet, dwelling in His presence, that our best thoughts often root down and bear fruit. In a culture of immediate results and gratification, we are called to move differently: to reflect so that, instead of reacting to the events of the world in which we live, we can respond.

For thought:
What are your “tells” for when you are on content overload? Your children’s? Where are some natural places that you can begin to expand time for quiet—building reflective capacity in your lives?

Climate Concerns

On a recent Monday—the start of spring break for my children, whom I left still in bed adjusting to Daylight Savings Time—I found my heart and mind racing through a checklist: Did I leave options for breakfast and lunch? Did I remind them what they can do together with their (much younger) sister? Did I communicate about screen limits? Did I remember to show them the recipe they will follow for our dinner tonight?

These questions seem at odds with this entry’s title; but it is not a global-scale environmental crisis to which I refer, as much as that might be in the news. Rather, I am thinking of the finely tuned tension of structure, support, and challenge required in every educational situation, or “learning climate.” Like the perfect balance in a wrist watch, whose springs and gears work in tension to reliably measure time, a learning climate must have its elements put in place with care and intentionality. For my children to learn, grow, and thrive, they need enough structure and support in their lives to face the challenges of the day.

Thankfully, in our at-home scenario, the challenges are fairly low…Or are they? My mind, occupied with the culture and the news, flies from subject to subject: war, identity politics, economic hardship––landmines which threaten the fragile balance. I ask a new set of questions: Have I pointed them enough towards truth? Have I taught them to ask the right questions—to engage the world with a hermeneutic of healthy suspicion? Have I passed on the love of the wholesome, the playful, the good, true, and beautiful?

For us to faithfully engage the work of discipleship, we must consistently move into relationship with our children, leading them further into Christ. The disciplines of grace—time in the word, fellowship, prayer, etc.—offer some of the structure needed. Add to this physical disciplines that keep mind and body alert, prepared for action; academic disciplines which promote critical thinking; reflective disciplines like journaling which invite our children to know their hearts, name their emotions, and bring their wrestlings before the Father.

Being available to our children with an unhurried, non-anxious, physical presence provides the support they need as they face the world, into which they must ultimately move. Parents, as you do this discipleship work to prepare your students, there will be challenges, trials, troubles. Maintaining a healthy learning climate may feel like a tall order, but I know this: My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. Look to Him again today for the structure and support you need amidst life’s challenges. He is faithful and He will do it.

For thought:
Where is challenge high in the life of your family? Where is it high for your children in each of their spheres? How can you increase support (without smothering)? How might you supply healthy structures and routines—disciplines—that will allow your children to face challenges and grow as His disciples, called to make disciples?
An invitation for you:
In this blog post, we’ve been laying some groundwork, sharing principles that create the mindset and environment from which opening meaningful dialogue within our families can take place. As you incorporate these foundational principles, I sincerely hope to interact with you as you wrestle with topics and the challenges you face. It’s my goal to offer you tools to address the questions you and your children are asking. Together, we will craft the support and structure you need to engage your children for their good and His glory. Please drop me a line with a comment, question, or concern. Let’s start the dialogue! I’m listening.
kreed@gwpub.com
Kelsey Reed

Kelsey Reed