Talking to Your Children About Tragedies in the Age of the Internet

Soraya Coffelt Talking to Children about Tragedies

With growing numbers of online news outlets as well as constant chatter on social media, there has never been a time when tragedies have been displayed so vividly and frequently at the rate they are now.   There is a virtually unlimited amount of information available to everyone, young and old, on the internet.  As a result, children can see and hear about atrocities before they are mature enough to be able to emotionally and intellectually process them.   This forces parents to have difficult conversations with them far earlier than they had anticipated.  What can parents do?

Initially, you as a parent, must recognize that your children can have easy access to graphic details about mass killings, earthquakes, food and refugee crises, and so much more.  Be prepared to address these situations, because more and more tragedies are happening and at greater frequency.  Do not bury your head in the sand and believe that your children will not hear about them.

When discussing a specific situation, the best approach is to be honest, but that does not mean that you have to reveal or talk about every detail.  You alone are the judge as to how much information to share with your children, based on what you know is their maturity level.  Children are not ready for all the grisly details that come with widespread disasters, so giving them a vague recap should be enough to satisfy their curiosity.  Allowing them to ask questions is very important because they may have heard incorrect information from their peers or others.  Answer their questions in the most age appropriate language possible.  As they grow older, you can start expanding on some of the information you share with them. 

Importantly, remember that, no matter how much the sad news may be weighing on you, you should not  display extreme distress.  Your children are observing you as the person who is supposed to be their rock and provider.  Showing composure in expressing information about an event will build composure in your children.  Avoid frightening them.  Reassure them that they will never be left alone or be away from their family.

As a Christian parent, you can remind your children that they will be safe and secure, as they are continuously protected by God.  Reinforce God’s love and peace in the midst of a storm.   Pray with them for victims and about solutions to difficult issues.

Having sorrow for the tragedies of this world shows we are compassionate and loving people.  As adults, these tragedies are often difficult to comprehend.  Be proactive in conveying appropriate information to your children at their age levels.

It Is Essential to Forgive Others as the Lord Has Forgiven You

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
— Colossians 3:13

What is a simple seven letter word that is very hard to do?  Forgive.  No matter how many times we are told that forgiveness is an act that benefits the forgiver more than the person being forgiven, we still often view it as a tough task, usually because of our pride.  Not only can refusing to forgive be detrimental to us physically, but also spiritually.

Forgiveness is not an option in living a Christian lifestyle, but rather a requirement.  Colossians 3:13, our scripture text, actually commands us to forgive as God has first forgiven us.  It does not say that we are allowed to forgive sometimes, depending on what that person has done to us.  We are to always forgive – period.

One of the most poignant stories of forgiveness for me in modern times was when Pope John Paul II forgave the man who tried to assassinate him in 1981.  The shooter fired many shots, four of which hit the Pope.   He lost a great deal of blood but survived.  The shooter was caught and sentenced to life in prison.  Two years later, the Pope visited the would-be assassin in prison and forgave him.  The two emerged from the visit as friends.  But, the Pope even went further.  He requested that the shooter be pardoned, and he eventually was, and became a Christian. 

Now that is forgiveness in action!

Are Your Children Consuming Too Much Digital Media?

We have all seen it.  Parents are busy so they give their children some form of digital media to occupy their time while the parents get things done.  Often, it is a cell phone with games.  Other times, it is a laptop or other small device with games or a movie.  Have you ever stopped and thought about how much digital media your children consume each day and whether it is good for them?

In October, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics held a national  conference and discussed new health regulations for children for 2017.  One of the main topics was children and digital media.  The Academy had previously recommended limiting the amount of television viewing to children who are 2 years or older and no more than two hours a day.  However, since we have become saturated with all sorts of digital media, the Academy reviewed its recommendations and issued some new ones.

According to Dr. Jenny Radesky, “Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep.”  The Academy stresses the fact that problems begin when digital media takes the place of what children need to be doing in the real world and can negatively affect their health.

Some of the new recommendations are:

1.    For children 18-24 months, do not allow them to use a screen except for video chatting.

2.    For children 2 to 5 years old, limit screen use to 1 hour of high quality media a day.

3.    For children 6 and older, parents should place consistent limits so that their children do not lose sleep and miss out on all the many fun things that children need to do. 

Next time, when you want to keep your children occupied, get them a good book to read.  They will learn new words and improve their comprehension skills.  Nothing can or should replace a good book!

To read more about the Academy’s recommendations, CLICK HERE.

Why Parents’ Date Night Matters to Your Family

Ephesians 5:33Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (ESV)

Ephesians 5:28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (ESV)

When was the last time that you and your spouse had a specific day set aside just for the two of you or what we have come to know as “date night”?  Parents are so busy with their work, raising children, and participating in extracurricular activities that often, they do not consider their relationship as something to cherish and nurture.  The Bible admonishes a husband to love his wife as his own body, and for a wife to respect and love her husband.   How can a husband and wife do that if they do not spend quality time alone together.

Many spouses believe that setting aside time for each other is too difficult.  Quite the contrary - especially if you set your mind to it.  Begin by making sure that both parties agree on the day and time ahead of time.  Don’t wait until the last minute and then suggest a “date night” because it will be doomed to failure.  Importantly, “date night” does not need to actually take place at night.  For example, it can take place one week on a weekday for dinner at 7 p.m.  During the next week, it can be a picnic lunch, and a stroll in the park another week, and visiting an art show another week.   Plan a variety of things to do, rather than just the same thing on each date, so that there is not monotony and boredom.  You both should plan to make this time special for each other.

There can be date nights at home too.  Be creative.  Plan on putting the children to bed early and have a special night with your spouse.  The critical issue is that the “date night” is planned and set aside.  Guard and protect this time from any outside interference, such as texts or phone calls from your children.  Time together with your spouse is vital for the well-being of the entire family.

For more “date night” ideas, visit this webpage.

What is One of the Most Important New Year’s Resolutions That You Can Make For Your Children? Read more!

    I came across this post by an unknown author about reading to your children.  As you may know, my blog centers on improving the lives of children, primarily through literacy.  It should be no surprise that I would continue to inspire adults to read more to and with children.  As we begin a new year, I encourage you to add that as a New Year’s resolution as it keeps reading on your most important things “to do” list each day.  

    As the unknown author writes, it only can take 20 minutes a day.  That is 20 minutes out of 1,440 minutes that we have each and every day.  Surely you can squeeze in the time!  But, if there is one day that you just have 10 minutes, still do it.  Don’t put reading off to a time in the future when you believe you will have “enough time” because often, that time does not happen.   Make procrastinating a thing of the past and just do it!

    What about where and when to read?  The author again gives you some suggestions.  Think about all the things that you do each day that require some sort of waiting time, and then add reading.  While you do laundry … while dinner cooks – these are just a few of those times.   Moreover, read during any time of the day – especially on weekends and holidays.  Search for opportunities to read. 

    I love it when the author suggests to “Hide the remote; let the computer games cool.”  We all know that these electronic devices steal reading time away from us.  So, in other words, don’t even turn on the television.  If you have it on, turn it off and then don’t let anyone else turn it on while reading is going on.  With computer games, you may have to pull your children away from them, but pull, pull, pull!  Those games won’t go anywhere and when you give the approval for your children to return to them, they will still be there.

    While reading, have your children snuggle close to you.  This is a wonderful time to bond and love on them.  They hear your voice.  They feel your warm touch.  They know that they are truly loved!  And, as the author says “Hey, don’t quit.”  Tomorrow is another day to read, and read, and read some more.

Raising Thankful Children

I came across this quote and was taken aback by how simple yet forthright and impactful it was.  Saying “thank you” is such an important part of our relationship with God, our Father, yet how often do we truly do it during our busy days?  How are we teaching our children to be thankful for all that He has given us?  1 Thessalonians 5:18 states “Give thanks in every circumstance for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

It’s the day after Christmas and I’m certain that we all had a lot of gifts to open and indulge in as well as scrumptious meals to enjoy.  We should be thankful for all that He has given us, not just for these physical, worldly gifts, but most importantly, for the intangible ones - our lives, our health, our family, etc., etc.  I could go on and on naming what we can be thankful for each and every second of each and every day.  

Whether we like it or not, we are role models for our children.  If we are not verbally expressing our thanks and showing thankfulness through our actions, the likelihood is that our children will not either.  To raise thankful children, we must first be thankful as parents.  Try expressing thanks out loud each day as part of the family routine, such as when you are driving them to school.  Make it fun and playful.  Point out how they can thank each other for simple acts of kindness.  As a parent, you can thank your children for things that they do, and they should be thanking you as well.  Nurture a thankful spirit within your children and they will be kinder and more loving to you and others. 

Allowing Our Children to Face the Consequences

As parents, many of us do not want to see our children suffer for their mistakes or negative conduct.  We love them so much that all we want to do is protect them.  A very important parenting tool, however, is that we allow our children to face discomfort and consequences from their actions so that they can learn that their decisions and actions have ramifications in their lives.

As Christian parents, we should have rules for our children to follow.  Have your family write up some rules for everyone to follow.  If and when they violate the rules, natural consequences must follow.  These consequences can be creative ones.  In her online article Creative Consequences for Kids, author Kim Sorgius shares some of her suggestions.  She writes that first, rules at home should be simple and not give a child any wiggle room.  As an example, she requires that her children clean their room.  Once she comes to check, if she finds anything out of order or not put away, she takes the item for a period of time, such as a week.  If the problem continues, she may give the item away to charity.

Another example is when her child is too loud or whinny or saying mean things.   The consequence for that negative behavior is that the child cannot speak for a while.  This especially works well, she writes, when children are driving with you in the car.

After her article, Ms. Sorgius shares comments that other moms have written about what they do for consequences.  One mom wrote: “If you don’t eat what mama cooks you’re gonna be hungry.” How long do you think it will take your child to figure out that he had better eat what his mother or father cooks or he will go hungry?

Be sure to plan out consequences when you are not angry.  Be creative.  Your children will break rules, so expect it and help them learn how to develop character and discipline.  

Read her entire article by CLICKING HERE.

 

Helping Your Child with the Fear of Failure

It is often said that the fear of failure is now a childhood epidemic.  Fear of failing causes children to not participate in sports and other activities or even try to do their best.  Children learn to make up excuses for not succeeding.  Parents can contribute to their children’s fear too by conditioning their love for their children on their children’s abilities to achieve success.  For example, a parent may indicate to a child through words or behavior that the parent only loves the child if the child is the lead scorer in a game. 

As human beings, we know that failure is a part of life.  How we deal with failure is also an important part of life.  As Christian parents, we should turn to the Bible for guidance.  God knows that we will suffer anger and disappointment but we should not forget that God is always with us, no matter what happens.  Proverbs 24:16 says that “Even if good people fall seven times, they will get up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that’s the end of them.”

There are many examples in the Bible of great men and women who suffered from fears but became overcomers, trusting in the Lord.  One of the best examples for me is Joshua, Moses’ right hand man and a great general.  After Moses died, God told to Joshua to take the people of Israel into the promised land.   In Chapter 1 of the Book of Joshua, God repeatedly told Joshua “Be strong and courageous”.  Why did God have to tell Joshua this many times?  I am certain that Joshua was fearful, even though he had been through many successful battles already.  What God was asking him to do was huge!

God explained to Joshua how he would become strong and courageous.  He said that Joshua was to keep the Bible before him, always studying and speaking it.  Additionally, God told him that He would be with him, wherever he went.  Joshua did encounter some failures, but he always came to God to understand why.  And, importantly, he never gave up.  Joshua is known for being a great man of faith.

What To Do If You Have a “Shy” Child

God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and love and a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

I often hear a parent refer to a child as “shy”.  What does that mean? According to psychologists, shyness relates to being uncomfortable in different settings, including social settings.  It is different than being an introvert, because introverts like being by themselves and do not want much social interaction.  A shy child is usually unwilling to take risks in any situation.   Studies show that “shy” children can learn skills to help them overcome the fears that they have and grow up to be well-adapted, confident people.

I would first like to say that as Christian parents, it’s important how we “label” or “brand” our children.  Remember that your child is listening to what you call him or her.  Once a parent labels a child as “shy”, that child will grow up and live up to that label.  Stop calling or labeling your child something that is contrary to the Word of God.

If you have a child who displays some timidity or bashfulness, start first with searching the Bible for stories that will encourage your child and show him/her how ordinary people overcame their fears by having faith and focusing on God.  Find scripture verses addressing fear and help your child to memorize them.  This should be a part of your daily routine.  Play games with these verses and make it fun.  Also, support your child in meeting new people and being in new situations.  What we say about and to our children should always line up with the Word of God.

How Should Christian Parents Respond to Bullying?

Now that our children are back to school and settled in, I would like to discuss a subject that seems to be increasing in frequency – bullying.  As Christian parents, how are we to handle bullying, whether our children are being bullied or are the bullies or are the persons standing by watching or video-taping the bullying?  This is a challenging and complicated subject because as Christians, we immediately think about Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).

But is that really what the Bible instructs us to do?

The following incident just recently occurred at a high school.  A teenage student walked off the campus and was pursued by another student, who kept verbally taunting him.  The victim hung his head and did not respond to the constant taunts.  The bully caught up to the victim and hit him in the jaw, breaking it.  There were other students who were standing around watching and some were even video-taping the incident with their cell phones.  Adults passed by in vehicles.  No one did anything to intervene and stop the violence.  It was only when one of the videos was posted on the internet, did the community find out about what happened. My heart ached as a mother to hear about this victimization and brutality.

Bullying is too difficult a subject to fully address in a short blog, but there are a number of helpful websites.  I especially encourage parents to visit and read the information on THIS WEBSITE.  One of the leading experts on bullying is Paul Coughlin, the founder of The Protectors, an anti-bullying movement, whose own daughter was bullied.  Mr. Coughlin helps parents learn about bullying and teaches what they can do, in turn, to help their children.  He calls it “bully-proofing” your children.

Bullying can be very devastating to children.  Prepare yourself and your children for it so no one is caught by surprise if and when it does happen.

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

As Halloween approaches, before making plans to participate in its activities, I ask Christian parents to research and read about this so-called “holiday”.  One of my children’s books discusses the true origins of Halloween - It’s Not About You Mr. Pumpkin - A Love Letter About the True Meaning of Halloween.

Many Christians do not know where Halloween started or what it involves.  Some think that it is just harmless fun for children, such as dressing them up in costumes and knocking on doors asking for candy.  I believe that it is very important for parents to understand the pagan origins of Halloween and the rituals that were and still are involved.  Shockingly, next to Christmas, it generates the most amount of money for retailers.

In preparing to write my book, I did a significant amount of research.  The celebration was started by people known as the Celtics who lived in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. Their priests were known as Druids, who used evil spirts to do dastardly deeds.  They believed that on October 31, the lord of the dead Samhain, would call out from the dead for all the evil spirits to go back and visit the homes where they used to live or the homes of their living relatives.  These evil spirits began “haunting” homes.   People living in these homes would put out food to stop these spirits from coming in and also put up scarecrows to scare them away.

Over the years, decorations became scarier and uglier.  The focus centered on death, witches, wizards, ghost and all things evil and scary. Soon, the aim was to get children involved.  Why not make it appear fun and playful – then children would be eager to participate?   Since children love to eat candy, offering the evil spirits food turned into offering children candy.

There are many alternatives in which your children can participate – especially those activities sponsored by churches.  Usually these festivals involve fun activities that do not involve any of the Halloween aspects.

You can read more about my book and order it by CLICKING HERE.

Parents Should Not Allow Their Children To Be Disrespectful

This is a very powerful quote from the great evangelist Billy Graham about disrespectful children.  We have all seen them in public – children who are disrespectful to their parents.  But, let’s look inside our own homes for a minute.  What do you allow your children to say or do to you as a parent?  Do you make excuses for your children’s behavior?

What type of action is disrespectful?  It may vary, depending on the parents’ own beliefs, but typically, name-calling, yelling, cursing, and talking back are universally deemed disrespectful.  Turning and walking away, slamming doors, hanging up the phone – these also are disrespectful actions.   

What do you do when your children act disrespectfully?  It is important to stop the action immediately and invoke age appropriate discipline, which can include losing privileges to play video games or going out with friends.  Also, be observant and catch your children acting respectfully.  Let them know that their respectful behavior has been noticed and is applauded.  Some parents believe, however, that children should be “free” to express themselves.  In my opinion, that’s when trouble begins.  If your children are allowed to be “free” to express themselves at home, and are abusive, they will continue to act the same way outside the home. 

Speaking Bible Blessings Over Your Children

Speaking Bible Blessings Over Your Children

Have you thought about speaking Bible blessings over your children today?  Before Jesus began His ministry, God publicly spoke His approval and love.  So, follow God’s example.

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As Christian Parents, Should We Allow Our Children To Go On Sleepovers?

Soraya Diase Coffelt Author As the Stars Children's Books Blog

As a mother of two boys, I know all about sleepovers.  You have a house full of kids, who don’t want to sleep and who eat continuously through the day and night.  Sleepovers are fun times for children. But, be cautioned.  You need to protect your children from other children and even their parents who may have a bad influence on them as well as anyone else who may be in the home when your children are there for the sleepover.

I did not welcome invitations from parents whom I didn’t know. Random sleepovers were not permitted.  If I knew the parents and children, I would inquire as to what types of activities were planned; who would be supervising the children; what would they be eating and drinking; and what types of games were they going to play.

    Even after so much scrutiny and diligence though, something slipped by.  I remember picking up my oldest son from a sleepover late one morning.  He was about 10 years old at the time.  As I arrived at the house, I walked in the front door to the living room.  I then observed my son playing a video game with another boy.  As I looked closely, to my shock and dismay, the video game involved hitting and kicking women all over their bodies (including their heads, stomachs, and private parts) in fight scenes.  This was a family who attended church regularly, but the parents were not monitoring the types of video games in their house.  On the drive home, I explained to my son about the problem with that video game and that men should not hit women.  During the following week at church, I even spoke with the parents about the game.    When I observed their nonchalant attitude, I knew my son was not going to spend time there again.

Include Visiting a Library at Your Vacation Spot as Part of Your Family’s Travel Plans

    Have you ever thought of visiting a library at your vacation spot as part of your family’s travel plans?  I’m sure that, at first, this may sound strange or odd.  But, take a few minutes to think about it.

    Libraries all over the US are seeking ways to better serve the public.  Most of them have very active children’s sections with regular readings, puppet shows, children’s art displays, and computer activities all aimed at fostering a love of reading. 

    My parents retired to live in a senior citizen community just north of Orlando, Florida.  When we visited them, we, of course, included trips to the many theme parks in the area.  But, that wasn’t all – we also regularly visited the Orlando Public Library.  My sons had interesting adventures in the children’s section amongst the great books available! Their imagination was the limit!

    Search the internet about the library located at your vacation spot.  The website www.publiclibraries.com is helpful to find one with just one easy click.  On the website for the Orlando Public Library, I found some very interesting topics for adults and children: a class on learning how to pack healthy lunches for kids; a talk on family adventures by a travel author; “end of summer” events with costumes and prizes; and much more. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt