Pray for the child. Challenging children can cause parents to spiral into self-questioning and self-pity. Whether at church or at home, spend time in prayer for your child. Try to avoid prayers that seek a “fix” for the child’s problems. Instead ask for the grace you will need to give this child what he or she needs.
Hugs, eye-contact, and time together. You may find yourself less likely to purposefully interact with a child who demands so much of your energy. Seek out your child for a hug and an encouraging word during “neutral” moments. For children to develop a healthy self-esteem, they need at least five positive interactions with parents for each negative one. This doesn’t mean that you skip telling your higher-needs child when he’s done something wrong, but it may mean you have to compliment him on smaller successes (“Great job remembering to brush your teeth”). Ask your child to look into your eyes as you give a compliment.
See the child as your mission from God. Whatever the challenges your child faces, God chose you for this child. Look into yourself to explore why this may be. What can you offer this child that no one else would be able to provide as well? Talk to others who have similarly challenging children—not for a gripe session, but to exchange ideas on how to stay motivated and mission-oriented.
—by Annemarie Scobey from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.
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