Memphis area parents, especially, need to be on guard concerning their childrens’ distress about school conflicts. Our local school system is in trouble and our children are at risk!
Continued from God speaks to us through our emotions.
A child who cries and says, “I don’t want to go to school today, ” may just want to stay home in bed, but a wise parent will take note of these tears and pray for wisdom in discerning their cause. Perhaps the child just needs an earlier bed time. Perhaps the family is too busy and the child goes to bed stressed and is not able to sleep peacefully. Perhaps more quality time with Mom and Dad is needed, and a longing to just be with family more is behind the outburst. Maybe allergies are draining his energy or he’s coming down with a virus. Worst of all, he may be experiencing abuse or bullying in the classroom or on the playground.
Regardless, every parent should go down the “emotional stress checklist,” checking for fever, evaluating the family schedule, and maybe dropping by the school to quietly observe what is going on without being noticed, if possible. If your initial evaluation alerts to a lack of family time, or if your child is behaving out of character in this display, you might want to schedule some down time. A day off together might be in order. Plan a short excursion that requires an hour or so of driving time, to an out of the way attraction or restaurant, just the two of you. Car trips that last a little longer than usual provide a time where questions and confessions may rise to the surface, because there is nothing competing for your attention.
Bedtime stories and prayer times are often the time kids decide to open up, so an earlier bed time that allows for interaction would be an important way to “check up” on the cause of the emotional alerts your child is sending you. Sometimes, a “final” kiss and seeing you starting to walk toward the bedroom door will be the cue for your child to finally open up and tell you what is really on her mind. It is important to allow time for this to happen naturally, as children have to be able to get quiet and feel safe and loved before they will have the courage to speak up about issues that have been troubling them.
A spouse who comes home from work grouchier than usual is also sending out emotional signals that need to be heeded. An angry response to this mood will not produce happy results for your family. Gently inquiring, “What’s going on at work, hon?” might be the key to finding out what is causing the negativity. Saying, “I know you don’t like to worry me, but it’s better when I know what’s up so I won’t just think you’re mad at me!” could be a lead in. When your loved one begins to share the concerns, don’t judge, belittle, or even give advice. Just listen and say, “You really are going through a lot right now, aren’t you? It’s amazing you’re even able to cope with this at all!”
Sometimes, the situation at work may call for drastic changes (like a new job or confrontation), but other times, one might be adjusting to recent changes and will find the stress decreases with time. Either way, gentle words and patience can sooth hearts and minds and make your home a place of safe retreat rather than just one more place to be kicked around. However, if the moods continue, it may be time for a medical check up, counseling, or a job change. Ignoring the problem does not always make it go away, and acknowledging the emotions can make them easier to handle, even if the situation does eventually smooth out without further action.
Sometimes, a change of perspective is all that is needed, but even that is often something that cannot be accomplished without prayer, loving counsel, and time spent working on the issues that confront us through our emotions. Just telling someone, “You need to get over it,” is not going to give them the tools they need to work through whatever is hurting them. Judging them as immature or incompetent is not going to encourage them to change! It will only make them feel unloved and hopeless. We recognize this when we are the ones being disregarded, but often fail to allow others the same space and respect they need to work express their emotions and deal with them in a healthy way.
Don’t forget to be aware of your own emotional signals! Sometimes we can get so busy taking care of everyone else that we ignore the signals our own spirits are emitting! Don’t wait until you reach meltdown status to do an inventory of your own emotional and physical well being.
Two important things to remember are: Overlooked illness can lead to emotional stress and overlooked emotions can lead to illness. Our minds and bodies are intricately linked and the only thing that will separate them is death, which is not our desired outcome! Listening to the cues our emotions provide is an important way to hear God’s voice and seek His guidance before our negligence leads to chaos.
Let us pray for wisdom and thank God for the gift of emotions and what they can tell us when we listen prayerfully.