By Bev and Phil Haas
There are lots of disturbing things happening in our world. Is it more loving to shelter our kids or allow them to be exposed to the realities of this world?
The following response is from our son, Brian, who is a young pastor in northern Georgia. Brian and his wife, Becky, are parents of two preschool kids with a baby on the way:
You don’t have to watch the news for long before realizing we live in a broken world. As parents of young kids, my wife and I often joke about selling it all and moving to some remote island! Sometimes that seems like the safest option, but is it the biblical and most loving option? There is a difference between sheltered and unaware, however we frequently use these words as synonyms.
Being sheltered is biblical and describes our relationship with God. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Throughout the rest of Psalm 91, we see how God shelters us and protects us. He even shelters us from the eternal consequences of sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. So if sheltering is biblical, as a parent how do we shelter our kids without raising an unaware and unprepared child?
Full of Grace and Truth
John 1:14-17 talks about Jesus being full of grace and truth. That is a difficult line to walk and carries with it quite a bit of tension. Though, as parents, that is part of our job: to show and be examples of grace and truth. When we are full of grace with little to no truth, we are lovingly unaware. When we are full of truth with little to no grace, we are legalistic and typically unloving. Both are vital for us to parent in an age-appropriate context.
Not If But When
All kids will be exposed to the realities of the world at some point. It’s not if but when. But as parents, we have the opportunity to create the kind of open relationship with our kids where we are the ones to explain the realities of life as they grow up. The value of this kind of relationship is that our children will come to us first to talk and ask questions. If parents avoid the realities of this world, then we are communicating to our kids that they should not talk about them to us. Our children will still talk to someone; it just won’t be us.
Parents have the opportunity and responsibility to share the realities of the world while teaching biblical truths. This is much healthier and much less reactive and produces long-term relational results. The family should be a place where nothing is off limits and everything can be talked about and discussed. Unfortunately many parents procrastinate discussing the tough topics due to awkwardness or just not knowing what to say. In our home we try and create a safe place where no subject is off limits. A key to creating this culture is starting while they are young. But it’s never too late.
Raising an Adult, Not a Child
The day is coming when our children will leave our home (hopefully) and venture out on their own. Our relationship with them will not cease but will shift. A question my wife and I use in getting our kids ready for that exit is, “What kind of adult are we raising?” In other words, is what we are doing now preparing our kids to become healthy, responsible, and godly adults? Are we seizing the realities of our world and turning them into teachable moments to explain what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate? Are we teaching God’s Word and helping our kids understand the why behind the what?
When Jesus’ ministry on earth was coming to an end, he prayed for his disciples saying, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Jesus asked God not to isolate them from the realities of this life but to keep them from being under the world’s influence. May that be our prayer for our kids—that God would help us raise our children in a way that doesn’t take them out of the world but prepares them to survive and thrive in this world. Take time this week to reflect upon Jesus’ prayer and look for opportunities to put his words into practice with your kids.
Bev and Phil Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have two children and four grandkids. Send your questions about family life to Bev and Phil Haas in care of The Lookout (email@example.com). We regret that personal replies are not always possible.
Comments: no replies