Our first child had just been born. We were new parents at the beginning of an adventure. Overnight we had become responsible for another human life. Our child couldn’t feed himself, couldn’t clean himself, and was totally dependent on us. How daunting was that? We realized that with all our preconceived ideas on parenting, we were not perfectly equipped for the job and needed advice from others.
Perhaps readers who are new parents feel the same way. So where do we go for help? Maybe you’ve sought counsel from experienced friends, or took a parenting course, or read parenting books. Parenting is the most important job in the world, but it’s also the one for which we have the least qualifications.
As parents with several children will tell you, every child is different. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other. I have an aunt and uncle who have 10 children. My aunt often said that every one of her children was different from the others.
WHAT’S SO SCARY?
What could be scary about raising children? The Bible describes children as “a gift from the Lord” (Ps. 127:3, NLT).¹ Yet raising children naturally provokes a certain level of anxiety.
Feeling some anxiety and fear is natural in this world. At the time of writing this article, the entire planet is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, spreading fear and death. Because of sin, the world is full of risks and challenges, so it’s natural for parents to be scared at times. But there’s a big difference between experiencing some anxiety and fear and letting it totally take over our lives.
None of us wants to parent from anxiety; we want to parent from love. And let’s be honest, we all make mistakes. We’re not perfect, and we live in a broken world. We all have different temperaments, and this diversity is also bought into the mix. Some of us are naturally more anxious, while others seem to take things as they come.
Depending on your specific situation, including where you live, your fears will differ from those of others. You may fear for the safety of your child or worry about where the next meal for your family is coming from. Maybe your child is being bullied, or you’re struggling to meet your child’s special needs. You may live in a country in which guns are dangerously accessible, or you may be a migrant family on the run.
For others, your fears might involve the amount of time your child is spending on the Internet. As Christians, we might worry about whether our child will follow Jesus.
WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
So how can a parent possibly raise a child without feeling scared and overwhelmed by the huge responsibilities that go along with it?
You can begin by determining what your personal fears and anxieties are. Writing out your specific fears and anxieties will help you to focus on where you are currently regarding your emotions. This helps to objectify fears. Once something is on paper, it tends to lessen the grip of fear on your mind. Ask yourself, “Is this fear realistic? Is there anything I can do to change this? Am I reasonably concerned?”
As Christians, we can bring all our fears and anxieties to God. It’s remarkable how many insights we can gain that way. “Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing.”² When we trust God with our child, we must also trust Him to help us to be the best parents we can be. See it as an adventure together with God. During an adventure the unexpected will happen—but we’re not alone.
Next, we can share our feelings with our spouse or a trusted friend. Sometimes talking to someone else helps us to gain new perspectives and ease our level of anxiety.
It’s also important to take time to focus on staying healthy through physical exercise, deep-breathing exercises, and so on. Good physical health helps to promote good mental health.
LOVE AND GUIDANCE
One of my former professors summed up raising a family with two words: love and guidance. This means being present in your child’s life, showing them affection, being predictable and stable in their lives, and encouraging them. Kids need to know that you’re there for them. Respect your children and help them respect others. Talk to your children, and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you as well.
Especially show them God’s love. Children learn to know God through you. They’ll make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we stop loving them.
Love and guidance also involve setting realistic boundaries for your children. Give them chores, responsibility, and guidance in healthful living. Teach them about living ethically and morally, using God’s principles. The best way of equipping our children to live well is by practicing what we preach. Children see what we do better than they hear what we say.
Being a good parent requires love and wisdom. We must make a conscious decision to continue gaining knowledge about how to be a good parent. It takes self-discipline and commitment.
No matter how our children turn out in life, remember that they’re all gifts from God. We’re only stewards of them. As promised in Psalm 127:3, when we commit ourselves to God, equip ourselves as parents, are sensitive to our children’s needs, and lead them to God’s throne—we’re giving them the best start we can in life. We can trust in God and His promises (see Matt. 11:28- 30; Heb. 4:15, 16; James 1:5, 6). God loves our children more than we are ever able to, and He, too, will be with them and do what’s best for them.
We can fearlessly put ourselves and our children into His hands.
Children’s and women’s ministries director for the Trans-European Division. Her husband, John, is a pastor and a clinical and forensic psychologist. Originally from the Netherlands, the Sancheses have two children and live in the United Kingdom.