Big feelings in our children can lead to big prayers when we teach them to go to God with their disappointments.
When my kids were little, they were busy. Not because I wanted them to be, but because they needed to be. One child would wake up each morning and ask, “What are we doing today?” Throughout the week we had some kind of activity to look forward to each day: a trip to the library, a play date, preschool gymnastics, a visit to the park. My children needed the structure and activity such plans provided.
But as we all know, sometimes plans don’t work out. Sometimes they fall through. The friend they were to play with got sick, the library canceled story time, their class wasn’t meeting that week, or rain prohibited our plans to play at the park. These interruptions to our day ushered forth disappointment and tears.
Since then, my children have only encountered more disappointments. More canceled plans. More interruptions to life. That’s because we live in a fallen world where life doesn’t work as it should. Things break and cause disruption to our days. People get sick and cancel plans. Friends forget commitments. Indeed, life is filled with unmet expectations, interruptions, and disappointments.
How can we as parents help our children navigate the disappointments of life? How do we help them when they feel all the feels that accompany such disappointments?
The book of Psalms shows us that God calls us to bring all our cares to him in prayer. The psalmist voices his sorrows, worries, and griefs in vivid words and metaphors. He cries out to the One who hears him—to the only One who can help him.
“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears” (Psalm 18:6).
As parents, we can teach our children to bring all their emotions to God in prayer. When they encounter frustrating interruptions, hard disappointments, and failed expectations, we can encourage them to bring those cares to God, to tell him how they feel, and know that he hears them. We can teach our children to ask God to help them as they face their disappointments—to provide healing in illness, to provide peace of heart, to help them trust in his perfect plan for their day.
We can model these prayers for our children and then help them practice praying these prayers for themselves. Each time they experience disappointments, we stop and pray with and for them. As we do so, we help them develop the habit of lament, of bringing their cares to the Lord in prayer. For the Father in heaven wants his children to turn to him with their troubles, to seek his help, and find their hope in him.
It’s true that life doesn’t always go as we expect or plan. But we have a great God who hears our heart. Teach your children today to bring all their cares before him in prayer.To learn more about helping your child bring their cares to the Lord in prayer, read God Hears Your Heart: Helping Kids Pray About Hard Emotions.
Christina Fox is a licensed counselor, retreat speaker, and author of multiple books. Her latest book is Like Our Father: How God Parents Us and Why That Matters for Our Parenting. She and her husband have been married for twenty-five years. They have two teen boys and live in the Atlanta area where she coordinates the counseling ministry at her church.