30 September 2012

Parenting in Difficult Times

We had a very powerful lesson in our combined Relief Society / Priesthood meeting today.

(For my friends who aren't familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, let me explain: Relief Society is the women's organization of the church, and all worthy male members of the church, ages 12 and older are given Priesthood responsibilities. Each Sunday, our worship services consist of a Sacrament meeting, where the whole congregation meets together to be taught together and to partake of the Sacrament, as instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. Then, we break into our Sunday School classes, and in our third hour - yes, we have three hours of worship each Sunday - the women meet for Relief Society, the men meet for Priesthood lessons, and the children meet together for Primary. When there are five Sundays in a month, however, the fifth Sunday is a special meeting where the Relief Society and Priesthood come together for a joint lesson on a pertinent topic. These are usually my favorite lessons!)

Today, our lesson was about an issue that extends far beyond the boundaries of our church community. Our youth today are under attack. They face issues at an earlier and earlier age that many of us never dreamed of dealing with when we were very young. Even elementary school-aged children face tough choices when it comes to pornography, drugs and alcohol (and so much more)! As I've mentioned before, we can't wait until a child is "ready" to handle a particular issue to introduce the subject. If we don't have the courage to open clear lines of communication with our children about sex and drugs and all of the other tough issues when they are still much too young to engage in these behaviors, they simply won't be prepared to make strong choices for themselves when they are "old enough!"

We watched a short, but powerful video produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints about the importance of "staying within the lines." Just as in any sporting event, you must stay within the boundaries set for the competition if you want to make progress, we have boundaries that help us make progress in life as well. We are happier when we stay within the lines that the Lord has set for us. (Here is the video:)

The conversation that followed was powerful. One thought that was repeatedly expressed was that we are not here to be "friends" to our children. We need to have the courage to be PARENTS! I agree, with one slight correction to the statement...

We are not here to be our kids' buddies, but a true Parent is the best kind of true friend! I've always believed that a true friend is one who will lift you up and help you to become the best person you can be. That is the kind of friend we should be for our children. Lift them when they fall. Love them when they are not perfect. Let them know you expect greatness from them. Be there when they need a shoulder to cry on, but have the courage to let them face the consequences of their mistakes. Our children should know that they can come to us with anything that's troubling them. They should know that we will love them, no matter how royally they screw up. They should know that we will do anything and everything in our power to help them learn to be truly happy. And they should understand that sometimes, in order to help them learn, we will have to be "mean." That we won't clean up the messes they've made, but we'll help them find the brooms and mops and antibacterial cleanser (real and metaphorical) and teach them how to clean up after themselves.

That's what a True Friend will do for you. A buddy is someone who you can laugh with when times are good, but a True Friend will encourage you to keep going when times are tough. And if we want to be effective parents, we need to be True Friends for our children.

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