So, what do we do with this? Like I said, my immediate response was to be scared for what our children are going to have to come up against. I truly believe that they are going out into a war zone every day and we have GOT to equip them with the tools to fight well - instead of just being a P-E-S-T.
Pray: I admit very ashamedly that I have not been praying for my children very often at all. Prayer will bring power to them through the Holy Spirit but it will also alleviate our fears and anxieties! I pulled the book, "Power of a Praying Parent" by Stormie Omartian, off of my shelf and dusted it off since I hadn't opened it since I received it when Evan was born.
"When we don't pray, it's like sitting on the side-lines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we're in the battle alongside them, appropriating God's power on their behalf. If we also declare the Word of God in our prayers, then we wield a powerful weapon against which no enemy can prevail." (page 21)Educate ourselves: I laugh a lot that I 'live in a little Christian-bubble' with a perfect little life and am so naive to what goes on in the world - I look at people 'around here' and think they're all good - that there is nothing really evil going on. I will not laugh about this any more. It isn't funny nor cute that I'm 'sheltered.' This is the point in my life that I need to educate myself to what kids are into. What slang is what. What they will face so I can talk to them before they face it.
Spend time together/be intentionally involved: I just recently have told a few friends how Emily and I don't have a lot in common that we love to talk about. But, she just read the Divergent book series and she loves to talk about what she's reading. So, I started reading them too. It gave us a nice way to talk through some of the books and a fun way to connect as the movie comes out later this month. I am super-glad I did this. Sometimes opportunities do not just pop up but we have to be intentional to be involved and to work at our relationships. In some relationships this happens naturally, but in some it doesn't - especially with a hormone-raging, roller-coaster-of-emotions, highly-sensitive tween. Intentionally schedule some time to do something that she enjoys together.
Talk with our kids: After we came home from the event where I overheard the talk about cutting and suicide and genders, etc., I talked to her about it. I asked her what she thought. I asked her if any of her friends talked like that. I assured her that she needs to tell me if any of her friends ever talked about hurting themselves. Jeff has taken her out recently and asked her what her friends are into and who is doing what? We got that idea from a friend in our Lifegroup! Jeff just talked to the kids about how he was experiencing some peer pressure with his friends recently and what he did to resolve that. And I just told Emily how grumpy I was because I was tired last night. Hopefully they are learning a little by example. We have to keep that dialogue going. I also had to have 'the talk' with Emily recently before sixth grade health class beat me to it. I wanted her to hear it from us first and about what God says on the topic. I knew if she didn't hear it from us it wasn't going to be taught to her at school!
I'm sure that those of you with older kids are way past this stage of eye-opening and have all kinds of ideas on how to keep our kids on the right track. Please share your experiences with us embarking on this stage! It definitely helps to talk to others and get ideas and counsel. And I know that the Wednesday night youth group at our church has been so great for Emily this year - it's a confusing time for middle and high schoolers. If you have a teen who would like to go, please let me know! Jeff and I are definitely thankful that Emily has two extremely godly women leading her group at church who are available and invested in Emily's life. I'm glad that Emily has another choice of someone to talk to...sometimes parents aren't quite enough.
The fear has been replaced for the moment with thankfulness that we have so many tools available to help in raising our children in this world. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, 'For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.' My fear was/is not from God. I know that with Him, we can rest in the truth in Proverbs 22:6, 'Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.' And when the anxiety creeps in again: 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.' (Philippians 4:6)
He gave us our children for a reason. He obviously thought we could do it. We want to do a good job and I know you do, too! We're far from perfect but we are learning and I'm so thankful that God is equipping us through His word and His people!