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Back to Center: I long to help my daughter connect with God in these times

But how can I help her when she wants nothing to do with what I have to share?

Sarah Perron, Certified Coach

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Sarah Perron, Certified Coach

Sarah Perron, Certified Coach

Sarah Perron, Certified Coach

Life Coach and Writer

Offering perspectives for personal realignment and empowerment.

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November 03, 2022

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07:46 AM

Back to Center: I long to help my daughter connect with God in these times

The purpose of the “Back to Center” advice column is to provide perspectives for personal realignment and empowered living in these tyrannical times. Sarah encourages you to reach out to her with requests for advice about self-development and emotional and mental well-being. Please send your questions to advice@aflds.org. Anonymous and secure. Looking forward to hearing from you!

For all other inquiries, please direct your questions to info@aflds.org.


I serve as a leader in my church's youth group. Recently, one of our high school senior girls tearfully asked me if we could talk privately. She revealed to me that she had just found out she's pregnant. In the course of a very emotional conversation, this girl admitted she doesn't like the idea of having an abortion, but is leaning that way because she doesn't know what else to do. She is afraid of her parents finding out about the pregnancy, and would be “devastated” if her plans for college next year were disrupted.

Now, I strongly believe that abortion is wrong, but honestly, I'm not sure how to advise this girl. It's a different thing to come face to face with the issue. She doesn't want anyone else to know, so I don't even feel like I can seek advice from our pastor or other church leaders. It all feels too big for me - I mean, a life literally hangs in the balance here, and I don't want to make the wrong move. What should I do? 

Thank you so much for your question. I'm so glad you felt that you could turn here for help. 

I feel like we need to start our exploration of this complicated situation by taking a deep breath together. Let's just breathe for a minute.

Okay. I first want to call your attention to something important here, which I believe can help set the tone for this entire experience: 

This young girl brought her pain, confusion, and desperation to you - not to her parents, not to the other church leaders, not to her friends. She has entrusted you with a huge, life-changing secret and is looking to you for guidance. That speaks volumes about who you are, and who you have been in your service to this youth group. I know you feel uncertain about what to do and that it might be too much for you to handle, but know that you have been chosen to play a vital role in this girl's experience. If this is happening to you, know that it means you are up to the task. That confidence can hold the hand of the fear you feel as you step forward.

Second, while you have been given an important part to play in this situation, recognize that this experience belongs to the young girl in front of you. You can do your best to help guide and advise her - share your beliefs, direct her to helpful resources and people, and so on - but she will be the one to make the decision in the end. This is ultimately between her and God; the fate of the baby is in God's hands, not yours. I hope that recognizing that fact relieves some of the fear you feel about “making the wrong move.”

Let me ask you: What do you think this girl needs from you now? What can you offer to her? Why do you think you were the one she chose to confide in, and how can you use those qualities she must have seen in you to help her?

As a coach, I'll tell you that deep listening and acknowledgement of difficult feelings is one of the biggest gifts we can offer another person. Having a non-judgmental space to honestly share thoughts and feelings can be the best way to find one's own answers. If you can give that kind of support to this girl, I believe it will be life-changing for her.

Above all, be kind, and encouraging. If you give your opinion or advice, let it be gentle and without pressure. It may be very important for her to hear your beliefs on the sanctity of life; you can choose to share them in a way that is loving and open without being preachy.

I'll be praying that your young friend chooses life for her baby, despite the challenges and changes of plan that will bring with it. Please pray for her too; that's probably the single most important thing you can do. All the best!

****

I believe that I am here in this life to be a light to the world – that I’m living in these dark times because I’m meant to make a difference. This belief comes from my deep religious faith. Sometimes I really feel it, almost like it’s a fire burning within me, and I feel motivated to create things that will bring more goodness into the world…but other times I am overwhelmed by self-doubt and stopped in my tracks. I think, “Who am I to do this?…Do I really have what it takes?...Maybe I’m not a world-changing kind of person…” That voice is really strong sometimes. How can I keep the fire going during these times when I feel so unsure of myself?

I love your question! The way you express your passion to use your time and place in history to the fullest is so inspiring!

I hear what you're saying: Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don't. I want to start by reassuring you that nobody feels “up” all the time. It's just not possible to constantly live at the heights of inspiration and passion. There are ebbs and flows to our energy and motivation; that's okay and even a good thing. Those lower times give us the chance to take stock of where we are, see what we want to change, and sometimes, just be and rest for a little bit. So, first of all, it's okay if you have times where the fire burns a little lower, when you're not so certain. Try to accept those times and yourself without judgment.

As for that voice of self-doubt, I've got good news for you about that too. The fact that that voice is coming up for you means you are doing exactly the right thing! It wouldn't be showing up otherwise! It's there to challenge you and expand you to a new level of who you can be, if you choose to overcome it.    

I encourage you to take each doubtful thought and question and respond to it as it comes up (doing this in writing can be extra powerful). If that voice asks, “Who am I to change the world?”, you can answer, “Let me tell you who I am!” and focus in on all those fiery, passionate qualities you have that drive you to make a difference. If it asks, “Do I really have what it takes?”, show it some evidence that you do! If it tells you that you're not the kind of person who can change the world, respond, "Just watch me!” and then go do some work on that project, that stand you're taking, that act of kindness - whatever impact you want to make.

Above all, remember that the God you believe in believes in you. He put you here in this life, at this specific time in history, in these circumstances for a very good reason. He knows what you are capable of and is your #1 biggest fan. When you struggle with feeling unsure of who you are and what you can do, remember that God is behind you all the way and is with you on your journey of actualizing your potential in this life. You've got this!

****

I'm struggling to know what to do with my teenaged daughter (she's 14, the oldest of my kids). My husband and I have raised her in a home full of faith and devotion to God, but lately she declares that she wants nothing to do with “all that”. She's started to say she's not even sure she believes in God and that there's no such thing as absolute truth - everyone can decide what's right for themselves. These ideas couldn't be farther from what I want to instill in my daughter. I'm worried for her. I long to help her connect more with God, especially in these times when young people (along with the rest of us) are being fed so many lies about the world. But how can I help her when she wants nothing to do with what I have to share? 

Thanks so much for sharing what's on your heart and mind. I'm sorry to hear about the struggle you're going through with your daughter. It can be incredibly painful to see one of your children adopt attitudes and make choices that are different from what you had hoped for them. Let's get into your question.

To begin with, it sounds like you have a teenager, plain and simple! She is going through a time of questioning and pushing back against the way she was raised. Every teenager goes through this process in some way, shape, or form; it's how they start to figure out who they are as individuals in the world. Even though I'm sure you knew this stage was coming on some level I can imagine that it might feel extra painful because she's your oldest and the things she's pushing back against are the faith and values that are so close to your heart…and you want them to be close to her heart too.

I think this is one of the hardest things about parenting. We want the things that are important to us to be important to our children as well.  It's as if we want them almost to be another version of us. Yet even though our connection with our kids is so profound, especially as mothers, they are not us. They came into the world through us, but they are entirely separate beings. We raise and teach them as best we can, and then ultimately, they have to find their own way in the world.

So, you have beliefs and concerns that you want to share with your daughter but she is not interested. How could you voice what you want to express to her in a way that feels authentic to you and what you stand for, without pressure or judgment…and then let go of the outcome? As a parent, you can have influence but not control - it's important to recognize the difference. 

If your daughter doesn't even want to engage in a conversation with you about these things, remember that there are other ways to have that influence. Just by being who you are, striving to live out your beliefs every day in the way you speak, act, make decisions, and especially how you interact with her - all of this makes a difference, even if in the moment it seems like she isn't paying attention. 

That's another one of the many really hard things about parenting - that infuriating, exasperating way that kids. just. don't. LISTEN!! They tune you out, completely oblivious to your efforts to get their attention…or seem to be, anyway. The truth is, our kids listen and observe much more than we think they do. They're always absorbing what they hear and see from us, and from the home environment we've created, even when it seems like they're on a different planet. So, believe me, what you are giving to your daughter in all these ways matters, even if it doesn't seem to matter to her. Even though it's a painful stage for you, I encourage you to send all the messages you can to her about how much you love her and accept her for who she is no matter what - even if you and she couldn't be more different - and that you're here for her. And who knows what shifts will take place in your daughter's life and growth over the next few years? She may yet come back around to the values you raised her with. Try to have patience with her process.

I hope this is helpful to you. Sending you strength for this stage of your parenting journey!

****

My children's school recently hired its first-ever armed security guard. I'm feeling pretty conflicted about it. Obviously, I want school to be a safe place for my kids, and as we've unfortunately seen many times, terrible violence does sometimes happen in schools. But I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of my children seeing someone with a gun every day. I'm worried that they'll have questions about why there's a man with a weapon in their school, and I won't know how to answer them. I don't want them to have to be exposed to any awareness of violence and dangerous people; they're just little kids. How should I handle this?

Your question points to a struggle I think many parents feel: How do we talk with our young children about evil? It's reality, of course - there are people in the world who make very bad choices around hurting others, sometimes on a massive scale…but our hearts hurt at the thought of marring our children's innocent view of life. What do we say, and when, and how?

First, I want to suggest something that I hope you'll find encouraging: Most likely, you feel worse about this situation than your children will. You are looking at the new school security guard with a whole context of violence in the world that your kids don't have yet. With that context comes feelings of heaviness, sadness, and worry, but this doesn't have to be your kids' experience. Your children will take their cues from you. If you choose to answer their questions with all that heaviness and concern about violence that you feel, they'll understand that this is something to be feared. But you could choose to make it lighter and simpler, to focus on the idea of safety versus danger, to emphasize to them that this man is a friend who is there to help the school. These kind of responses could help them see the guard in a positive light, and might result in less questions in the end. What else could you say to help frame things positively for your children?

This situation is actually a perfect opportunity for you to take some time to consider how you want to treat difficult conversations with your children as they grow older. What will your approach be - to avoid hard questions or to engage with them? The truth is, your kids will learn about the darker aspects of life in this world at some point. My question to you is: Do you want them to find out from others, or from their own difficult experiences and exposures? Or do you want to have the chance to talk with them, to help frame these topics, and to create a space for them to express how they feel and think about these things within the safety of their relationship with you? 

The good news is that none of this has to happen all at once. Your kids are young, with many years of growing up ahead of them. What's most important is the kind of space you choose to make in your relationship with them for the hard stuff. You can't spare them from it, but you can walk with them through it.

Wishing you and your entire family safety and closeness always!

 

Previous columns:

 

Sarah encourages you to reach out to her with requests for advice! Please send your questions to advice@aflds.org.  Anonymous and secure.

 

Sarah Perron is a Certified Transformational Life Coach. Her passion is to help people create a powerful vision for their lives, identify and eliminate anything that holds them back, and step into their own unique greatness and mission in the world. She believes deeply in the power of coaching to bring fresh perspectives, ideas, and motivation to anyone who wants to thrive in life. Sarah works with clients one-on-one and in group coaching programs and presents exciting workshops on self-development topics. You can follow her on her YouTube channel Find Your Fire.

 

You are invited to book a complimentary coaching call with Sarah! Please visit https://calendly.com/sarahperroncoaching/45min to choose a time that's convenient for you. She looks forward to meeting you!

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