How can you biblically encourage your children when they’re feeling sad or frustrated? Here are five powerful things to say to your discouraged child.
As my kids are growing older (we have a 10 and 7 year old as well as a 4 and 2 year old), there have been more and more situations where we’ve had to deal with discouragement. Whether it’s a struggle with a friend or sibling, an event they don’t get to attend, or a situation that didn’t turn out like they wanted it to, it seems that our older two children are feeling more strongly the turmoil of emotions that come with being disappointed or sad. The four year old expresses his emotions as well and we try to talk to him on a more simple level.
I find that it’s easy for me to be reactive rather than proactive in motherhood. So I have a desire to be prepared with some tools and words to say to my children when they go through tough times.
We’re always learning, but there are some ways that we’ve learned to “speak life” in a Biblical method to our children when they are struggling. Hopefully they help you learn how to deal well with situations where your child is discouraged!
5 Ways to Encourage Your Discouraged Child
1) Do you want to talk about it?
When my older two children are grumpy and out of sorts on a certain day, my “mommy radar” goes up, because they’re usually pleasant to be around. It works best to just gently ask the question, “do you want to talk about your day?”
Eventually they are ready to talk to me, but it works better to simply ask that rather than say “why are you so grouchy? What’s wrong?” in a frustrated voice when they’re not ready for conversation. Build that trust so your child knows you are there for them!
2) I understand that you’re discouraged.
Once we start to talk with our kids, it’s helpful if we don’t jump in with “I know how you feel”. My 10 year old told me the other day, rather insightfully, that although we can understand what he’s going through on some level, that he has his own way of dealing with issues. It’s true!
Just like I wouldn’t tell a friend “I know how you feel” if I really don’t, it’s a good idea to instead say, “I understand that you’re discouraged” and seek out more details, at which point we can share with our kids a time we went through a similar situation.
3) God understands and can help you.
As parents we can only go so far in helping our children. As Christians, we want to teach our children to rely on the Lord, not because everything will suddenly be perfect but because in our disappointment we are not without hope.
There are many Scripture verses that are very powerful for our kids to hear or read when they are struggling.
5 powerful Bible verses you can share with a discouraged child!
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94:19 NASB
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NKJV
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NASB
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” Psalm 91:1-3 NASB
4) What is a positive way you can respond to this situation?
Because my husband and I want to teach our children critical thinking skills, we find it helpful to ask them questions when they are in a tough spot. It gives the child a chance to “own” and be thoughtful about the situation. Another way to say this might be “let’s find a positive way to respond”, if they need some prompts.
Ask the Lord to show you how you and your child can call to mind His promises and allow discouragement to be used for good. (Romans 8:28) Let them think about it, give them time to respond and even come back to it later if they’re still really emotional about it at the moment.
5) This too shall pass.
We can and should be sensitive as parents to what our kids are going through. But I do know that at the point in the conversation where things have calmed down for your child, it’s alright to say “this too shall pass.” We want them to know that they don’t need to remain discouraged, but that it will be okay.
Scripture guides us in this truth when it says in Psalm 55:22: “Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you, He will not permit the godly to slip and fall”.
Give them a hug.
This isn’t really a “what to say” as it’s a “what to do”. I personally feel a physical embrace does what words cannot in some of the toughest moments. Hugging our kids is so incredibly important and though it is easy for me to do that when they’re little, for some reason I feel awkward about it as they get older. Why? I’m not sure, but I remind myself that it’s a great privilege we have as parents to continue to hug our children even as they are growing up!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t quickly share two things it might be wise NOT to say when our child is discouraged:
It’ll be fine, or
It’s not a big deal.
Let’s be real: some of the things that bother our children seem silly to us. I’m guessing that’s just how my parents felt when I was a kid, getting discouraged about a variety of situations that really weren’t a big deal (looking back on it now). But it’s really a good rule of thumb to keep ourselves from outright dismissing our child’s concerns and disappointments.
It may be tempting to roll our eyes (inwardly) and say “don’t worry about it” but we can build a stronger and more trustworthy relationship with our children by recognizing, acknowledging and helping them work through their struggles and discouragements. What a blessing to have this great responsibility!
Ask God every day, like I do, to help you make the most of these character building moments with your children.
What ways do you encourage your discouraged child? My very favorite parenting book, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, digs deep into a grace-filled parenting method that has changed our approach for raising our children.