Teach Your Kids to Be Resilient

Kathy Koch
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In times of struggle and challenge, even mature believers may question whether God is good and loving. Children’s questions are even more understandable because they don’t understand God as deeply.

Adults’ understandings are richer and our trust is deeper because we have known God longer and experienced more life with Him than children have. If you want your children to grow spiritually, don’t hover over them or try to protect them from the world. Both will diminish their growth. They need experiences leaning on God to discover who He truly is.

Experiences help head knowledge gravitate to the heart. They’ll help children gain confidence in what they’ve learned. God’s attributes will become real. Doubts more quickly lift.

God Is in the Difficulty

I think this is why when I ask my adult audiences if they have stronger character and faith because of the challenges, disappointments, and even heartache God allows them to experience, about 80 percent of the people quickly raise their hands to say yes. In tough times, we can learn God is who He says He is. We learn that needing Him is a good thing!

Teach your children that although God could make everything and everyone perfect, He intentionally doesn’t. He understands the value of walking out of valleys and coming back from trauma.

“Children must learn that God is not a magic genie who does away with all evil and suffering.”

If this is true, why do so many parents bubble-wrap their children and solve problems for them before they could have learned rich lessons? Are the parents weak and afraid? Do they not trust their children to learn from the experiences? Are they impatient and unwilling to do the sometimes-messy work of walking with their children? Do they not trust God?

Spiritually non-resilient children are children who haven’t experienced much of God. They haven’t learned to depend on Him. They haven’t been honest with Him. They may have head knowledge and Sunday school right answers. They may be able to pass a Bible quiz in a Christian school and answer Dad’s questions right during a family devotion. But this can’t be good enough!

Find God in Challenges

Children will learn who God is when they don’t run from their challenges. When you don’t prevent messes or clean up their messes for them, they can discover how to rely on God. You must let your children live so they can see God act on their behalf. Just like we learn a lot about ourselves under pressure, we learn a lot about God when we’re under pressure. So can our kids.

Teach your children and then allow God to orchestrate their lives so they’ll be proven true. Talk about these things and point them out to your children when they can’t see them on their own. For example:

God is the everlasting God. Therefore, He won’t give up on me. He won’t get tired of my questions or needs.

God provides for me. He has given me time, talent, resources, people to help me, and even forced me to rest when I was sick.

God is my peace. I don’t need to worry. He can take care of emotional turmoil, messy relationships, my physical concerns, and the intellectual confusion I’m dealing with.

Jesus is the light of the world. I don’t have to live in the dark. Jesus can show me the way out of my dark place.

Jesus is an indescribable gift. I don’t deserve Jesus’ sacrifice and there’s nothing I can ever do that would earn it. It’s a gift! I can relax and stop performing.

Jesus is my authority. I need to humble myself, ask Him for help, read the Word, pray for wisdom, and follow His lead.

Continue this idea with the attributes listed earlier and other names and attributes from the resources listed in the endnotes or your resources. Do all you can to help children believe and see that God behaves the way He does because of who He is.

God is faithful. Therefore, He . . .

God is loving. Therefore, He . . .

God is impartial. Therefore, He . . .

Children must learn that God is not a magic genie who does away with all evil and suffering. Verses like the following, men like Job, and heroes like Paul show us that tribulation, trials, and suffering exist and may touch us. That doesn’t make God bad or unloving.

“Children must learn that God is not a magic genie who does away with all evil and suffering.”

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:3–5)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Rom. 12:12)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)

Teach Your Children

You don’t want children to assume that they will never experience disappointments and trauma. You can’t afford for your children to believe that if they’re experiencing hard times it’s because God doesn’t love them.

Some would say the exact opposite is true. Because God wants us to mature and become more like His Son, Jesus Christ, He may allow trauma to affect us. This is an important insight to share with children. Our suffering, pain, turmoil caused by significant disappointment, and more have meaning. There’s purpose in it. God plans all for our good.

Teach your children what good can happen from your family’s challenges and their individual pain. Character growth and lasting faith are huge gains! Let this inspire you: “Hurt is the pain we feel when our suffering seems meaningless. Austrian psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp, noticed that people bear up under pain as long as they see the meaning in it. If we understand why we’re suffering, Frankl believed, it ceases to be suffering.” Powerful!

Also, teach your children that Jesus understands suffering, so they’ll walk toward Him in times of need rather than run from Him. He can relate to their situation! In age-appropriate ways, make sure they know Jesus suffered on the cross for them. His death was brutal. Putting up with the pain in my foot and back when I serve Jesus is more manageable when I remember how much He suffered for me.

Teach children that Jesus cares about the brokenhearted: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

Teach children that God has overcome evil: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Teach children that Jesus raised children and adults from the dead. He healed many people. He fed the hungry and taught the lost. “He freed people tormented by demons. . . . Jesus didn’t medicate suffering; he overcame it.”

Teach them God is working for our good (Rom. 8:28). God has not forgotten about us (Heb. 6:10). God won’t leave us (Deut. 31:8). God’s love never fails (Rom. 8:39).

I want to encourage you to think more about how children relate to God than you possibly have. Yes, as I’ve written, they need to know Him. They need to believe in Him. They need to understand as much about His ways and His will as possible. They need to keep growing in wisdom.

You and your teaching, conversations, and modeling help tremendously. So do hard times and their pain, suffering, disappointment, and confusion. God uses these to mature children and to want more of Him and from Him—when they’re resilient. If they’re not resilient and they’ve learned to run from hard things and difficult people, their spiritual growth will be affected.

For Further Reading:

Resilient Kids

by Kathy Koch

Children need to believe their future is bright. The more disappointments they don’t recover well from, the less likely they are to...

book cover for Resilient Kids