Creating Security in Difficult Times

Being honest with our children is important. Even in stressful times, it can build trust. Developing an understanding of your family’s unique fears and stresses can benefit your ability to cultivate security.

For so long now, it seems that we have faced daily anxiety or stress about the future. There is growing uncertainty about how effectively our children will build relationships. Sometimes, it’s necessary to be honest about the many challenges facing both our children and us. Even in the midst of difficulty there is hope and encouragement for you.

For a few minutes, let’s exhale and authentically process some of those very real challenges our families face. You can prepare to actively breathe in hope, joy, and life as well.

Strategies to Combat Parenting Stress and Cultivate Security

Beginning with you as a parent, let’s explore something that can be helpful in understanding how God has created us.

In our brains, there is a small, almond‐shaped structure system called the amygdala. Brain researchers would say that the amygdala and our limbic system help us access the emotional temperature of our situations. Picture your amygdala scanning situations in front of you. Whether the situations are happy or stressful, calm or fearful, positive or negative,  the amygdala determines our emotional temperature.

The amygdala also helps in storing memories. These memories can be fearful or reward-based experiences. The amygdala is often bent towards false positives, which means that the memories err on the side of remembering things that spell out, “That’s a threat!”

Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you live in Arizona as I do. It’s almost dark, and you’re out walking the dogs. Suddenly, out of the side of your eye, you see a long, thin, three‐foot black object in the yard ahead of you. The limbic system immediately triggers your fight or flight response and internally shouts out, “Snake!”

Rewiring Your Internal Alarm System

Upon closer inspection, the snake is only a tree branch. But you might notice that it can take quite a while for your blood pressure and feelings to return to normal after that experience.

In some ways, you may feel like you are on the front lines with parenting stress and threats that seem to always around us. And the reality is that people living in very high-stress environments for long periods of time can see their threat systems become hyper‐vigilant! And this can continue even after the actual threats go away. So, what can we do?

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You Can’t Always Out‐Logic Parenting Stress

What came first? The emotional reaction to thinking it was a snake? Or the logical, “Well, it’s not moving. This really isn’t snake season. I’m probably mistaken. I see — it’s just a stick.” It’s important to keep reading and believing that things around us are moving back towards a more normal time. But it’s also OK to have feelings. Even feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety..

Create a Stop and Think Card

Find a 3×5 card. On one side, write out a Bible verse such as Joshua 1:9. “…Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed. For the Lord YOUR God is with you wherever you go.” When you feel the fear that things won’t get better, it’s helpful to know, as Joshua tells us, that we’re not alone.

Over the next several months of upcoming transition time when that fear feeling hits us again, take out your card. Read the verse. Know you’re not alone. Then turn the card over and put a tally mark on the back. After every 5th time that you take out your card, make a diagonal line. When you reach the 30th time you’ve made a tally mark, you’ll be amazed how trusting the Lord’s presence in difficult times can help ease parenting stress.

A God-Given Antidote to Parenting Stress Created by Isolation

There’s no doubt about it. It only takes a few studies on the experience of isolation, to find that the lack of relationships can interrupt sleep patterns, increase stress and stroke levels, and even trigger the immune system! While isolation can and does impact us in a variety of negative ways, the God‐given antidote is our need for relationships! We were created for connection!  

Did you know your child – and your friends and loved ones — need you to look them right in the eye? Eye‐to‐eye contact is what triggers mirror neurons. This process can yield big relational dividends!

Here’s an example. Proverbs 15:30 says, “Bright eyes make the heart glad.” Imagine the positive physical reactions that are triggered when someone’s eyes light up when they see us! That’s just one benefit of trusting God for the strength and courage to create bright-eyed meetings with loved ones and friends again.

Begin With Something Small

Start with your family. Lift and brighten your eyes whenever you see them walk in from work or after they’re done with school, or when you pick them up from somewhere. Be that person with bright eyes that can “make the heart glad.” And, without a word, you’ll be building attachment in place of stress and anxiety in your home.

Try brainstorming a play date with a friend’s child at an outdoor park. Think of a place to take a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while for coffee. And then schedule the meeting as soon as you can. Is there a trip to see your parents or other relatives you’ve wanted to plan? No matter where you go or who you eventually see, you will do wonders for them and yourself when you walk in with those bright eyes and watch their face and heart light up!

Developing Relational Intelligence

Even after discussing the encouragement that bright‐eyed interactions can provide, we still might run into some negative situations. We might feel uncertain or stressed about our relational skills.

Relational Intelligence can be a key ingredient in solving parenting stress and anxiety. Moreover, developing an understanding of your family’s unique and individual fears and stresses can benefit your ability to cultivate security. Through your difficult situations, trust that the Lord is present, loves you and your family, and can help ease the burdens of parenting stress.

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