This morning I had an unexpected conversation with my youngest child’s physical therapist. The therapist told me that my son has had such disappointing progress during this school year, that he is recommending he be transferred from his inclusive program to an intensive therapeutic program for the coming year.
The program he recommended is one I had previously dismissed as unsuitable for my child for a number of reasons. Children who participate in this program have limitations that my son doesn’t have and this doesn’t seem appropriate for his needs. And yet, for now this seems to be the only option.
Right away frustration and worry started swirling around my mind: lots of paperwork will need to be filed, evaluations will have to be conducted, who do I need to speak to, when can I visit this recommended institution, and how is my son going to be successful in such a dramatically different framework?
I’m no stranger to emotionally gnashing my teeth over situations like these. Over my years as a parent, I’ve often had concerns arose over some issue or another involving one of my children. With time, I’ve recognized that I have two choices: to get caught up in anxiety and worry, or to press the mental ‘pause’ button, and replace the anxiety with a feeling of trust that everything is going to work out for the highest good for all involved.
Rather than mentally churn about the pressure, the time constraints, the paperwork and most of all, my deep disappointment at how poorly served my son has been in his current framework, I had to take a deep breath and take a long-term view of this issue. Is this going to limit my son’s future forever? No. Is this going to define him as a human being? No. Is this going to prevent him from getting the help he needs? No.
As the fears flowed out, they were replaced with a sense of confidence and trust in the long-term outcome. I started feeling optimistic that new opportunities and support would manifest from what had seemed depressing and constraining just a short time before. I don’t know how the specifics will play out, but I can now look at the decision in front of me with trust rather than anxiety.
The well-known adage “Seeing is believing” isn’t really true. If you can see something in front of you, you don’t need to exercise any belief.
Believing is what you do when you can’t see something in front of you, when something doesn’t yet exist, when the facts in front of you indicate one conclusion and you have to imagine a different outcome.
The Jewish perspective toward parenting is better expressed by “Believe it and then you’ll see it.”
How do you develop trust and what is it you’re meant to believe?
Trust can seem vague and murky, slippery and hard to hold onto. For me, trust rests on three basic core concepts: 1) everything that happens comes from God; 2) everything that happens is for my benefit; 3) God loves me more than I can imagine and wants me to experience good.
As parents, it’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day behaviors. My son is depressed, my daughter is disrespectful, he is hanging out with friends that I don’t like, she isn’t acting as she should. When you see the behaviors, it feels intense and you want to do whatever you can to change the situation fast.
But before you rush to do something, pause.
Don’t rush to act. Slow down and take a deep breath. Whatever the specifics of the parenting dilemma you’re facing right now, those problems and the actions you take to mediate the issue are just a small part of the solution.
The bigger part of the solution is how to respond to what you don’t see. This is where trust comes in, and this is the hardest part of parenting.
When you take action, you feel like you’re doing something. You’re making changes, you’re showing you care. And yet there’s an important, critical step that has to take place before all of that problem solving.
When you can look beyond the current situation or difficulty with your children and know with absolute confidence that o-d is there to help you and your child is going to be fine, it changes the way you react in the moment.
It changes the attitude you have toward your child. It changes the actions you take, and the emotions you feel when you take those actions.
It shifts you from a place of fear to serenity and inner calm.
And perhaps most importantly, your belief in the positive resolution of your challenge actively and powerfully impacts the outcome. Your trust is not only a thought, but actively brings God into the picture and activates His assistance on your behalf. Trust is an action in its own right.
Years ago one of my children was struggling with an issue. A big one. There was plenty to be worried about and the long-term image that kept coming to mind was very disturbing. I just couldn’t picture her overcoming this challenge, and that concerned me more than anything. I knew that if I couldn’t visualize this situation being successfully surmounted, I was losing the most powerful tool in my arsenal, my unspoken belief.
During that time, I repeatedly filled my mind with positive feelings about my daughter’s future and every time the fear and negativity started to creep in, I would refocus on my those hopeful thoughts. The more I did this, the more I began to feel confident she could and would rise beyond this challenging period in her life.
Years later, I asked my daughter how did she not only get out of a place of darkness that many get stuck in, but came out growing and glowing?
Her answer brought me to tears: “It was because I always knew you and Daddy believed in me.”
That’s the power of belief. That’s the power of trusting in your child’s positive future possibilities, rather than getting stuck in the current temporary mess.
As a parenting consultant, parents often ask me what to do with a child who is struggling. My first message, prior to taking any specifics action steps, is to imagine him successfully on the other side of the current issue. The existing problem seems so big, and it’s so hard to imagine getting past it. That’s the challenge. But the potential reality lies in your imagination of what can be.
Know that for every single challenge you and your child are facing, there is a hopeful outcome waiting on the other side. Trust that this challenge has been custom designed for you by God, and that He wants you to experience joy and happiness as it is settled. You don’t have to see how the challenge is going to be work out, but you do have to believe that it can and will conclude positively.
Once you have the clarity and confidence that a desirable outcome is likely, then the actions you take to support your child will be productive and beneficial.