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Monday, October 17, 2011

To Halloween or Not to Halloween?

There are a lot of folks these days that don't celebrate Halloween. Frankly, I get it, and I'm not a huge fan myself. For me, it's not so much about religious convictions as it is that I don't like the idea of mixing scary stuff and kids. I also don't like how sexy some of the costumes have gotten, even for kids.

The idea of any costume, friendly or scary, is frightening for some children. If yours is one of them, here are a few tips for handling Halloween.

1. Respect your child's fear by staying a safe distance from costumed people.
2. Don't laugh at their fear, no matter how silly it may seem to you.
3. Offer comfort and reassurance.
4. Remind them it's only pretend, but they still don't have to like it.
5. Avoid places with people in costumes.

Some of these may seem extreme to you. But your child is probably only going to have these fears while he's young enough to be unable to distinguish what's real vs. what's pretend. Usually, by school age, kids can tell the difference. Is it really worth scaring your child just for a party or event you want to attend? For me, the answer is no. I can put off going to these Halloween events until he's old enough to not be traumatized by them.

So that's my take on Halloween, costumes, and scaring kids. I'd go for a nicer, less edgy alternative every time, even if my kids aren't scared. How about you? How do you plan to do Halloween this year? Will they dress up? Will you? Will you go trick-or-treating? Attend an alternative event at a school or church? Or aren't you doing anything for Halloween?  I can't wait to hear from you!

Monday, October 3, 2011

5 Ways to Tell if Your Child is Ready to Accept Jesus

I'm a firm believer that God works in the hearts of children just as much as he works in the hearts of adults. And I believe a child can choose to follow Jesus and mean it for life. I also think children are capable of making this important decision on thier own and should never be pressured, guilted or coerced into it.

That said, parents are their children's primary teachers and they have a responsibility to share Christ with their kids. Hopefully, this will lead them to accept Jesus as their Savior. But how can you tell if your child is ready to take such a huge spiritual step? How can you be sure he isn't doing it because his friend is? How do you know he didn't get pressured into it at church or camp? These are valid questions and concerns. Naturally, you'll want to make sure your child understands your church's teachings before she takes that important decision to ask Jesus into her heart. But beyond that, here are some things to help you figure it out.

Your child is probably ready if:
1. He exhibits a love for Jesus and growing closer to Him. This might be demonstrated by his enthusiasm for going to church, having devotions at home (with or without you), and if he has a prayer life.
2. He asks questions about spiritual matters and/or looks at the world from a spiritual perspective. Does he see a sunset and say, "Look what God did?" Does he readily turn to God when he needs help? Does he wonder where God is when he sees sadness in the world? These are examples of seeing the world from a spiritual perspective.
3. He wants to share his faith with his friends. Inviting kids to join him at church or special church activities shows he's excited about his relationship with Jesus and wants others to experience it too. Or maybe he's one who prays for his friends. That's another way to include his friends in his faith.
4. He understands what commitment is. Accepting Christ is a pretty awesome lifelong commitment and your child needs to understand what's involved. A commitment is something you don't change your mind about. It is something to be taken seriously. It means, in this case, that you'll love Jesus and live for Him forever.
5. You reassure him about his fears and concerns. Your child may be ready emotionally and spiritually, but he may have fears about doing it. When I was a child, accepting Jesus also meant being baptized, but I was afraid of being dunked in the water. Today, accepting Jesus starts with a prayer of repentance and commitment. Baptism may not follow for a few years. But a child sometimes has fears that hold him back from praying that life-changing prayer. He may fear ridicule from his family or friends, or he may be afraid of what accepting Jesus will mean in his life. He may be afraid he'll fail as a Christian. Your reassurance of whatever fears or concerns he may have will smooth the decision-making process for him.

I encourage you to talk to your child at least once a year about this important step. Make it a part of your casual conversation. Let him know you'll support him whenever he's ready to give his life to Jesus and that you trust his judgment to do it when God tells him it's time. Seeing your child grow in his faith is one of the sweetest things you'll get to experience as a parent. And when he finally takes the step of accepting Jesus, it's time to celebrate!