Do you ever feel that the only constant in life is that things are constantly changing? I know I do! Our lives are filled with circumstances that require we adapt from one thing to the next. This is true for us and for our kids. These transitions are sometimes planned and sometimes unexpected.
Two years ago my husband and I began to plan for his retirement this May. As that day fast approaches, in the last 5 months we have helped plan and host my son’s wedding, taken my mother with us to Sweden, enjoyed all the holidays, and spent two weeks in another state helping with the birth our newest grandchild. For the last 5 weeks I unexpectedly had to put everything on hold to help my mother through an illness and major surgery. (She is now recovering nicely 🙂 As these months have been both joyful and difficult, I have found the following principles have helped me through this time of multiple transitions and ever-changing plans.
- Focus on Truth – God’s Word gives us the right perspective on life. It reorients us to reality and what’s most important. It speaks to our need in the moment and helps us sort out the facts from our feelings. We can then choose a wise response to our current situation. So often through my mother’s illness the Spirit would direct my reading or bring a verse to mind to speak to my need. In times of transition, God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm 119:105)
- Find the familiar – In transitions, when things feel unsettled, keeping simple routines can bring comfort. If this is true for us, imagine how much more it applies to our young children. Structure and routine bring a security that things are ok. Familiar items like a blanket or favorite toy can bring calm. For adults, doing something “normal” when you are in transition can give you a break from the stress and restore some peace of mind. For me, reading my Bible, praying, watching church online, checking in with my kids and grandkids, offering parenting advice to a friend, or even just doing the dishes or a load of laundry helped to keep me connected to life outside the hospital and feel normal.
- Be thankful – Find what you can to be thankful for in the transition. There is always something! We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Being thankful can change us from fear or worry to having hope. It helps us to focus on the positives. When my normally happy child becomes moody and difficult in the middle years transition, instead of being annoyed, I can be thankful for the insight I gain into his heart. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead and guide him in this season of life. Having gratitude helps me to accept where he is in the process of maturing. It gets my focus off my frustration with his attitudes and puts my mind on how I can mentor him through it.
- Look ahead to the new normal – After living through 2 months of life with my firstborn child, I told my husband I felt like I was “holding my breath waiting for things to settle down and just get back to normal.” It then dawned on us, this was the “new normal!” It seems obvious, right? Just the fact that we call it a transition means something else will follow. We should look ahead to that “new normal” and take one step at a time to reach it. This will help set our minds and hearts on a forward goal. Part of the angst of the transition is that we are trying to hold onto the way things were. Thinking ahead to how I want to come out on the other side of a transition helps me to accept and be at peace with it. This has been especially helpful in my current season, looking toward to having my mom live with us and all that retirement will bring. We are anticipating this new season with hope and joy!
- Help your child through transitions – Most of the transitions our children experience are a normal part of growing up. It’s easy to look at their problems and think they’re no big deal. We lived through it, so will they. When I was struggling through my mom’s illness, I called on a friend who recently walked this same road. She didn’t tell me anything new, but she listened and was able to empathize with all I was feeling and it gave comfort to know I was not alone. In this same way, we need to take the time to be that listening ear for our kids, to see things from their perspective. We can help our children articulate what they are feeling. We can encourage them to rely upon the Lord and to be faithful and obedient through their current trial. While we must continue to hold them to the standard, recognizing that they experience the same emotions that we do and being empathetic can facilitate a change in their attitudes. We need to teach them these same principles: to look to God’s Word for wisdom, to be thankful, and encourage them to accept and embrace the new normal in each stage of their lives.
Although life is constantly changing, may we all be encouraged that the God who never changes is the God who directs our steps through it all. (Hebrews13:8; Proverbs 16:9)