Helping Our Kids Find Stability In An Unstable World

April 7, 2024

We want our children to be grounded and to feel stable and supported, especially as our world seems to be unraveling at a rapid speed. As parents, our voices can easily get drowned out. So how do we help our kids stay grounded in an increasingly unstable world?

We’re going to cover this in three main points. Number one, we’re going to talk about identifying the outside sources and influences. Number two, we’re going to talk about establishing a safe home base. And three, we’re going to talk about helping our kids establish their own personal value and identity. As our kids grow up, we want them to stay true to themselves, especially amidst so much societal and cultural pressure.

First, we need to look at what is influencing them in their daily lives so that we can identify how we can move towards providing some stability. But if we don’t know what is actually forming their worldview, it’s hard to do that.

What are our kids taking in? Let’s identify some of these outside sources and influences.

There are so many influences. I think there’s a real awareness when we begin to consider the influences in their lives. Gaining that awareness is the first step. Who is speaking into their lives, who has a position of authority? And I even think about how I am reinforcing that voice. Because I have no control over some of the voices. They’re other parents, maybe they’re teachers, voices that are just a necessary part of their life. I mean, there’s other influences, but if we’re isolating the adult figures in their life, we live in a society that is so divided and so vocal about the divisiveness of our country. When there are adults speaking about these things, an authority figure, that’s an incredible influence on them we need to be aware of in our kids’ lives.

Who are those adults that are speaking into their lives, whether it be in person or on tv?

Coaches, scout leaders, guidance counselors, figures that they see in movies or on TikTok—these people have a voice into what our kids are believing or beginning to think about.
The other day I was driving Jax and one of his friends, and his friend said, “Hey, did you hear about the shooting today?” And Jax was like, “Wait, so what happened?” And I had to step in at one point. I said, “Hey, how do you know about that?” And he was like, “Oh, I get the news on my phone. So I read it.” He has an iPhone, so he somehow heard about this horrific incident, and he’s telling Jax about it. I said, “Okay, so well, here’s actually what happened.” And I kind of gave Jax the rundown of what actually happened—and that they caught the bad guys because he was asking a lot of questions. But all that to say, their friends are learning stuff and then they’re just talking about it, not knowing otherwise, but I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh, my child already struggles with anxiety. His dad tells him way too much about what’s going on in the world.” And not that I’m trying to shield him from that, but I’m also trying to mitigate some of that and tell him what the truth is, not just hearsay. And so, I was glad that I was sitting there in that moment, but when they have access to this stuff and they don’t have the right view of the world, and then they’re passing it on to your kid, it’s hard.

It feels like it’s seeping in through the cracks and crevices of their lives. Even if we’re intentionally trying to keep certain doors shut, inevitably they are going to be receiving information through YouTube, the news, social media, their peers. I think one of the best filters for our kids is beginning to develop a realization that not everything is true. And being a safe place for them to come to you as a sounding board; just because someone says it online doesn’t mean it’s true. Or where did that come from? Why do you think they’re saying that? Helping them be curious and have that critical thinking skill is key.

I think there are two different influencing categories. There are the influences that happen to them when they’re in community. For instance, if they’re in a classroom with a group of other people and a teacher says something. The other category is when they’re alone and looking at social media, looking at TikTok. Lately, there’s all this controversy about Princess Catherine: Where is she? And last night on TikTok, it was like, “Two of her lawyers say she’s dead” and so I leave TikTok and I go to google and I’m like, “Kate Middleton dead.” Nothing comes up. But these people on TikTok said it with such authority. And the reason they’re saying it is to get viewers. So, my point is, if I’m a child and I’m 10 years old, I’m a blank slate. I don’t have any sounding boards that are going “That’s not true.” It’s just them and that screen in front of them.

We won’t be able to move towards creating stability unless we understand what voices we need to counteract. I’m not even talking about refuting. Because there are lots of voices out there. Am I exhibiting stress about money? Am I exhibiting anger towards my ex? Am I in earshot talking to a friend about, “Well, did you hear about Ukraine?” Those are things that we need to pay attention to. We need to be aware of what voices are forming their worldview—the way our kids see everything in society. It’s really important to pay attention.

I feel like there are going to be some listeners who may be feeling exactly what I’m feeling, which is sadness, regret, and some guilt. I wish I had done more to monitor the voices in my kids’ lives sooner and more intentionally. And that’s just a hard reality for me. At the time, I didn’t know how pervasive or how much influence those voices were having. And my kids had an absence of other strong, positive, godly Christ-filled voices in their lives. I was a primary source of that. And I’m thankful when I can look at that to counteract the sadness and the guilt. But to be honest, I’m just like, “Please, parents do what you can to do better than I did.” This is an area where we can’t be too vigilant. And at the same time, we don’t want to be guided by fear, but I think an awareness of what our kids are sharing has to be the first step.

How do we create a safe home base as a landing place for our kids? How do we create healthy dialogue?

We have to encourage open dialogue about anything. And when they bring something up, our reaction [determines] how comfortable they’re going to be bringing it up again. And so when they bring up something that ignites fear, anger, anxiety, whatever, we have to be so careful in how we respond. We need to respond and not react. I had to play catch up and learn my standard response, which I hope is helpful to our listeners: “Thank you for telling me that.” That’s my “push pause.” I might be on fire inside, I might be angry, hurt, sad, whatever but I can respond with “Thank you for telling me that.”

But even just asking them questions, being curious, letting them be curious and even giving yourself permission to learn and grow as well. Not only in the response versus reaction, but maybe they’re bringing something new to you that you haven’t heard. I may present well on the outside with that, but it’s like fiery madness happening inside. So, I have to be really careful. I think just being able to take a step back and be like, “Okay, what are we doing here?” This matters. How you respond matters. But at the end of the day, if we aren’t the ones providing that truth, providing the direction, allowing God to guide that, then other people are going to do it, and it may be people we don’t know and trust.

But it says, God does not give us a spirit of fear. And so, identifying what the voices are and then not being afraid to step into uncomfortable situations. And as you were talking, Elizabeth, you were saying there may be something they bring up that makes us angry or makes us fearful, but I would also add to that group: things that I have no idea how to answer. I’m like, “Oh yeah, we’ll talk about that later” instead of just sitting in it, “Well, let’s explore. What do you think about that?” I tended to run away from things that I didn’t understand, which means that there are some things that we probably should have talked about together and reasoned together. I’m such a big believer in the Holy Spirit.

In the early church, the Holy Spirit gave the disciples the utterance to speak beyond their level of understanding when brought before the authorities. And even to the point of people hearing in their own language. So, I think we need to pray, “God, give me the utterance.” I will tell you that most of the time, if not all the time, if I pray that and go, “Okay, I’m going to step into this, God give me the utterance,” He does give us the words to say—not necessarily the answers, but he gives us the right way to approach the conversation. So don’t be afraid to just go, “Okay, God, I’m going to step into this because I believe you want me to, so I’m counting on your Holy Spirit to show up and lead this conversation.”

I say to Jax often, “Hey, I’m not really actually sure about that, let’s google it or let’s find out.” But you know what, Robert? The other day, somebody was talking about the whole idea of wondering. And a kid asked his dad, “Hey dad, what’s it like to wonder?” If we want to know the answer to something, we just automatically google it. We don’t wonder for long. I wonder how much wonder would do for our kids if we’re sitting in it with them and having those conversations, and how much more of safety and relationship that would build with your kids if you’re able to say, “Hey, I’m not really sure, but what do you think about it? Let’s talk about that for a minute.” And the point is to learn to ask more questions. We don’t have to be full of answers. We can be with them and just continue to ask questions which prompts connection and creates the safety that we’re trying to create as a home base.

Research shows that there are three things parents can do to protect their kids from risky behaviors: bonding, boundaries, and monitoring. And I think the bonding part is what you two have just described: open conversation, leaning in, asking questions, caring about their viewpoint. At the same time, boundaries are where we may not want them to explore a very difficult adult topic. Further, we might say, “Hey, let me share with you what’s appropriate for you in third grade.” Or we might need to shield them from certain things. We may have to be careful about what they have access to or what we tell them. We may need to teach them skills to say, “I want to ask my mom about that” if someone starts talking about things that feel heavy or big or “I want to ask my dad about that.” We give them words so that they can begin to establish their own boundaries. And to really be aware and monitor who they’re listening to, what they’re doing, who has access to them.

I think those are all really good points because we want our home to be a safe place. One of the best compliments our kids can give us is, “I want to ask my mom about that. I want to ask my dad about that.” That they know that you are a trusted resource for them. And that doesn’t happen by having all the right answers. It happens by helping them understand there’s no stupid question and that there’s always space for curiosity and wonder. And there’s also a lot of wisdom that we have too. Those three things can help in establishing a home base.

How do we instill a strong identity in their beliefs, their values? How do we enforce that in our home beyond just being a safe place and identifying the bad voices?

It starts younger than we think, and I think that we as parents play a vital role more than we may realize. Our words are so powerful with our kids. When Jade was a tiny little girl in the stroller, we were going for a walk, and we approached a group of ladies just clustered together talking. I was planning to sit and just wait patiently, and Jade instead said, “Beep beep coming through.” And the entire sea of ladies parted and made room for us on the sidewalk. And everyone smiled and I thought, “Wow, look at her.” She was two years old. And I thought, “Amber, this girl will use her voice in groups of people.” And I would tell her that story growing up because it was the first spark where I was like, “Wow, that’s who she is.”

As parents, we can have that awareness of helping our kids see who they are, validating those strengths that we see, maybe even helping them identify some of their weaknesses or values. And so I started repeating that story to Jade. And even now, I’ll say things to her—she’s a very big advocate for those who are the underdog or those who are marginalized. And I’ll say to her, “Jade, you have a big heart of love that shows up in a fierce way” and that’s really true for her. I’m different. Just helping them notice and see those things are just powerful ways we can help build up our kids’ sense of self so that when the world comes at them, they aren’t as swayable, they aren’t as influenced because they think, “Oh, this is how I do it. This is who I am.” And I think it can start really young where we begin to notice and say, “You’re always so generous. You’ll go out of your way to share with everyone.” So we’re reflecting back their strengths and their identities and what we appreciate.

And in contrast, if something goes against what you think is their character saying, “Hey, I noticed today you got really angry on the playground and yelled at that kid that jumped in front of you on the slide. That doesn’t seem like the way you would normally love someone.” You can just start to nudge them a little bit. Just establishing and saying, “Hey, you’re usually a very respectful and kind person. What’s going on? Did they upset you?” And asking more questions about that. I think it’s more than snapping at them. Sometimes it requires that, but sometimes it might be like, “Hey, is there something else going on here? It’s not like you. That’s not normal.”

Another piece is empowering them to trust their gut if they know what feels right. Recently we were toying with the idea of Jax not playing baseball this spring. He’s played baseball for several years now, and this spring, out of nowhere, he’s like, “I don’t want to play.” And I said, “Well, so tell me what’s going on with that.” And we talked it through and I understood where he was coming from. He had a lot of anxiety with baseball. I could see that it didn’t seem right for him, but he wanted to play. So I wanted to support him in that. And I wanted to do what I could to help push him in whatever direction he wanted to go. And so I just sat back and watched, and then he came to the decision that he didn’t want to play anymore. And I said, “Okay, well let’s talk more about why.” And he said, “I don’t know. It’s just something in my gut.” And I was like, “Okay, well that is reason enough for me. If you feel like that’s not your journey, then I support you in that.” And I circled back a couple more times like, “Hey, baseball signups—we got 10 days left.” He’s like, “No, I feel good about my decision.” Last day of signups, I’m like, “One last chance. Today’s the last day to sign up.” He’s like, “No, I’m good. I just don’t think I should do it.”

I can give you another example of that same thing. He had long hair for a while and he loved his hair. He thought he was the coolest little dude. But anyway, his dad and his brother wanted him to cut his hair for a long time and they would rag him about it, “Oh, you need to cut your hair, you need to be cleaner cut.” His brother would be like, “If you want the girls to pay attention to you, you need to cut your hair.” Whenever he spent any significant amount of time with his dad or his brother, he would come back and say, “Mom, I think I need to get my hair cut.” We’d talk through it. I’m like, “Hey, do you want to get your hair cut or is this for your brother and your dad?” And finally, we get to the end of it and he’d be like, “Ah, they were telling me this, this and this.” I just kept pushing on him and saying, “Hey, if you want to cut your hair, we’ll cut your hair. That’s fine. I want you to do what you want, but I want it to be your decision. Not your brothers’, not your dads, not your teachers, not your friends—your decision.” Anyway, fast forward about six months later, he’s like, “Mom, I’m actually ready to cut my hair.” I’m like, “Great. Let’s go cut your hair.” He is like, “No, seriously, this is my decision. I want to do it.” And so we did.

What I love is that you are teaching him it has nothing to do with hair. It’s teaching him that he has a gut to pay attention to and an inner voice that is guiding him. And it could be big things, it could be small things, but it’s helping them understand: listen to yourself. Because a lot of times your gut is telling you something that you need to pay attention to, whether it’s to stay away from a relationship or cut your hair or whatever. And part of your identity is that you have an internal voice that is trying to guide you. I think it is really important to help them understand that they are designed with purpose and God has them here for a specific purpose.

For this moment in time, wherever you’re at, there is something that God is building in you. And I was telling someone just earlier today, “Pray and say, ‘Okay, God, what should I pay attention to? Or what should I look at?’” Simple prayers like that. If we’re earnestly seeking truth, I believe that God shows up all the time.” And so helping them not just form their identity based on what other people say or what their gut says, but that the creator has the ability to guide us in determining what to listen to.

But if I can teach him through little seemingly trivial things like his hair or how he decorates his room, it’s building those muscles for him to be able to face things that are happening with his friends later. And be able to make decisions for himself and listen and understand whether it’s the Holy Spirit or a gut check. You are modeling being a secure source of grounding for him by helping talk through it with him, but also letting him kind of check in with himself.

And even teaching our kids, “What do you think God is saying about this?” and helping them be curious and to begin to have a listening posture with God and a sense of trust. We’ve been dealing with some things with Jax’s dad and some anxiety that Jax is dealing with, and we’ve finally gotten to the root of some of that anxiety. And it was all based on lies and fears that were being poured into Jax at his dad’s house. And one of the things that Kyle [Cruz] is continuing to help him work through is looking at what is true. So he was introduced to that shooting news cycle stuff with his friend. And Kyle said, “Hey, so you’re learning about all these things that are happening in the world like war and shootings and it’s causing a lot of fear for you. Of course, there’s a lot of anxiety and fear there. But what I want you to be able to look at for yourself is to say, ‘Could this happen? Is it probable?’” And he said, “Could you and your mom have an accident when you leave this session?” And Jax was like, “Yeah, we could.”

And then Kyle said, “But now I want you to look at it and think, ‘Is that likely what’s going to happen?’ No, probably not. When you’re coming up against things that are causing you a lot of anxiety, use that framework to say, ‘Could this happen?’ Maybe? ‘Is it likely to happen?’ Probably not.” Sometimes that anxiety and fear makes our emotions take over and we can’t think about what’s actually true and what’s real. And so once we get to a grounded spot, we can ask those questions. And it may even be us prompting our kids saying, “Hey, could that happen?” Yeah, it could. Obviously, we see these things happening in the world, they can happen. “Is it probable?” No, it’s not.


1.We need to identify outside influences on our kids and understand what values they’re being exposed to. We can’t address it unless we know what it is that we’re addressing.
2.We need to make our home a safe place for our kids to ask questions, look for answers, and to feel connected.
3.Our kids need their own personal values in order to stand their ground when facing obstacles or opposition.

Listener Question

I’m afraid my kids won’t ever want to get married after my messy divorce. What do I do?

The first part of this question is “I’m afraid that my kids won’t ever want to get married.” We can’t be governed by fear. I know it’s easier said than done. We need to be aware of what is shaping everything we’ve been talking about, shaping their worldview. But at the end of the day, we have to trust that God is bigger than all those things, and that their relationships (while they can learn from some of the mess), aren’t necessarily going to be my relationship. And that’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as my kids have gotten older, is that God is pursuing them. I believe that they are not just an extension of me. They’re actually children of God. And so, His pursuit of them is equal to His pursuit of me. And at some point, I need to realize that who I am does not equal who they’re going to be. I need to let go of that fear, that belief, and also trust that God is going after them and will guide them because fear will breed bad responses. Whenever I act out of fear, it doesn’t provide good results.

Jax’s older brother is 25, and he was talking to his counselor about a current relationship that he’s in and how it’s not right for him. He knows that, but he’s scared to break up. And his counselor actually told him, “I don’t think you have it in you for a divorce,” because he’s been through two—he’s been through his parents’ divorce, and then he’s been through our divorce. And he said, “So it makes it all the more important for you to make the right choice when you’re choosing your partner and you’re building a relationship. It can cause some scars and some damage; it would be amazing if our kids had someone that they’re connected with, that they have a deep relationship with and all of that. But also, is it the end of the world if they don’t get married? There are worse things than being single. I think we can, any of us who’ve been divorced know that there are worse things than being single.

And they may say, “I don’t think I’m ever going to get married. It was terrible watching you and dad fight.” By the way, I’ve heard these words from one of my dear delightful, demanding children, and I’ve just said, “Well, I can see why you would think that, and you have all the room in the world to stick with that or change your mind.” Just let it be an open door: “I can see why you might feel that way and you get to change your mind.”