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It’s time to repair and shine up the armor that will protect our children as they enter what feels more and more like a war zone to parents. We are referring to the spiritual and physical safety of our children. We know the enemy lurks in the halls of schools, on the playgrounds, the ball fields, the classrooms, parties, and wherever else our children may be.
That may sound overwhelming to parents, but it needn’t be. If your children are prepared, with armor in place, they will be protected. They are about to engage in life in the last days. Keep in mind that they were born for this time.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, when speaking to youth, “It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities.
“You are to be the royal army of the Lord in the last days. You are youth of the noble birthright.'” (April 1986, Gen. Priesthood session.)
No matter how “royal” this army may be, it still needs the armor the Lord has provided to keep it strong. That’s where parents come in. With our help, they can make it. When the prophet gave this admonition many of you reading this were the youth then. That’s comforting to know that you, too, were prepared for this time. You were chosen to be the ones to parent this generation.
Part of every child’s royal birthright is having parents who are keeping their covenants and teaching their children to do likewise. Parenting is one of our most sacred duties, one that requires the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost. One that requires daily, sometimes hourly, prayer to know how to guide and bless our children. When we approach this responsibility with faith, we will receive the guidance we need.
Be Aware of the Dangers
Parents need to be fully aware of the dangers and help guard their children against them. Identify what concerns you most, then prepare to address those issues with your children. It’s when kids are blind-sided that they more easily fall victim. It is when they are aware of the dangers they will likely face and what they can do about them, that they will be better equipped to stand strong.
7 Guidelines to help your children be spiritually prepared.
1. Give your children a back-to-school father’s blessing. If your husband does not hold the priesthood or you’re a single mom and/or their father is not a worthy priesthood holder, invite a relative or home teacher to give the blessing. No one in this Church is denied the blessings of the priesthood. Back-to-school blessings have great power to mentally and spiritually protect your children. The words of the blessing may linger in their minds longer and stronger than you may imagine, bringing them peace, comfort, and guidance. It invokes the hand of the Lord into their lives.
Giving back-to-school blessings was our practice as our children were growing up. We found that it not only comforted the child but it gave us, their parents, a great deal of comfort as well. These blessings are so important that parents need to prayerfully prepare for them. When both Mom and Dad come together in prayer, seeking divine guidance for the blessing, it can be extremely beneficial. The Lord can then most effectively reveal what is needed for each child. Having a back-to-school blessing helps strap on the armor.
It’s heartwarming to see our grown children giving their own children back-to-school blessings. Obviously, it was important enough to them to carry on the tradition.
2. Talk openly with your children about specific concerns you may have. Find opportunities for private conversations with each child. These are times when both you and the child are in a good mood, not at a time of conflict. You may be washing the dishes together, or driving to an event with just that child and you in the car.
Some times the best way to bring up a subject is to ask a question. It may be that you read an article or saw something on TV that could open the conversation, such as, “I saw on the news where a car load of teens crashed, two of them were killed. The report is that the driver had been drinking. Did you hear about it? What do you think happened?” That opens the door to talk about the tragic results of drinking. This can then lead to how important it is to be with friends who live your same standards. Let your child do most of the talking. A few comments like, “Hmmm, that’s an interesting thought. Then what would you do?” can keep them thinking and talking. If you don’t interrupt they will usually come up with the very idea you wanted to say. When they say it, it will stick. When they express a view that is in harmony with the teachings of the Church you can follow up with, “You are so right.” to cement the idea.
Teach it, but don’t hammer at it. Keep in mind that overdoing it can undo it. That’s why asking questions and listening can be a powerful way to teach.
3. Use the Church magazines as a resource for fortifying your children. When The Friend magazine arrives at your home do you read it first and find the stories that will most help your child? That little magazine is a gold mine of inspiration on a child’s level. Sitting down with your children and reading aloud together can be fun and strengthening to the child.
The same is true with the New Era, another treasure trove of inspiring articles and stories. If you find something in one that you think would be especially important for one of your teenage kids, ask him or her to read it and report on it for a family home evening lesson. Or find a time, probably at bedtime, when you can sit with your child and read an article together. Kids never grow out of the need for one-on-one attention from parents.
The Ensign, likewise, holds great truths to fortify you in your responsibilities as parents. Along with the scriptures, it is a continual source of inspiration. Even though our children are grown and gone we still subscribe to all three Church magazines and find help in fortifying ourselves, our children and grandchildren. We like having them around the house for our grandkids to pick up when they visit.
Find ways to motivate your children and teens to read these inspiring magazines. You may be surprised how many times the very issues you are concerned with are addressed.
You may even offer a reward of some kind, such as an ice cream sundae when a child reports he or she read the whole magazine. Talk about a favorite article as they enjoy their treat. You could even do something a little bizarre like, when everyone in the family has read the Friend and the New Era you will start dinner with dessert, and make it a good one. Or dream up something else that will motivate them to use these inspiring tools the Lord has provided to bless our children.
4. Pray for your children’s teachers. Pray that they will be assigned good teachers who will care about them and will lead them to truth. Teachers have a powerful influence on a child’s thinking. Get to know their teachers as soon as you can. Ask for the Spirit to guide you as you visit with them. They need to know of your expectations and you need to know theirs for your child.
If you ever think a teacher is leading your child in a wrong direction morally, don’t hesitate for one minute to have a kind, respectful conversation with the teacher about your concerns. No teacher has the right to undermine a parent’s values. Teachers who continue to do this should be reported to administrators.
Teach your children to stand strong if something is being taught that is contrary to gospel principles. We’re reminded of a time when our oldest son, Mike, was in third grade. I, (Joy) had a distinct impression while doing the ironing that we needed to teach Mike about the theory of evolution and the falseness of it. I was surprised by this thought because it hadn’t entered my mind before. It was such a strong impression that when he came home from school I took him aside and privately explained what it is and reviewed the story of the creation, beginning with Adam and Eve.
Mike laughed and said, “Mom, nobody is stupid enough to believe we came from monkeys. That’s just dumb.” I explained that some people do believe it, but he didn’t need to worry about it because we know the truth. It was a short explanation, and when I finished I wondered why I even needed to have the discussion at this young age. Two days later Mike came running into the house after school shouting, “Mom, you were right!” He then explained that his math teacher had decided to teach the kids the theory of evolution, telling them it was true.
I asked him what he thought about it. He said, “I sat there thinking how stupid he is, that he is the one who doesn’t know the truth. I know where we came from and it isn’t from monkeys.” At that moment I knew, once again, how much the Lord cares about our children and that he will help us prepare them for the onslaught of false doctrine. All we need to do as parents is listen to the whisperings of the Spirit and take action.
5. Talk about bullying. This is a frightening concern of many children, as well as their parents. Bullying is far too prevalent. See the alarming statistics here. It needs to be addressed in advance of your children returning to school. On a website that deals with bullying these suggestions were given
– We know this may seem hard, but in a calm voice tell the person who is bullying you to back off. If humor is more of your thing, then catch the bully off guard by joking around.
– If you don’t feel comfortable confronting the bully, then walk away and stay away.
– Feel less alone by talking to someone about what is going on.
– If you’re bullied in school then tell a teacher or principal.
– Help someone if they are being bullied by telling an adult or by being a friend.
– Always remember the golden rule and don’t fight back or seek revenge.
– Don’t ignore the situation by keeping it to yourself.
– The bully wants to see you angry and scared. So don’t let him or her rob you of your confidence.
– Don’t blame yourself because the bully most likely has issues of his or her own.
– If you witness someone being bullied don’t just sit there and let it happen. Say or do something to stop it.
To this list we add that one of the most important things your children must do if they are bullied is to tell you. Also, make it clear that no one in your family will be a bully. Talk about what bullying is. Help them understand that when they make fun of someone, or hurt them in any way, with words or actions, that is bullying. Role play how to act if someone bullies them. Pray in family prayer that your children will be protected from those who would harm them.
6. Talk about the importance of using clean language. Several parents have expressed their concern about all the swearing their children hear from peers and sometimes teachers and coaches at school. This influence is so strong they fear their children will succumb and start swearing themselves, so they will fit in.
Teaching correct principles to our children is our most powerful tool, along with our own good examples. If we swear we can expect our children will also. Sometimes parents think a few less serious four letter words are okay, though they would never take the Lord’s name in vain or use the more vile words. That thinking is about as logical as thinking if you drink moderately it’s okay, just so you don’t get drunk. We know how foolish that is and would never do it. Swearing a little is in this category. Kids will usually take what we do and magnify it. We must set an example of clean speech for our children at all times and teach them to do the same.
In For the Strength of Youth, page 20, the standard of Language is discussed. It begins with a scripture that we suggest families memorize: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good.” (Ephesians 4:29) Make it into a plaque or well presented poster and put it where the family can see it every day. Talk about what it means. Have a family home evening devoted to this subject, reading directing from For the Strength of Youth. Add a new dimension to your FHE by inviting someone your children admire and relate to and ask him or her to share their thoughts on the importance of using clean language.
When you find an article in the newspaper about this, share it with the kids. The July 22, 2013 edition of USA Today reported extensively about Phil Mickelson winning the British Open. He is now a world-renowned golf champion, and one worth emulating. One of the articles, p. 3C, quoted how clean his language is, that he doesn’t swear like so many other athletes do. They reported that the other contending and highly known golfer missed a shot and the ESPN mics picked up the profanity that shot from his lips. They went on to say that no such thing happened with Mickelson when he missed a shot, saying his comments were a “decidedly G-rated conversation.” The difference was striking and appreciated. Pointing out good heroes who live this standard can help your children choose to also use clean language.
In your family prayers ask the Lord to help each of you to speak words that will please Him. Ask for His help in being examples to others in this area. Then pray privately that your children will be able to withstand the onslaught of foul language they are bound to hear at school. Encourage them to choose friends that use clean language, and to be the friend who lives this standard.
Help them understand that proper language includes not telling jokes or stories about immoral actions.
7. Continually teach the importance of being sexually pure. There will be those at school who brag about their immoral behavior, belittling those who choose to live a virtuous life. Prepare your children for these barbs. Once again, turn to For the Strength of Youth and plan a FHE on the standard Sexual Purity, p. 35 – 37. If you have teenagers you may want to have one of them teach it. Allow for a lot of discussion. Bear your testimony about it. Let them know how important it is to you. Your words and example will be powerful motivators.
With all of these points you may find playing the “what if” game a good way to help your kids be ready for whatever may come. It’s a simple game where you think of situations they may face and say “What if this happened to you. What would you do?”
Our 7 guidelines is not an all inclusive list of parental concerns regarding your school children, but it’s a beginning. We hope you will find some help in these suggestions. Most of all, we know that parents who daily seek the Lord’s guidance in behalf of their children will be guided to know what they need at the time they need it. With that in mind, our final bit of counsel is to pay attention to the little promptings or impressions that come to you. Ask the Lord to give them to you, then act on them. As you do this He will bless you and your children
We’ll conclude with this wise counsel from Elder Larry R. Lawrence, of the Seventy, given at October 2010 General Conference.
“Years ago our 17-year-old son wanted to go on a weekend trip with his friends, who were all good boys. He asked for permission to go. I wanted to say yes, but for some reason I felt uncomfortable about the trip. I shared my feelings with my wife, who was very supportive. We need to listen to that warning voice,’ she said.
“Of course, our son was disappointed and asked why we didn’t want him to go. I answered honestly that I didn’t know why. I just don’t feel good about it,’ I explained, and I love you too much to ignore these feelings inside.’ I was quite surprised when he said, That’s OK, Dad. I understand.’
“Young people understand more than we realize because they too have the gift of the Holy Ghost. They are trying to recognize the Spirit when He speaks, and they are watching our example. From us they learn to pay attention to their promptings-that if they don’t feel good about something,’ it’s best not to pursue it.”
[See more of the writings of Gary and Joy Lundberg at their website.]