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You remember the fear that was created when 9/11 happened. The terrorists attacks were shown over and over, and even very young children couldn’t help seeing some of the horror and were scared it might happen to them and their loved ones. Today there is another attack on the hearts and minds of kids that is also bringing fear, but of a different nature. When all they see on TV news is gloom and doom, and the adults in their lives talk about it continually, it takes a heavy toll on their feelings of security and well being.

We can’t ignore what is happening to the economy and the values we cherish, but we can control how we talk about it with our children and how much they are exposed to it, at least in our homes. Parents are the most powerful influence in helping a child deal with hard, and sometimes frightening, times. If you go around with long faces, continually talking in negative terms about the failing stock market, the possibility, or the reality, of losing your job or home, the lack of trust you have in government leaders, etc, that’s like kicking the foundation out from under your child’s security base. They don’t have the maturity to deal with it, even teens don’t. That doesn’t mean they can’t know about it, they just need it to be addressed with a positive we-can-make-it-through-this attitude, without it being continually in their faces.

This last General Conference showed us clearly how to do that. Did you notice how upbeat and full of hope the talks were, even as they addressed serious issues? The songs were happy and inspiring, one being “You Can Make the Pathway Bright”(hymn #228), encouraging us to have “sunshine in your heart today.” Not a bad song to go around the house singing these days.

So what can parents do?

We have a few suggestions that may be helpful as you navigate your families through these stressful times. First of all, husbands and wives need to have a serious family council with each other, without the kids in earshot. Talk about the issues and make a plan. It’s important for you both to be on the same page, so kids won’t be getting split messages. If you are a single parent, then make your own plan so you’re not caught off guard. All parents need to pray and seek the Lord’s guidance as you plan your approach to dealing with the challenges your family is facing.

Here are some simple ideas to consider. We hope you will look at these time-tested principles with new eyes as they relate to the struggles families face today. Even though you may be doing them sometimes, let this serve as a reminder to be more determined than ever to do them regularly. Sometimes the pressures of life move in on us and we fail to do what our Church leaders have promised will work.

1. Have daily family prayer . Send your children out the door each morning with prayer. When your children hear you praying for their safety and that they’ll be guided to make good choices throughout the day, it helps them immensely. The Lord can then put into their minds the very things that will bring about the answers to the prayers. It helps them feel safe and loved by you and their Heavenly Father. When they hear their father and mother praying for help in the work they are doing, it comforts them to know that their parents will have the Lord’s help with them, too.

In an article titled “The Blessings of Family Prayer” Ensign Feb. 1991, p.2, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I submit that a return to the old pattern of prayer, family prayer in the homes of the people, is one of the basic medications that would check the dread disease that is eroding the character of our society. . . . I give you my testimony that if you sincerely apply family prayer, you will not go away unrewarded. The changes may not be readily apparent. They may be extremely subtle. But they will be real, for God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6.)

Teach your children to pray for their own needs and for the needs of others. When you show concern for others it takes your thoughts away from your own fears and problems. Praying for others is a form of service, and service is healing. President Thomas S. Monson shared the following fun story that makes this point.

“When our oldest son was about three, he would kneel with his mother and me in our evening prayer. I was serving as the bishop of the ward at the time, and a lovely lady in the ward, Margaret Lister, lay perilously ill with cancer. Each night we would pray for Sister Lister. One evening our tiny son offered the prayer and confused the words of the prayer with a story from a nursery book. He began: ‘Heavenly Father, please bless Sister Lister, Henny Penny, Chicken Little , Turkey Lurkey, and all the little folks.’ We held back the smiles that evening. Later we were humbled as Margaret Lister sustained a complete recovery. We do not belittle the prayer of a child. After all, our children have more recently been with our Heavenly Father than have we.”

(President Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, October 1999, page 2.)

That brings up the point that it’s good for children to be taught to pray for their father, that he will be helped at his work and that their mother will be guided in her many tasks. The faith of a child is powerful, so help them pray for family needs on their level of understanding. And teach them to thank the Lord for good parents who work hard. This will create an appreciation within them. It can be done simply by praying, “Please bless Dad as he works hard for our family.” Or “Thank you for Mom and all the hard work she does for our family.” They will learn by what they hear you praying for.

2. Eat dinner together. If you’re not already doing it, decide to have dinner together every day. It’s amazing the security this creates in a child’s life, no matter the age. If you have teens whose schedules don’t allow it every day, then make it up with a breakfast together, even if it’s really early.

Whenever the meal may be, enjoy the time around the table talking about their activities, friends, and school. Keep it light and without criticism. Let them ask questions that may be concerning them. Keep your remarks positive. It’s not a time for scolding. When dinner time is enjoyable the results will be far reaching.

Dr. William J. Doherty, a family therapist, educator and researcher recently spoke at a BYU symposium. He said, “Family time and meals together are two factors that can help rescue parents and children from the toxic combination’ of cultures geared toward individuality, competition, super-sized consumerism and kids-are-fragile’ therapeutic thinking.” He also cited national and multinational studies that show “family meal time is a strong predictor of academic and psychological adjustment in children in teens – better than time in school, sports or cultural arts, and helping to decrease future involvement in alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, depression and eating disorders.”

On certain days let the kids help plan the meals. When they’re in on the planning and the preparing, they’re more likely to enjoy the meal. They then have a vested interest.

We involved our grandchildren recently in creating a pizza bar. We found out what their favorite toppings were and they helped fill the dishes and spread out the choices so everyone could make their own small pizza. You can buy or make the crust ahead of time. Since we’re into easy, we chose 10 inch round Pacific Deli Bread flat bread for the crust, and the price was very reasonable. Then everyone spread on the pizza sauce (we found some in a squirt bottle), piled on their own toppings from an array of cheeses, cooked sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, and green peppers. We popped them in the oven for about 8 minutes and everyone ate at once, chattering away with smiles on their faces. We added a nourishing tray of sliced oranges and piles of fresh strawberries. They ate it all and it was a happy time.

When you are together eating as a family, it helps make the world feel safe. It reminds them that they have food to eat and parents who love them. And that’s security.

If your budget is hurting then talk with them about the need to conserve and not waste food (not a bad idea even if the budget isn’t hurting). Let them see how much you can spend and allow them, at least occasionally, to shop with you, trying to stay in the budgeted amount. Make it a game. A family we know took the kids shopping after each planned a family meal for the week. They were given an amount they could spend on their meal and had to stick to it. Their little heads were adding up the numbers like crazy, taking some things back and replacing with less expensive items. When the shopping was done, they were very proud of themselves. Seeing the cost of groceries helps children be frugal and appreciate what they have.

3. Read scriptures together . Have family scripture time each day, even if it’s only a few verses. Scriptures have the power to comfort us in troubled times. When our kids were little we had them jump into our king size bed with us. At 6:30 in the morning it can be cold, and snuggling in a warm bed to read scriptures seemed to work well. Even the littlest ones can feel the Spirit, though you may think they aren’t getting a thing out of it. They are.

Elder Robert D. Hales said, “I remember my own mother and father reading the scriptures as we children sat on the floor and listened. Sometimes they would ask, What does that scripture mean to you?’ or How does it make you feel?’ Then they would listen to us as we responded in our own words.” (Robert D. Hales, “Strengthening Families: Our Sacred Duty,” Ensign , May 1999, 32)

When life seem particularly troubling read Isaiah 40:10: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Following this scripture it may be fun to sing the hymn How Firm a Foundation #85. It will cement this scripture in there minds, particularly the third verse, which says:

Fear not I am with thee; Oh, be not dismayed
For I am they God and will still give they aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand. (Help them understand that omnipotent means great unlimited power.)

What a comforting message to be floating around in the everyone’s head throughout the day..

If you don’t play the piano, here’s the link to the song to download. Click on the notes and it will play the piano accompaniment for your family to sing to.

Singing hymns can bring a feeling of peace and comfort into your home, anytime. So use them often.

4. Have Family Home Evening every week. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “[Family home evening is] a time for discussions of gospel principles, recreation, work projects, skits, songs around the piano, games, special refreshments, and family prayers. Like iron links in a chain, this practice will bind a family together, in love, pride, tradition, strength, and loyalty.” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Salvation; A Family Affair”, Ensign, July 1992, p. 4)

There are a multitude of ways to bring comfort and security to your children through family home evening. Here are a few ideas:

Focus on a particular scripture. Psalm 91 has been referred to as the Psalm of Protection. Verse 11 is especially comforting: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all they ways.”

Another favorite scripture that builds faith and brings comfort is Proverb 3: 5-6:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

This is a good one to memorize as a family. There is nothing like a good dose of faith and trust in the Lord to help you through whatever problems your family may be facing.

Show your children your food storage, review what your food storage goals are, even go to the store and buy a few extra items so they can see you stocking up for the family. It’s comforting to know there is extra food on hand.

Google Family Home Evening for some great ideas. We found this recipe for cookies using the “Recipe for Righteousness”. It and other ideas can be found by clicking here. There are many other FHE idea sites as well, including one that is updated weekly on Meridian which can be found here.

Recipe for Righteousness

Use the Toll House chocolate chip recipe, substituting the names of the ingredients with those traits considered vital to the “recipe for a good person”. Referenced specific scriptures for each trait.

The setup:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (RESPECT) 1 Peter 2:17
  • 1 tsp baking soda (TRUST) D&C 11:12
  • 1 tsp salt (HONESTY) Alma 27:27
  • 1 cup butter (FAITH) Alma 15:10
  • 3/4 cup sugar (LOYALTY) Joshua 24:15
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (MORALS) Proverbs 11:3
  • 1 tsp vanilla (DEPENDABILITY) Mosiah 7:19
  • 2 large eggs (RESPONSIBILITY) Jacob 1:19
  • 12 oz (2 cups) chocolate chips (LOVE) Moroni 7:47

(Make the cookies according to the directions on the package of chocolate chips),

Explain that the cookies wouldn’t be the same if one of these ingredients were to be left out.

As a fun activity, you can also deliver these “good person cookies” to someone you think is a good person, explaining what they are and why.

For FHE lesson ideas, downloadable visual aids, and much more, visit the Church’s site.

Keep in mind that everything you do for family home evening needs to have the ultimate goal of helping your family stay close to the Lord and to each other. When you have fun together as a family it fortifies you and helps you deal more effectively with challenges families face.

5. Keep your marriage strong. This may be the most significant thing you can do that will bring security to your children during these challenging times.

If they see Mom and Dad drifting apart, arguing, even threatening divorce, they will be devastated, and all other troubles in the world will be compounded in their minds.

A troubled economy can take a toll on a marriage if we are not taking steps to alleviate its negative effects. In an article in The Washington Times titled “Economy a drag on marriages” the following was reported.

An empty wallet does not a happy couple make. Historically, domestic violence and divorce rates tend to move upward as the economy moves downward.

While it’s too early to tell whether that’s the case in this recession – and whether more couples are seeing therapists and/or using anti-depressant medication – couples therapists nationwide report that the recession has become a major source of dissonance for couples.

“I see a definite increase in stress related to the recession,” says Linda Carter, a psychologist in private practice in New York City and professor in psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. “It causes an intensification of the problems that already exist.”

For example, Ms. Carter says, a husband who is irritated by his wife’s spendthrift habits in good times may see that irritation exacerbated in bad times when money is extra tight. That can lead to a heated argument and – voila – blame is hurled back and forth like a game of toxic catch.

To see Linda Carter’s suggestions on how to put an end to this particular type of blame game, continue reading the article.

In addition, now more than ever, it’s time to pay attention to your spouse’s needs. Notice the good in each other and give compliments often. Take some time out and have a weekly date night, without the kids. Even if the only thing you can afford is an ice cream cone, go out together and enjoy that time with each other. Hug each other, kiss each other, and just simply hold on to each other through the hard times. Things will get better, especially if you are working together in love and harmony as a couple. If the world should crumble and fall, you be the ones who stand together through it all. And keep smiling.

A final word from our Prophet

We’ll close this article with the inspiring words of our beloved Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, given at 2009 April General Conference a few weeks ago.

I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges-and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

Then he ended his remarks with this promise:

The future will be as bright as your faith.

[Gary and Joy Lundberg’s new book and audio CD Love That Lasts will give you their “fourteen secrets to a more joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage.” They incorporate the words of our Church leaders into these timely secrets. To find out more about it click here ]