CONNECTING TO YOUR GEN Z CHILDREN
PART 2: HOW WE Can Be With OUR CHILDREN
EUNICE KIM | OCTOBER 12, 2018 | 8 MIN READ
If you have not yet checked out Part One, please do so! Here are some practical tips you can do to both affirm what you may already be doing, as well as to give some additional ideas in case you want to connect and minister to your Gen Z child or children.
1. Reflect Honestly
It is true that caring for our children sometimes bring us a lot of pain. Whether we want the pain or not, it does us no good to pretend like it is not there. Be honest about it.
Honestly assess your parental role. Are you disappointed with yourself? Or do you think you’re a perfect parent and you want to prove to yourself that you’re the best of the best?
Also assess how the parenting you’ve received may be influencing the parent you are today. Are you attempting to right the wrongs of your parents? Or perhaps you hold your parents to be the standard of perfection and are attempting to be a carbon copy of who they were to you.
I have no doubt that God is using your children to reveal things about your heart. That’s good, and it’s okay. Ask yourself hard questions and answer them honestly.
Tell someone about the feelings and struggles you’re having as a parent. Don’t just keep your reflections to yourself. Tell God and tell a person — a spouse, a pastor, a mentor, a friend.
I do not recommend parents to confess to their children or else the kids might begin to feel somehow responsible for their parents’ guilt. But another adult can keep you accountable, remind you of gospel truth, and be co-sojourners with you on this journey of parenthood.
This is a two-step process because we need to restore many relationships.
1. With God
Reconciling with God is easy, because He’s already reconciled Himself to us. Receive it, believe it, and anchor yourself in it. Marinate your thoughts in the truth that you’re forgiven — you’re going remind yourself of that truth in order to reconcile with your child.
2. With your child
Ask your child regularly if you have done anything to hurt him or her and apologize without explaining or justifying yourself. Nothing says, “You matter,” more than, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
The first several times you ask this question, your child might not tell you what’s been bothering him or her. But make it a habit anyway. Doing this is gospel-driven in more ways than one. You yourself need to be grounded in the Gospel, and you are modeling repentance and reconciliation to your children.
There are lots of ways to connect with your children.
1. Be curious!
Be open to learning about how they feel about various things, what things make them feel this way, and what things bring them pain. Trust that they want to be loved, heard, seen, and known.
2. Step into their world, but don’t pretend you’re a part of it
They are the experts of their generation! So let your children tell you their experience of what it’s like at their schools, with their friends, and in social media. Let them teach you about their lingo and the apps on their phone and practice engaging with them in respectful conversation.
3. When you set limits, do it collaboratively and in a way that is principle-oriented rather than behavior-oriented
Here’s a few tips on how to that.
Let your children know what principal you want to promote by setting that limit. (Is it safety? Honesty? Diligence? Integrity?)
Understand that your children are at an age in which they are developing their own life principles and their own ways to apply those principles in their daily lives. Let them tell you about what they believe is right and set rules that incorporate their beliefs as well. This will help them exercise their problem-solving skills and negotiation skills, as well as understand more clearly the relationship between behavior and consequence.
Set consequences both with your children present and ahead of time. Ask your children what consequence they believe is appropriate for breaking a particular rule before the rule is broken so that it is made in fairness and sober-mindedness.
Lastly, follow-through in love.
5. Rinse and Repeat
Continue to REFLECT, REPENT, and ENGAGE with your children.
One last thing I’m going to add for those of you who really want to dig deep: Do these things in your marriage.
Although I’m adding this application point as an extra add-on, I would urge you to prioritize this as number 1 because strong marriages make for strong families.
Create an environment of reflecting, repenting, reconciling, and engaging with one another in the home. Having this kind of gospel-infused culture at home is the best way to battle whatever’s going on out there at school, work, society. Once your children have a taste of what’s good and true, their internal gauge will be better at detecting it.
I know all of this is much easier said than done. For some families, this may not be enough and therapy might be needed. But for a majority of parents and children, following the gospel-shaped model in which parents are an extension of Christ to the child can help parents to connect with their children and teach Gen Z to follow Him to the ends of the earth.
Most of all, remember that we have a Heavenly Father who has given us both a model for parenting and grace for when we fail. Let us ultimately put our trust in him and entrust our children into his care while stewarding them here on earth.
Eunice Kim is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist by day and avid knitter by night. She graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary and has a passion for where mental health intersects with church ministry. She is married to her favorite person, David "Slim" Kim. Together they serve at Living Hope Community Church in Brea.