I have wanted to share this post for over two months now.
In fact, at some point, my two older children and I were thinking of organising a get together for young teens getting ready to go off to college in the United States of America.
As a mom, I have been through so much with my two children as they made their way through college in America and there are just some things I wish I knew ahead of time. I believe I would have handled certain situations better.
I wanted to share my experiences as a Christian parent and I wanted my children, especially my older son who has now graduated to share his experiences adjusting to that environment, coping with studying there and most especially dealing with the culture shock.
I know many parents are preparing to send their children off to college and while we did not get round to holding the session, I am sharing this post for you all. I pray you read with your heart and begin to ‘on-board’ your children so to speak. Don’t be like me. I was not prepared to cope with all I faced back then with my son. I just thank God for helping me weather each storm as best I could.
Dear Parents, ‘winging’ it is not the best way. It is better to be prepared. I hope this post helps you be just that. So here are my thoughts and remember, I am a Christian mom.
You must prepare the mind of your child to understand that not everyone believes in God like s/he has been brought up to do. I agree, same obtains here at home but the difference out there is that fellow students will confront them more openly about their beliefs on campus. You see, in Nigeria, we are mainly Christian and Moslem. We are not faced with the very real issues of atheism that lives in the West.
So please, talk to your children about it so they are not rudely shocked. Don't assume they know and/or fully understand. Ask them what they would do if someone confronted them about their Christian beliefs or made fun of them.
Listen to their responses and where they need help, plug any gaps. The most important thing is to help them be bold in their faith and not feel a need to ‘defend’ God in any way. We just want them to know what’s out there and be able to say why they believe and move on.
If your child is going to school in the West, this is very likely to come up. Prepare him/her for it. Encourage him or her to read Christian Science books today. Watch those National Geographic programmes where Christian Scientists talk about how the Bible and the Big Bang theory align, not negate each other. My Only Princess goes to a Catholic-sponsored University so when she found herself part of a ‘God does not exist’ discussion and got all mixed up about it, she called me.
She was so upset about how it made her feel. I was so upset that she was so far away in tears that I found myself struggling to respond to some of the questions her classmates had thrown at her. God helped me and I managed to ask her to go to her Biology Professor for explanations. He was a Priest and a Biology teacher.
A Believer and a Scientist so I figured he would surely understand how to clear things up for her and thankfully, he was able to do just that and eventually, we scaled over that wall. Thank God but that brings me to my next point.
Like I said, my daughter attends a faith-based university. Foolishly I believed that would count for more than it actually does. Don’t be like me.
Do not assume that because your child is going to a faith-based college that there will be no unbelievers there. Not true. There are atheists everywhere. And some of them are not nice and will make your child feel foolish for standing up for what s/he believes in. But if we prepare them well, they will fail. Still, I love the fact that there are statues of Jesus Christ on campus. *smiling*
Why do I bring this up? Because there are people out there ready to tell your child that God is mean. That he killed men, women and children and so there is no way he can still be a loving God. They will try to sow these seeds of doubt into your child's mind so we need to make sure that we have done our best to lay a solid foundation that cannot be messed with.
Today, talk to your child about how God loves the sinner but hates the sin. Yes, it is true that the Old Testament is full of scary stories of people being punished for their sins by a just God. But they have to read the entire Bible, all the way up to the New Testament to see the full picture of our God who is both a Consuming Fire AND Love itself.
We really must encourage our children to read the Bible often. Today, especially in the western cultures, Christians who refuse to read their Bibles are using the scripture to foment hate against people who are different.
I mean, Gays and Lesbians. You need to have a talk with your children about how to handle this matter. Why? Because guess what? Your children are very likely to meet some nice ones out there in school. In fact, they are likely to meet some ‘Christian’ ones in their classes.
We must explain that we are not called to hate anyone and while, as Christians, we cannot agree with that lifestyle, it does not mean we will be anti-social or rude or mean to them. Tell your children it is not their place to judge anyone. They must use Jesus Christ as the template for how to treat people. All people, the good, the bad, the ugly and the ones we just do not understand.
At some point in this journey, you have to come to the realisation that a time will come when your children will have to do their own faith walk. You cannot ‘legislate’ their faith. It cannot be by force. Anger is not your friend in this matter.
As panicked as you will feel; yelling at or getting upset with your child is the worst thing you can do when they come to you with their doubts (especially over the phone so far away). Listen to them, encourage them, live out your faith walk for them to see, empathize with them, LOVE them and then or course, you must PRAY for them always. Remember that even you; you have had your faith struggles, have you not?
As Christian parents, we must believe that if we have done right as God helps us, EVEN if our children stray off the path, the seeds we have sown into their lives will 'call their heads back home' in God's own time. That is why this final point is crucial.
I know I talked about praying but it’s so important I have to speak about this alone as I close. My dear co-Parents, we have got to PRAY! I am sure you can see that the devil is out there in the world and on a rampage. At some point or the other, our children will have leave our ‘safe homes’ and go out and do life in the midst of all that.
Are you a spirit? Can you be with them 24/7? Can you know what is going on in them 24/7? No, you cannot. But, we have a God that can so every single day; we must bring our children before him trusting that....as the Lord lives, no matter what part of this planet they are on, Satan will not have our children in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen!
I hope something in this moves you to act. Don’t let your child off into the world un-prepared. Please. Is your child in college abroad? Do you have experiences to share or advice to add to the above? Please share with us.
Article written by Salt Essien-Nelson
Salt Essien-Nelson is a blogger/author based in Lagos, Nigeria. You can connect with her via her blog - The Salt Chronicles on Blogger where she is ‘seasoning’ the world around her one salt blog at a time or send her an e-mail via firstname.lastname@example.org