Readers respond: What’s your best parenting advice?

In August, some of Heart to heart’s contributing authors shared their best parenting advice. (If you missed it, read them here!) Then I turned the tables and asked you to submit your best parenting advice. I’m happy to share a few great tidbits with you here. We named this column Heart to heart: Parent conversations because we want to hear from you. Please keep sending your parenting thoughts to fic@wels.net.

In addition, this month I’m sharing a snippet from John Juern’s book, Patient Parenting: Raising Your Kids in the Shadow of the Cross. In this excerpt, Juern goes to the heart of Christian parenting, and it’s a reminder that I need every day. May it bless your family as well.

Nicole Balza

Our readers respond:

What parenting advice do you give?

Don’t hold yourself to the high standards you form in your mind from social media posts and memes! – Sarah Mayer

There is no one perfect way to parent. Soak in the advice given but trust your gut and your God to know what’s best for you and your kiddos. – Mary Hansen 

Read to those littles! – Sallie Draper

Be respectful of, be honest with [your children]. Think of “discipline” as positive proactive motivations to guide and develop favored behaviors rather than punitive means of correction to humiliate. – Ann Hubbard Waltz 

Take nothing for granted. Appreciate your kids no matter what. Be firm, show discipline, but educate them why you are doing it. – Ryan Thomas

I was part of a small group Bible study for dads at my church where a fellow dad shared books that studied why youth will often eventually leave the church and what we can do about it. (Since then I’ve read other articles and a book affirming the information he shared.) Kids will many times leave the church if they don’t see faith play out in their parents’ lives.

It can be easy to take our children to worship and Sunday school and send them to Lutheran schools and think we’re set (and we certainly thank God for using these church leaders to nurture our kids’ faith!). However, children so look up to their parents that what happens at home has a major impact.

We parents should be in the Word at home personally and with our families. We will joyfully attend church and Bible studies. We will show love to others and be intentional about evangelism. We can address life problems from a spiritual perspective and teach our kids that prayer to God is not a last resort but the primary place we should turn. Especially as kids get older we can address challenges against Christianity so that they learn to turn to the Word to “always be prepared” (1 Peter 3:15). We emphasize God’s grace, apologizing and forgiveness, fresh starts.

Just as we help our kids grow in the academic, athletic, and social aspects of life, we guide them in their growth in understanding and practice of their Christian faith.

– Adam Goede

What’s the best parenting advice you received?

Well, my Mami wasn’t a person who gives me [much] advice, but she gives me the best example as a godly woman. I remember clearly—and with tears in my face—her last advice before [I headed] to the USA from my country, El Salvador, when I was 18 years old. She said to me: “Love of my life, take care of yourself. Don’t eat many carbohydrates and eat lots of fruits and veggies. And the most important thing in this life for you is this: Stick to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and never consider to change to another doctrine. Always be a Lutheran girl, attached to the Bible. I pray to the Holy Spirit for this.” I wasn’t very obedient with her food advice, but the Holy Spirit never let me change my faith in my Savior. I’m still a Lutheran girl. Thank you, Jesus, for that! – Dali Campos

Advice from a Christian psychologist

For the Christian child, obedience to parents flows out of a love for Jesus. All of us as Christians—adults or children—do what we do because it’s our way of showing our gratitude for all that the Lord has done for us, beginning with his gracious gift of salvation. The Bible says it this way: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This is a fundamental principle: We obey God by living according to the Ten Commandments, and we live that Christian life out of love for him. So, the essence of all Christian discipline is serving the Lord with our lives.

Loving the Lord doesn’t happen on its own. The Holy Spirit plants the seed for such an obedient life at the moment of Baptism. And God is with Christian parents every day as they teach children that misbehavior and disobedience are sins. It’s really quite simple: Christian parents teach their children that wrong is wrong because it ignores God’s Ten Commandments.

But along with teaching children right from wrong, parents need to tell their children about the wonderful gift of forgiveness that is theirs through faith in Christ Jesus. Their sins are forgiven. That forgiveness brings joy. And the joy is expressed in the children’s obedience. It’s that message of forgiveness that motivates them.

Yes, a child will sin again. And probably again and again. But each time, there is forgiveness and joy and a renewed commitment to do God’s will.

Parents don’t need to go through this explanation every time their child does something wrong. The key is to remain consistent with God’s will in setting rules and expectations for children; let the Ten Commandments set the standard.

There is still an appropriate time and place for time-outs, grounding, other types of punishment. Sin has consequences. Star charts posted on the refrigerator door and surprise hugs can still reinforce good behavior. But these things in and of themselves do not bring about compliant behavior. Christian children obey their parents because they love their Savior.

Reprinted from Patient Parenting: Raising Your Kids in the Shadow of the Cross by John Juern.

 

How involved should parents be in a child’s homework?

Homework can be a source of conflict between parents, children, and teachers if expectations and philosophy aren’t clear. Each teacher and school have a homework philosophy, and therefore, how much they want parents to participate in completing homework may be different from school to school or teacher to teacher. However, I have found that many educators feel that you should help in developmentally appropriate ways through the years and adjust the way you help your child as he or she grows.

Children from 3K to first grade will need parent support if they have homework to complete. They will often need their parents to read directions for them, listen to them read, or do the homework with them. As soon as students can write, they are expected to write any answers by themselves but with parent support.

When students in grades 2-4 have homework, they are now able to do most of it without any assistance. They may need parents to check in with them and problem solve if they don’t know what to do, and they may need parent reminders to do their homework and complete assignments on time.

As students move into grades 5-8, they are now learning how to keep their assignment book on their own, plan how they will complete homework assignments, and study for tests and quizzes. Parents do not need to help very much with the homework itself but may need to help their child schedule his or her time, study for a test, or make sure that their child is asking his or her teacher for help when confused on a homework assignment.

Some students will continue to need these parent supports in high school, while others take on full responsibility for their homework once in high school. This gradual release of responsibility looks slightly different for each child and should be adjusted to meet his or her needs. Our goal is always to help each child grow and learn more responsibility each year, while still supporting the child with his or her unique learning needs.

God’s Word does not give advice on doing homework specifically; however, he does tell us how we should conduct ourselves in all situations. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This passage reminds us that as parents we have an important responsibility and opportunity to model for our children the perspective and attitude we should all have when completing tasks and working hard. Homework is no different . . . do it all for the glory of God!

Rachel Blum and her husband, Matt, are raising their three children in the country in Bonduel, Wis. Rachel currently teaches at St. Paul, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Singing the homework blues

Are you familiar with the old song: Homework! Oh, homework! I hate you. You stink! I wish I could wash you away in the sink . . .?

Somehow I can imagine my own kids turning to me and saying, “Dad, if you hate homework so much, stop assigning it!” Seriously, though, I remember my kids singing this little ditty when they were in school. Homework is probably nobody’s favorite. Nonetheless, homework is a reality for many families.

I asked a pair of veteran teachers for their advice on how parents can best assist their children with the homework challenge. Here are some tips.

  1. Establish a positive attitude about the value of school and homework. Create a family routine and an expectation that this is important and needs to be done to be prepared for the next day. Nothing is more anxiety-creating than not being prepared and wondering how teachers and classmates will react.
  2. Pray with your children about school and school work. God cares about it all. As anxiety and depression rates for children have increased to astounding rates, reinforcing that they have an almighty, loving heavenly Father is ultra-important. He cares . . . even about short quizzes or big tests.
  3. Find a comfortable, inviting place for children to do homework where parents can oversee progress. Kids’ rooms today offer many distractions that can get in the way of the efficient use of homework time.
  4. Understand teacher expectations and communicate with your child’s teacher(s). Take advantage of home visits or entrance conferences to talk about homework expectations. Teachers will be happy to share strategies they prefer or tools that can be used at home. Today’s digital age gives parents and students amazing tools—e-mail, websites, online videos. Many curriculums include online videos and tips. This can help alleviate arguments about how to do tasks like multiplication and division correctly.
  5. Don’t give up on the old tried-and-true methods. They have worked for generations and will continue to work. Strategies like making notecards, using flash cards for math facts, practicing spelling words, quizzing students on their reading assignment, listening to memory work—these all still are great ways to help your students to find success. Help your child to find ways that complement their learning style.
  6. For upper-grade students, consider becoming a kind of “accountability partner.” At this level, sometimes the subject matter is getting difficult for parents . . . even well-educated ones. The homework belongs to the students. In a time when digital contacts are growing, having parents help face-to-face needs to be encouraged. Parents can be a big help by encouraging the student to transition into a self-advocate role.
  7. Realize the change that has taken place. Teachers and parents are not so much the purveyors of knowledge but guides to unlocking and applying it. The information is more accessible than ever; parents can inspire their children’s curiosity on topics they aren’t naturally curious about.

Maybe it’s time for a new tune: Homework! Oh, homework! You can be a pain. But at least you’re a way to exercise my brain!

Dave Payne and his wife, Joyce, have four adult children and two grandchildren. Dave serves as communications director at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wisconsin, and is a member at Eternal Love, Appleton.

Are we modeling kindness for our children?

“Use kind words, gentle hands, and find someone who needs a friend today,” I said to my son as I dropped him off at the gym day care.

“I will, Mommy. I will be kind today. I will share,” he replied as he bounced away gleefully.

Kindness with our children
It is so important to me that my kids are kind; in fact, sometimes I think I place a little too much emphasis on it. In a world that so desperately needs more kindness, I want to make sure I’m raising boys who love God and love others unconditionally.

For as much as I give verbal reminders, true kindness is shown by modeling the behavior—seeing kindness in action. So when my son reminded me, “You need to be kind, Mommy!” when I was asking him to do something, it made me stop in my tracks.

How often am I really modeling kindness for my sons?

“Don’t do that.”

“Hurry up!”

“Get your shoes on, NOW!”

Commands that are often heard throughout our day blare like sirens in my brain when I lay down at night. Am I nurturing my boys and showing them kindness?

Kindness with our spouses
Recently my husband and I—just the two of us—went out on our first date in more than eight months. We have an eight-month-old baby at home, so I’ll let you do the math. To be honest, it felt like a chore to get that date planned. It seems the longer you don’t give a relationship proper nurturing, the harder it is to get back to that baseline foundation. Once we were out, we had a blast, but it’s the getting out that is hard right now.
At one point during our date, I found myself apologizing for not expressing gratitude enough. The truth is he works really, really hard so that I can stay home with our boys. We both work hard to make our home what it is, but stress can take its toll on each of us.

Jesus quoted words from Genesis, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5).

When is the last time we felt we were a united front or on the same exact page? When is the last time we were truly “one”?  I wondered.

Like most couples with young kids, we are sleep-deprived and overscheduled. Many evenings and weekends are jam-packed with obligations, home improvement projects, grocery shopping, cleaning, bathing our children, and keeping them alive. I admitted honestly to him, “You know, I wonder what our marriage would be like if I spent as much time working on being a better wife as I do trying to be a better parent.”

Just like my kids feel they can be sassy and defiant to me, I often feel I can be sarcastic and harsh with my husband. That’s never easy to admit, but the more and more I think about the example I want to set for my children, I recognize that I need to start with me.

Power in our weakness
This admission may seem like I’m airing out a vulnerable weakness, and if that’s how you see it, you’d be correct. The truth is there are many days I wonder if God picked the right woman for the job. Raising kids in a sinful world is no joke!

In her book You Are Free, Rebekah Lyons says, “God demonstrates his power through our frailty. In fact, this is the only thing we can boast in: His power is made perfect and on full display in our never-enough-ness. When we are weak, we are actually made strong in Christ Jesus” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

God nurtures us in the most perfect way. First, when I’m falling short, full admission of my weakness and asking God for forgiveness helps me seek forgiveness from my husband, my kids, or anyone else I’ve wronged. His forgiveness sets me back on the path he created for me.

So, while modeling kind words, gentleness, and love is extremely important in raising empathetic and God-fearing boys, so is admission of sin and forgiveness.

Recognizing that I’m not a perfect wife and mother doesn’t make me want to give up, but rather helps me recognize that I need God more than ever and makes me want to try better next time. A heart full of thankfulness for Jesus’ love on the cross motivates me to display that love in all my relationships.

It’s not always easy to admit weakness (sometimes the list feels so long that I don’t know where to even begin), but I’ve regularly been asking God to show me areas of my life that I need to work on, areas that could use a little nurturing. My son pointing out that I wasn’t using kind words could have made me angry, but it didn’t. I believe God was using that sweet boy to kindly point out that Mommy needs to remember that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).

Lyons also writes and reminds us to take action, “God delights in us. He doesn’t want us to live in bondage. . . . He comes and says, ‘Let’s nail this thing. Let’s not dance around it, perform around it, or seek validation to make it feel better. Let’s just go after it.’ ”

Strength from God
So now, instead of just repeating my mantra when I drop my son off to play with other children, we speak it every morning, together, as a reminder for us both: “Today we will try our hardest to use kind words, gentle hands, and to be a good friend. With God’s help, we can do it!”

God’s calling to nurture and love my husband and these boys doesn’t mean that every day will be easy, but he has fully equipped me with Christ’s example and his promise that we are in this together.

Nicole Smith and her husband are raising two young boys in Sussex, Wisconsin. This article is reprinted with permission from holyhenhouse.com, a blog for “imperfect women spurred on by God’s perfect grace.”

What’s the best parenting advice you have received?

Years before I became a mother, I wrote a news article for Forward in Christ in which I interviewed a dad who described his nightly ritual of blessing his young daughter before she went to sleep. He noted, “Blessing your child is not hocus pocus. When I bless Kayla, I am asking the Lord to keep my daughter in the faith forever. It’s another tool that I can use to demonstrate my love for Christ and for my child, based on the love that Christ showed for me.”

That idea resonated with me, and after my daughter was born, I began blessing her each night. I’ve continued the ritual with my sons as well.

Do you have a piece of parenting advice that has stuck with you through the years? If so, please share it with us! Send your advice to fic@wels.net.

And that dad I interviewed? When I started compiling authors for this column, I knew I wanted him to be a part of it. So, you can find his advice below. He’s contributing author Dan Nommensen.

Nicole Balza is staff editor of Heart to heart: Parent conversations, Forward in Christ magazine’s monthly parenting column. She and her husband, Rob, have three children ranging in age from 5 to 13.


There have been a number of people in life who have either demonstrated or shared this important piece of parenting advice that I have kept on my heart.  In our confessional Lutheran understanding of Scripture, we treasure a right understanding of the importance of God’s law and gospel. Yet I must admit that my tendency is to lean on the law side of my parenting approach.  The encouragement that I have received, and try to pass on to others, is not to neglect the importance of the gospel.  The pure understanding that I am forgiven, a saint, a new creation through the work of Christ is what sets my heart looking for ways to demonstrate my love for God—not because I have to, should, or must, but because I can’t help but look for opportunities to be thankful.  This is our treasure!  Don’t leave it to a chance understanding for your kids.

Live in joy with your children and be intentional in sharing the gospel with them so they too can be motivated by Christ’s love.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and son.


Sam and I have given this some real thought. Independent of each other, we both wrote down the same  parenting  advice my father gave us early  in our parenting journey:

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, and pretty much everything is small stuff.”

Such a seemingly simple saying and yet so full of wisdom!

Mary Clemons and her husband, Sam, have three children and seven grandchildren.


Here’s mine. I got it from a priest named Zechariah (Luke 1).

Take your child in your arms every night and speak into their heart the truth.

Don’t be afraid to tell them what this world is really like. It’s dark and deadly outside, Zechariah said (cf. Luke 1:79). Then show them God’s Son who has come to dispel the darkness. His love arises for us like the sun each day, bright and warm. Say something like, “Tomorrow, my child, you will awaken to a bright new day in God’s love.” Let it be the lullaby of their life that wraps them up secure each night no matter what the darkness.

I’m borrowing metaphors and images from Zechariah’s great canticle and imagining the scene there where he sings by the Spirit, saying, “You, my child” (Luke 1:76). Luke marks it in Scripture as a truly Spirit-led parenting moment.

Jonathan Bourman and his wife, Melanie, have a six-year-old daughter.

What’s the best parenting advice you give?

I have two pieces of advice.

First, I encourage young parents to cultivate a spirit of empathy and service in their children.

Start early by finding a cause that your family is passionate about and volunteer for that cause regularly. Help kids to understand the motivation behind serving others (1 John 4:19) and the joy it brings to all involved. Send a clear message that serving others doesn’t need to come with compensation or reward—we do it out of love for those around us and for the God who created us. In serving, we also come to appreciate all the blessings that God has showered upon us!

Then, I encourage parents to teach children the value of work and how to work, starting at a very young age.

As soon as they are able, give children age-appropriate chores, then add responsibility as they get older. Teach them that all members of a family need to contribute to keep a household running smoothly. Once they are old enough, encourage them to secure a job outside the home to help them learn the value of work and responsibility with finances. After all, one of our main jobs as parents is to raise our children to be productive members of society!

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three 20-something sons.


My favorite advice: “Say yes first.”

My toddler wants ice cream right before dinner? “Yes! That sounds yummy. Let’s eat supper as fast as we can so we can have ice cream!”

My over-stretched middle schooler wants to take on a paper route? “Yes! That sounds great. What are some factors to think through before you sign on? Can you foresee anything you wouldn’t like about it? And you do know I won’t be getting up to help you, right?”

My high schooler is thinking about studying art or music at a pricey college? “Yes! How could we make it work? And what will you do with your art or music degree?”

When we say yes first to our kids, we’re shifting the responsibility to them.

They have to weigh the ramifications. And if they choose unwisely, they have to live with the consequences. That’s what growing up is all about.

And the best benefit? Saying yes means they’ll keep coming to us with all their schemes and dreams. They know we’re not the dream crusher. We’re the cheerleader! We’re excited to watch them decide how they’re going to take a big bite out of life and make a mark on the world.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her adult daughter and son and his teenage son.

Silence or counsel?

My mother hardly spoke of it. But when she did, even in old age, hurt haunted its telling.

On a Sunday morning, right after worship, Mom took my two brothers and me to visit her parents. I was in second grade. One brother was in kindergarten, and the other was three.

The Adams’ farm was our Disney World. It thrilled us with live acts starring chickens, dogs, pigs, and cows. Its mud and muck, ladders and lattices were playgrounds. Adventures always awaited in the barn, haymow, machine shed, and an assortment of outbuildings.

But not on this day. Mom warned, “Do not leave the house. Do not get your good clothes dirty.”

Of course, my kindergarten-age brother and I chafed under being tortured in my grandparents’ living room by adult conversation. When we realized that Mom was fully engaged with her parents, we tiptoed toward the door and eased into the backyard.

We were escapees for only a few minutes. Transformation to ragamuffin doesn’t require longer. Our shoes were caked with mud. Our pants glowed with grass stains. Our white shirts had smears of something unspeakable. Mom’s voice shattered Adventureland. “James Allan! David Dean! Get in here this instant.”

Punishment should have been swift and painful. But Grandpa stepped between Mom and us. “Fran,” he said, “you should have realized this would happen. If you didn’t want them to get their clothes dirty, you should have had them change.”

An instant later we were on our way home. Grandpa saved us from the hurt of a spanking, but Mom experienced the hurt of feeling disrespected and shamed by her father.

Mom’s story urges me to evaluate how well I show respect for my daughters’ parenting. My daughters are great parents. I admire their wisdom, commitment, and sacrifice. However, from time to time, I do feel I have advice to offer. Then I struggle with choosing counsel over silence. I know my Savior’s advice about “speaking the truth in love” and saying “what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:15,29). Gratitude for his grace prompts me to honor his words, but applying his advice is challenging.

Several questions help with that challenge.

  • Is there a risk of significant harm? (By the way, I’ve never answered that question with yes.)
  • Is this the right time and the right situation for sharing my “wisdom”?
  • How can I give advice in a gentle way that shows love and respect?
  • Have I put the best construction on the situation? Do I understand the backstory?
  • Have I asked, “Is there a way I can help?”
  • Is this a difference in parenting styles or is this a parenting problem?
  • Have I taken my emotional pulse?
  • Have I asked Jesus for advice? Have I talked this over with my wife?

Now it’s your turn. Parents and grandparents, have a conversation.

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their 10 grandchildren.

Oops! Grandma gave Garrett a sucker.

You’ve decided not to give your children any sugar until age three. Your friends get it, but your parents—not so much: “Is this a millennial thing? You ate sugar when you were little, and you turned out all right.”

You chuckle at the teasing, but you give a gentle reminder when you leave little Garrett with his grands one afternoon: “No sugar, remember?”

Still, Grandma gave Garrett a sucker. Sugar on a stick. The telltale artificial coloring is still on his lips when you get back. Now what?

You could blow up on the spot: “What did you do?”

You could go all passive-aggressive: Say nothing and never ask the grands to babysit again.

Or you could wait a couple days and then have a little talk, having the spouse whose parents did the deed take the lead. (If that spouse is afraid to stand up to Mom and Dad, you might have bigger problems than Garrett’s sugar intake.)

Here’s one way this conversation could go.

Set the scene: “Mom, Dad, can we talk about something a little difficult?” (This preemption gives your parents the chance to be noble, to be big. It also sounds serious—Do you have cancer? Were you fired?—which makes the real topic almost a relief.)

Say what happened: “Garrett ate a sucker at your house.” (A little gentler than “You gave Garrett a sucker.”)

Explain how it made you feel: “That disappointed us so much. This sugar thing is important to us. It’s not the end of the world that he had a sucker. We’re not mad. But we want to go back to our no-sugar policy.”

Make a request: “Can you back us up on this, even if you don’t really agree with it?”

Notice what’s not happening in this conversation:

  • You’re not attacking them: “How could you do this? You just don’t respect us.”
  • You’re not patronizing them: “We realize you don’t know as much about sugar as we do.”
  • You’re not arguing the policy: “We’re right about this. Sugar is bad.”

You don’t need to convert them. It doesn’t matter whether they agree with your no-sugar rule or not. Because the real point is this: You’re the parents. God gave Garrett to you to train up in the way he should go (cf. Proverbs 22). While you’ll always honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12) and be open to suggestions—my parents gave me tons of excellent parenting advice, and so will yours—you’re allowed to determine your own parenting procedures.

Chances are, at the end of your 30-second speech, they’ll agree to respect your wishes. Then you can quickly smooth the rough edges by offering a face-saver: “On another topic, do you think we have to be worried about Garrett’s rash?” Or maybe even wrap it up with a little comedy: “Glad that’s settled. Let’s all have some cake!”

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Please share your thoughts at forwardinchrist.net.

Stand firm, even if it’s not popular

“You sure make parenting hard!”

That’s the statement I heard from another parent as I finished explaining to my young child that we were running to the grocery store. My child didn’t want to stop playing, but we needed to go. My friend insisted that a child should not have to do something he didn’t want to do if it wasn’t fun for him. I calmly replied that a quick run for milk was just one of those things we sometimes do as part of a family. No surprise that as we were walking to the car, my son screamed, “You’re not a fun mommy!” Wow. Pop that aspiration!

This was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that my parenting would be undermined. While the circumstances were not terribly important, the principles were. I have seen firsthand that sticking to principles in the early years has payoffs in the later years. It was important for my son to hear and learn some important lessons.

He needed to know that how other people’s families run was not his concern. He did not need to hear his mother pass judgment on someone else’s parenting. Whatever I may have thought privately was not the business or worry of children. As a classroom teacher, it was often evident when children heard gossip from their parents’ lips. What my children needed to know were the rules for our family and our house. Other kids’ parents were quite often more fun and less strict than my husband and I were. Entering a parenting popularity contest ensures somebody is going to win at the cost of somebody else losing.

Dealing with contrary forces outside our home was at times difficult as well. Many times we found no need to address the undermining with our children because our stance was clear and consistent. Our children were smart enough not to waste their breath. Sometimes we did find it necessary to affirm our rules to other adults in light of their questions or actions. We tried to point out what we did without becoming defensive or critical. Again, our concern was with our own family, not theirs. On occasion, it was made clear that the house rules of another family were in direct or dangerous conflict with ours. This passive form of undermining sometimes resulted in limiting exposure to these homes or children. It meant opening our home to social interaction with our children’s friends. This had the unintended reward of getting to know and love our children’s community.

People are more receptive with your parenting choices when you show love, especially to their children. When we were asked why our children got along or why they were respectful, the door was open for a joyful testimony to the goodness of God’s love and forgiveness.

Mary Clemons lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, Sam. They have three children and seven grandchildren.

“It’s time for camp!”

“It’s time for camp!”

These four words are the highlight of our family’s year every summer. I have had the privilege of serving as a camp leader at Camp Bird in Crivitz, Wis., for many years. Camp Bird is a weeklong Christian youth camp for kids in fifth to eighth grade. This year my son Josh will be in his last year as a camper and my daughter Kayla will be in her third year as a camp counselor. For nearly 30 years my wife and I have been volunteering at Camp Bird. We have seen kids create memories and friendships that last a lifetime.

We are blessed to have a great network of Christian youth camps in our synod. As thousands of families prepare for their children’s camp experiences, this question comes to mind: How can parents help prepare their kids for a youth camp experience so their kids can have a terrific time? Here are a few things I have noticed over the years as I have interacted with families and seen some excellent examples of encouragement:

• Go with a friend—This is perhaps one of the best ways to help kids feel comfortable with a new camp experience. Knowing just one other person can help them not feel alone and make it easier to meet others.
• Know the camp—It’s easy to be afraid of what is unknown or unfamiliar. Review the camp website or printed materials with your child. Look at the pictures and videos. Check out the daily schedule. Review information on the staff. Find out what to pack, etc.
• Talk to others—Talk to parents and kids who have been at the summer camp in the past to find out what their experience was like and what to expect.
• Meet the staff—Before you leave the camp at drop-off time, introduce yourself and your child to some of the staff. This can not only help you feel more comfortable leaving your child with others, but it can also help the child know exactly who he can go to if he has questions.
• Focus on the experiences your child can have—Talk about all the fun experiences the camp has to offer! Swimming, kayaking, basketball, hiking, ropes courses, campfires, archery, kickball, singing, crafts, and all the other activities.
• “But what about . . .” —Acknowledge the things that may be concerns for your child and reassure him that you will find answers to the “what about” questions. Your child may be worried if he has special dietary needs, medications, or other concerns. It’s helpful to get specific answers so your child knows what to expect.
• Communicate—It is helpful to have boundaries and expectations set regarding communication with your child while at camp. There may be limits on the ability to communicate with phones, but maybe cards, letters, postcards can be used. Find out the recommended communication procedures and let your child know how you will use them.
• Stuff—What’s one of the simplest ways to make sure your child has a great time? Make sure she packs the right things. Get a supply list from the camp and go through it with your child. Packing itself can be a fun experience, but make sure she has the essentials like mosquito spray and sunblock.
• Food—What’s top on the list of the best parts of a camp experience? The food! What’s on the menu at camp? I remember one child who came to camp worried about what he would make himself to eat! Not too many camps I know would ever expect a fifth-grader to make his own meals! He was pretty excited to hear the meals would be all prepared for him. But this was a concern that he never expressed to anyone until arrival.

Parents, these are just a few ways to help your children prepare for their summer camp experiences. Separation from our kids can not only be anxiety-provoking for our kids but also for us as well. Seeing them prepared and excited can help alleviate some of our anxiety. You also might want to ask the camp if there will be Facebook posts or other updates so you can see how things are going at the camp.

Take advantage of the opportunity to see your child enjoy a Christian summer youth camp. Consider using some of the techniques above to help her prepare for her time away as she expands her experiences with new activities and meets new friends. Use this time of preparation to communicate with your child and be understanding, encouraging, and reassuring.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and son.