How Magical Thinking Impacts Children

Children think differently from adults. Their stories and great imaginations keep us laughing, but their misunderstandings can cause them painful memories that haunt them for a lifetime. Professionals call it “Magical Thinking.” Children believe the world revolves around them. It seems like a good thing. When they hear and believe positive, it is. Since they believe the world revolves around them, they also believe they are responsible for bad things that happen. When there is a loss, such as divorce or the death of someone close to them or a tragic event such as abuse, they may believe it is their fault. That leads to feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes even simple things can cause those feelings if someone gets angry or blames them.

What can we do? I would love to give you a magic bullet to destroy your child’s negative magical thinking, but no magic bullet exists. I do have an easy way to find out what your child thinks. Ask, but ask with sensitivity. Questions such as: “Who do you believe caused the divorce or death or whatever happened?” Wait for an answer. Then do your best to correct their misconceptions.

What not to say. Never blame another person, especially your child’s other parent. Your child needs the freedom to love their other parent, even if you don’t. In that case, the answer would be “divorce is a grown-up problem.” Also, don’t shame a child for a wrong answer. Just listen.

What About Adults? Adults may still hold on to magical thinking, such as, “I’m going to wash the car, then I know it will rain.” Humorous, but who hasn’t said things like that? Asa counselor, I have heard many sad stories from adults that still blame themselves for things that happened in their youth. Think back to your childhood. Do you remember an event that shaped the way you see yourself and the world? Please share it to help others.

Follow this link to find out how you or your church can minister to small groups of children who don’t live with both biological parents.  http://store.livingfree.org/Small-Group-Curriculums_c_51.htm

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My 10 Secrets to Survival After Losing A Child

If you have ever lost a loved one, read this.

Daphne Bach Greer

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard…

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“I would go crazy if I were you.”

“I couldn’t survive losing my child,” not to mention the comments many say quietly to themselves, secretly thankful it wasn’t their child. Let’s be honest.  I know many of you suffering through grief have heard similar things and more. Hearing these words makes a grieving soul cringe with pain.

We didn’t choose this life, yet what are we supposed to do when we are face to face with our worst nightmare?

No matter what your grief is let me tell you, yes you can survive. And no, it’s not all sunshine and roses, it’s a dark, lonely, road less taken, but believe it or not, it is possible to come out on the other side.

So how did I survive all these years?  At the time, overcome…

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Parenting: Law vs. Grace. Which is Right?

For the most part, our sense of morality comes from our religion, or you could say our belief system. In general, for the western civilization the historical source for morality comes from the law given to Moses by God and the philosophy of grace, which comes from Jesus in the New Testament.

Christianity teaches grace. No other religion does that. Yet, even Christians need to obey the law. So how do you decide when to punish your child and when to allow grace?

Trying to develop a parenting strategy based on those two concepts can lead to confusion. Remember the good law protects us. So teach your children to stay away from fire and not cross the street alone to protect them. If they disobey, make the consequences severe enough to prevent any re-occurrence. Along with consequences give them love and teaching about the dangers of what they did. In those situations, law trumps grace.

On the other hand, children disobey by actions that don’t cause immediate harm, such as back talk, unkindness to a friend, or refusal to clean their rooms. In that kind of situation, don’t miss an occasional opportunity to show grace.

You can say something like this, “You have disobeyed me by your back talk. The way you talked to me showed disrespect. I should punish you, but this time I won’t. I will give you grace. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve. Even though you deserve to be in time out, I will give you love instead. Jesus does that. He took the punishment we deserve and gave us love and forgiveness. Next time it happens, you will go to time out. This time I am helping you understand more about Jesus.”

Don’t Be a Shame Sponge

Don't let your self feel like this poor sponge.

Don’t let yourself feel like this poor sponge.

Did you experience physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse as a child? If so, you may feel a deep shame that makes it hard for you to believe you are as worthy as other people. It may even make it difficult for you to feel loved. Abuse is a direct attack on a person’s dignity. You had no way of knowing that, so you may have become a “shame sponge.” Did you soak up the dirt and shame that belongs to the abuser? If the person who hurt you was a family member, you may have added shame upon shame. After all, the family member who abused you may also be the one who took care of you. You needed the abuser in order to live. It created a confusing double bind. You couldn’t see the abuser as bad, so you saw yourself as bad. Even if the abuser was not a family member, the loss of dignity may have caused you to feel shame. Of course, there were other strong emotions, too. We will discuss those on another post.

The shameful feelings come from the lies planted in your mind and spirit, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by the abuser. Truthfully, no one is perfect, but you are not worse than others simply because of abuse. Even if you know that, you may not feel it. The perpetrator, however, should feel shame for hurting you, an innocent child. Changing the thought patterns and feelings developed in childhood requires some soul-searching work. If you haven’t received counseling, I recommend it. You can also help yourself by changing the messages you give yourself. Say, “Self, you are just as valuable and worthy as everyone else. The person who hurt you is the one who deserves the shame.” Telling yourself one time is not enough. You need to do it every time those old feelings stir your soul. It may feel like hard work, but it is worth it.

I am a Christian. I believe shame came into the world through Adam and Eve. They disobeyed God and hid in the garden to hide the shame they felt because they had no clothes. Fig leaves didn’t cover their shame. They needed more to cover their naked bodies. God confronted them and out of love covered them with animal skins. With the law of Moses, God began the practice of sacrificing lambs and other animals for the forgiveness of sins. The Bible says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed by blood, for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV) Finally, Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God came to earth as a baby. He showed people how to live, and He died for our sins. He took our shame. Anyone who accepts the gift of His sacrifice and follows Him will have eternal life in heaven. Even it you don’t believe in God, the shame you felt and may still feel doesn’t from the abuse belongs to the one who abused you, not you.

Don’t Try to Do the Job Alone

King David wanted to build a temple for God in Israel, but God told him to let his son, Solomon do the job. So David collected the materials his son would need. The message from father to son, “Don’t try to do the job alone.” Not only did wise Solomon use the gold and silver gathered by David, he also enlisted help from the Hiram, the King of Tyre. Hiram sent a master craftsman named Huram, who brought the famous cedars of Lebanon for the temple. Solomon also gave jobs to all the aliens who were in the land of Israel, thus creating jobs for them.

I use to find this story boring. Today it opened my eyes to a new thought. I have a ministry to children in inner city schools. It involves small groups after school using two faith-based curricula. (See Livingfree.org.) Growing Seasons helps children who don’t live with both biological parents by teaching them that God is a Father who will never abandon them. It also helps them learn coping skills, such as how to express their emotions appropriately. Empowering Kids helps children recognize and prevent life-controlling problems before they start. To do this ministry, I must have help.I need trained facilitators to come beside me and lead the small groups. I tried to do it alone. It only worked when I enlisted others who want to make a difference in the lives of children.

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Helping Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses
What are your goals? What kind of help do you need? Who can you enlist to help you?