Max Lucado: Helping Our Kids Build Courage

Max Lucado recently adapted the content of his best-selling book, “Anxious for Nothing”, specifically for young readers. The book was so well received, and he got so much feedback that more kids are feeling anxious than ever before, he decided to write a second version for young readers to address that need. As they dove into this further, they heard even more what a significant and real challenge anxiety is for kids. Max shares that this seems to be “the most anxious generation since anxiety was recorded”. Max goes on to say that a recent statistic from this year reports that 91% of those born after 1996 are manifesting, one way or another, symptoms of anxiety or depression. With numbers like that, there is a huge need for kids to be able to have insight and support, particularly with the pandemic.

How do you define worry for young kids? What does anxiety look like in kids?
Max says that “anxiety is like a house alarm that never turns off. Most people want a house or car alarm to alert us to the possibility of an intruder, but we don’t want one that never turns off.” He continues noting, “Anxiety is not bad. It’s an emotion” as are both anxiety and fear. “Anxiety is fear on steroids. Fear says, “I better not cross the highway. Anxiety says, “I’m never stepping on a road again.”  Anxiety is an overreaction to a legitimate concern. And it takes its toll on us. The Psalmist said, “Don’t let yourself be worried, it will only lead to harm” and he’s spot on. It leads to harm to our bodies, harm to our bowels, harm to our sleep, harm to our relationships, harm to our happiness.”

Anxiety is not a sin, it’s an emotion
Max shares that anxiety is not a sin, it’s an emotion, but it can lead to some destructive behavior. “Emotions just happen. Trusting God to help us deal with emotions is a necessary part of life.”
For those in the midst of raising kids, kids seem to be overwhelmed, bombarded with all types of messages telling them they’re not as pretty or as smart as someone else. Competition is fierce. Downtime is hard to come by.” Kids today are facing so much more than previous generations.
Single parents who are carrying the load alone see this in their kids too. Sometimes as Christians we feel a burden that if we are anxious then maybe we are not trusting God enough. But we have to acknowledge when we are feeling anxious so we can deal with it. We need the alarm to go off so we can address it.

What is CALM and how can it help kids who are worried?
Max Lucado uses the acronym, CALM, as a simple way to remember strategies that can help when kids are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. He starts by saying that the book, for both adults and for kids, is written to help us understand Philippians 4:4-8. Philippians 4:7 says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and petition, let your requests be made to God with thanksgiving.” Max shares that, “Anxiety knocks at the door. This passage reminds us not to invite it in for dinner.”
There are four ideas here.
“C” - Celebrate. Rejoice in the Lord. Celebrate Him. Worship Him. “Worship is more than just a pastime. It’s an essential time.”  
“A” - Ask. “Choose prayer, not despair.” Max says we can teach our kids to be quick to pray in every little thing. Prayer helps us turn every fear over to God.  “Go quickly to the Lord and say, Help me.”
“L” - Leave every concern with Him. Paul encourages us to present our requests with thanksgiving. “Anxiety and gratitude never share the same heart”, says Max. Writing a gratitude list can be a powerful practice in reducing anxiety.
“M” - Meditate on good things. Don’t focus on the negative. Fill your mind with good things. “Think about what you are thinking about”, reminds Max.
DOWNLOAD MAX'S C.A.L.M. PDF

This past year with the pandemic has been full of unknowns that are affecting all of us.  How can we teach our kids that God is still good, and that God has good plans for our lives even in the middle of all the hardship?

Experience as adults helps us look back and see how God has been faithful even during difficult times. We can put things in perspective. Children and teens just don’t have that same type of experience which makes uncertainty even more challenging.  

Max says, “It’s going to sound like an oversimplification, but it’s really true, [our kids] need to hear an older person say, “You know what? We are going to be okay’”. They need to hear us recount stories from the Bible of Daniel, Esther, the church in Acts, and share how God was faithful during times of turmoil and upheaval. “The reason these stories are in the Bible is to encourage us”, says Max, “it’s not like there is a magic formula but we need to be the voice that says, “I know it’s scary, but we will get through it.” As our kids see what’s happening in the moment, we can say with honesty when we are in a crisis, but we can also share the ways God showed up for people throughout history and remind them He will show up for them too.

So often now, in society, we can see other people’s lives on a screen or hear about terrible news from around the world. As parents, we need to remind ourselves and our kids of the long view. We can share with them that what is happening right now won’t last forever. Instead of getting trapped in the immediate and in the belief that whatever we are facing is a roadblock that isn’t going to be moved, we can remind them of the long view. And, as parents, it needs to start with us. We need to remember what God has done. The song, Miracles, says, “God, I hope I never get over what you have done.” Let that be true of us! He has done so much for us, but we forget easily, and we can let fear and anxiety grip us as parents. We need to be grounded in the truth of God’s faithfulness so we can share that with our kids.

Max says, “Remember, you’re doing better than you think you are.” We may feel outnumbered by foes but the power of a praying parent who keeps praying cannot be overestimated. One day Max came home and Kari Jobe’s song about The Blessing was playing loudly throughout the house. His wife had a picture of their children and their families, and she was standing in front of it with her hand up, praying a blessing over them. “Here is where holy work is done”, says Max. “This is divine work... I know moms and dads feel defeated and worn out, but you’re that intercessor… do that, because that’s what matters.”

Single parents often can feel defeated, worn out, and afraid themselves. It’s hard to have courage and peace ourselves so helping our kids can seem impossible. Max shares how we can help our kids when we feel overwhelmed. He says, “We must strive to keep God as the Big Being in all of this. If we ever think it’s up to us to fix ourselves or fix our kids, we are sunk. But if we can remember that our God is the one with the big biceps…” Max remembers how as a kid he would ask his dad to show him his muscles. He said that as his dad would flex his arms, “a big baseball would pop up” on his arm. Just seeing and feeling his dad’s strength made Max feel stronger and secure himself. “When we realize how strong God is, then we feel strong. When we realize that He’s not controlled by pandemics, economies, presidential elections, church politics, difficulty in relationships, when we realize He is high and holy and above all that, we can say, “My Dad is strong.” And “that is huge”, says Max! “If we had a list of ten things to do” to be courageous, that principle alone “is nine of them”. That is why we worship and celebrate God.

Max also shares how important it is as single parents to be kind to ourselves, saying “You don’t do yourself any favor by beating yourself up for being anxious. Of course, you’re worn out. Look at the load on your plate. You’re a single parent. You’re carrying the guilt, maybe the fear, the sense of unknown, the stigma, everything that comes with this. You’re carrying all of that plus you’ve got little kids pulling at you, teenagers asking you for help. Of course, you’re outnumbered. Be kind to yourself. What you say to them is what God says to you. God is still on the throne. It’s hard but it’s going to be okay.”

Ideas on how kids can have “Happy Thoughts”
In his book, Max shares ideas on helping kids have “Happy Thoughts”, language adapted by his daughter, on ways for kids to find calm when feeling anxious.
-Write in a gratitude journal
-Memorize Bible verses
-Sing or listen to worship songs
-Spend time with encouraging people
-Write positive comments on your friends’ social media posts
-Say thank you
-Take a nature walk
-Do a favor for someone
-Tell someone how much they mean to you
-Give yourself a compliment

Ultimately, anxiety is a real emotion we all experience, our kids too. We can find calm when we remember and celebrate that God is on the throne, when we ask Him to help us, when we leave our cares at His feet, and we meditate on good things. While anxiety will come and go as a normal part of our human experience, as believers, we can find rest when we bring our concerns to God. Because He is strong, we can be courageous. Single parents, as we live out that truth, we can share it with our kids too.

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