Processing Pain

The devastation a child feels, from having the wrong answer when asked a question in front of their class, clarifies the importance of a right answer. From childhood we push forward in a pursuit of knowledge as though finding the right answers guarantees success.

Answers are necessary. Right answers are preferable. The right answer is only as valuable as the question is good. How many times did Jesus answer a question with a question? Answers are important. But never underestimate the power of learning to ask the right questions.

As we work with our children to help them move toward becoming healthy whole adults, we need to teach them the art of processing pain. In His sermon on the mount Jesus challenged the accepted answers with “You have heard it said . . . but I say . . .” Perhaps it is time to challenge the acceptable questions with some new ones.

Many ask the question, “Why is this happening to me?”  Bad things happen to everyone. The better question is, “How can I move through this to get to a better place?”

Asking someone, “Who do you love?” is not a question that will change the way they live. Asking them, “How can you really love others without a selfish agenda?” could put them on a new path all together.

The rubber meets the road in our lives when things happen that shake us at the core of our beliefs. It is then we learn to ask questions that produce answers that change the way we live. Let’s teach our children to ask the questions that matter so that as life happens, they know how to maneuver through the storms.

Here are examples of questions that could help a child debrief their days: Did someone say something that hurt you today? How did you handle that? Could you have done anything differently? Why do you think that person wanted to hurt you? How did that make you feel? Did you know that we can’t choose our feelings but we can choose what we do with them? What do you think can help you feel better so you can face this person again?

Did you say something that hurt someone today? How did they handle that hurt? How did that make you feel? Is that a normal feeling? What could you have done differently? Did you intentionally want to hurt them? How could you have handled that feeling you had toward them in a better less hurtful way? What will you do to resolve this problem?

Did you show someone a kindness today? How do you feel about their response? Can you make anyone respond the way you want them to? Does their response make your deed better? Can their response cancel out your good deed?

Day after day we have opportunities to ask questions and hear the hearts of our children as they struggle with tough relationships both inside and outside the home. Getting them to share their hearts by asking them specific questions and follow up questions will teach them the importance of debriefing themselves and their feelings.

Success is not about controlling what happens. Much of what happens is out of our control. Success comes in knowing how to respond in a healthy emotional manner to what happens. This learned response takes time and practice. As we teach our children to process the events in their early years, they will learn and develop skills that will change them and the world around them.

For believers, every difficulty we face is an opportunity to stretch out our hands. Sadly, like a belligerent teenager we can stretch out our hands, stiffed armed in protest, pushing God away, blaming Him for our predicaments. If we know how to debrief our hearts with questions that remind us of Who He is we will want to stretch out our hands, clutch the heart of God, holding on to His promises and letting Him carry us through each difficulty.

Suzi Ciliberti works for Christar, a Missions Agency that plants churches among least-reached Asians worldwide. She served in Japan for two years as a single missionary and another nine with her husband and two children, then the family returned to the states. She and her husband have been serving in the US Mobilization Center since 2000. As a part of the Member Care Department, Suzi is consultant to families with children. She has been working as a children’s teacher since she was 17 and began her training under Child Evangelism Fellowship. She has taught in the church, as a school teacher for two years in a Christian elementary school, and as a speaker for adults training to work with children. She has also trained children, who are a part of families that work overseas, in their identity in Christ. She brings 44 years of teaching experience to her work. She loves creative writing as well as teaching and has found great fulfillment in combining the two as she blogs for Heartprints. She finds it a great privilege and joy to serve the Lord and His people. One of her favorite verses is Deuteronomy 4:10b, "Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children."

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