Part of growing older is growing out of things. As we age, we realize how silly we were in our youth. We realize how big the world actually is, and we see how small our world back then was—how in the grand scheme of things, our problems back then were nothing.
But I’m writing this as a young 20-something right now, hoping that as I am slowly growing out of youth, I will keep remembering how desperately I clung to those ‘insignificant’ and ‘unimportant’ feelings, goals, and dreams. They are probably nothing now, but they were everything then: my grades in elementary, the annual sportsfest in high school, the org drama in college, struggling to graduate from university.
I can laugh today when I think back on these things, not because of how silly it all was—though they definitely were—but because of how precious and treasured every moment was.
I know you can remember your own challenges and difficulties as children, or maybe as young adults, older than I am now. Maybe the challenges I face today—self-doubt and finding my career—is nothing but initiation into adulthood for you. After all, you’re probably either married, have children already, or have completely decided that this path is not for you. Perhaps still, whether you know it or not, you are a parent in your own right, a guardian or a hero for a young soul in your life.
“Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed
by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.”
2 Corinthians 2:7-8 NIV
So I hope that as parents, whatever kind you are, when you look at your children’s hardships and sufferings—from being so desperately hurt because their favorite toy broke, to experiencing their first puppy love heartbreak—I hope you don’t only remember growing out of these, but also how important each and every new feeling and experience was. Their worlds may be smaller, but these problems are their present as much as they are your past.
What desensitizes us from these problems as we grow into adulthood is realizing that there are solutions to these things—whether it’s time, a broader outlook in life, or finances. We think ourselves silly for having felt so trapped by simple things—and so few at that. We dismiss these problems because we survived them, and today, we can probably do it again, along with several more serious problems of adulthood.
But I hope that as adults with many problems and few answers, we remember that young children with small worlds and small problems don’t know that answers exist yet.
Do not invalidate your children’s feelings by refusing to acknowledge or by minimizing them. State what you understood from them. Let them speak. Let them identify, understand, and get acquainted with their sadness. Let them, in their lesser extents, grieve or mourn their loss. Then after you have listened to them in silence, and especially when they are open to hear from you, share with them your perspective as someone who has gone through pain and went past it. Do this especially when you sense that despair or loss overwhelms them.
Guides are not always meant to point the way. Sometimes, holding their hands and walking alongside them does more in inspiring a young heart.