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If a man makes a promise to the Lord, or swears that he will keep his promise, he must not break his word. He must do all that he said he would do.
Sunday night this week brought conviction. As I hosted online church via Key Ministry's The Front Door, we listened to Pastor Chris Emmitt challenge listeners, citing that God keeps his promises, but can you? In his key points, Emmitt examined ways that you can truly discern if you are a person who keeps your promises. He exposed how being a person of your word or failing to keep your word affects your children.
I couldn't help but think, especially since we are in the month celebrating Fathers, what a particularly difficult struggle this is for those of us raising children with special needs. Here are some of the roadblocks that I witness parents encountering:
- Medical needs or emotional meltdowns can keep us from keeping our promise at a time when we said we would. For example, if you promised Suzy you were going to spend some special one-on-one time with her, taking her for an ice cream cone, and she suddenly has an epileptic seizure, that promise will not be fulfilled.
- Siblings of our challenged children might get sidelined because of a crisis with their brother or sister. For example, if you vowed to Zach that you're going to take him shopping for those new athletic shoes as your special outing, yet there's a total autism meltdown in the house at the time you were going to leave, that trip may not happen.
- The day has been extremely stressful with your challenged child. They were up half the night, therefore, you were too. You told your child you would call to arrange a play date with their favorite friend, but you just never did it. You were too exhausted or scattered to follow through.
- You are under heavy deadlines because you have been delayed in your work because of a crisis with your child's special needs. You child keeps hounding you for attention. You continue to put that child off with the words, "In a minute, honey." Yet, that "minute" turns into hours. Another promise broken.
Given this cocktail of complications, how are parents like us ever to resolve this conflict? Here are some ideas:
- When you are making a promise to your child, and you are aware that crises may arise to derail plans (ie when your child with special needs is going through a cycle of frequent medical or emotional troubles), preface your statement with, "I will do ________ as long as nothing come up," or "I will do _________ to the best of my ability." This helps your child to understand up front that sometimes situations beyond our control can waylay even the best of intentions.
- If a crisis arises where a promise cannot be kept, reschedule or substitute. Offer your child another time or date to make good on your promise, or offer a replacement to that promise. For example, if you had offered to take your child on an outing and they suddenly had to be hospitalized, offer to take them on the outing at a later date or offer to do something fun, like playing a game together in the hospital instead.
- Be willing to to humble yourself and apologize to your child when you blow it. Days do get busy. Oversights are made. You child does need to know that every human gets busy and forgets at times. However, apologizing to your child demonstrates that you do value them and do take seriously keeping your word.
- Carefully guard your time. It is way too easy to get sucked into the computer world, tuning our children out. I am absolutely guilty of being hard at work on the computer, losing track of time. When your child approaches you for attention, be deliberate about making a hard break at a given point in time, and stick to it. This way, not only will your child stop bugging you, but you will also feel better about yourself for being committed and attentive to your son or daughter.
- Finally, I think Pastor Emmitt makes a fabulous point in his sermon about following through even when it is not convenient. Raising a child with a special need or chronic illness is extra exhausting. Nevertheless, sometimes we just have to kick ourselves in the tail to get up off the couch for the sake of our offspring. While we may not feel like it, the memories and relationship we create end up being a terrific gift for the time we invest in our kids.
~ Barb Dittrich
Catch Pastor Chris Emmitt's sermon again this week at the Wednesday and Thursday services online at http://go.mediasocial.tv/cbcfrontdoor.