The Challenge of Parenting During Transitions

Pauline   |   September 30, 2020 

I was born in a town in Manipur. When I was 7, my family moved to Pune, where I continued to live until I was 22. These two places were poles apart in everything – lifestyle, culture, language, food habits – even how many meals one had a day! Church life was different, schooling systems and the school year were different and the way the kids played or related to each other was different.

I really struggled for the first couple of years. I remember running away whenever someone tried to talk to me because I was too shy and I didn’t know how to respond. My father’s brothers lived in Pune and so our first friends (and only friends for a while) were our cousins. My uncles and aunts were very supportive during that period and continue to be even now. Church was different and half of it was in Malayalam, which we didn’t know a word of. My family left everything behind in Manipur and here we were, experiencing city life for the first time, with my parents not really knowing what they were going to do and four children to educate. As a seven-year-old, I could only see what I was facing – I was painfully shy, my mind had to adjust to new and strange cultural expectations and my body had to cope with different health challenges. I had no idea how much my older siblings were struggling, not to mention the enormous challenges my parents had to face in those initial years.

It wasn't until I was an adult that I found out how strained our family finances were back then. Even so, we didn’t miss a single meal. My dad often went to the market as it was almost closing, when the remaining fish and vegetables were sold at a lower cost, so he could afford to give us the food we needed. Our house was very bare and our possessions few. But education was extremely important to my parents so that wasn’t compromised.

It wasn’t an easy transition and I often longed to go back to Manipur. But through all those years, there was one thing I was sure of – I was loved and cared for. Later I knew I was also prayed for. I didn’t see the pain and silent suffering of my parents, their sacrifices, and their disappointments. My parents didn’t show affection through hugs or words of affirmation, but they showed it through their silent giving of themselves.

As a parent, I look back at those years and I’m amazed at how my parents protected us and cared for us to the best of their ability. My parents had to handle these tough years with the varying emotions and reactions of three teenagers and a seven-year-old.

Though we all face different challenges as families, we will all go through transitions – relocations to new cities, difficult adjustments to new schools, or life being turned upside down as it has been during COVID. How do we respond to our changing family situations and the uncertainties that each transition brings?

In the past two years, we’ve had to face many transitions as a family, moving to a new country with two little girls. Here are a few of the lessons we've learned:

Fixing our eyes on the Lord

Wait on the LORD. Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart.
Wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalm 27:14

Sometimes the transition is really hard on us as parents, especially with unexpected changes like what COVID has thrown at us. When emotions and situations overwhelm us, when the wait seems to go on forever without clarity, when our faith seems to be weak, let us fix our eyes on the Lord and look to Him to calm the storms inside of us with His peace and the knowledge of His sovereignty and goodness. This means spending time in prayer and in His Word and placing our confidence in the Lord and not on our circumstances.

During this season of uncertainties, I have loved reading the Psalms and looking at David’s wide range of emotions and desperate cries to the Lord. His confidence in the Lord and his heart of praise and thanksgiving in the midst of his struggles has really caught my attention. I am praying to be able to say like David that ‘God’s praise shall continually be on my mouth’.

Love and intentionality

Children face changes better when they know they are loved. Our kids were two and four when we moved and our transition went on for over six months as we moved to different towns and cities before our final move overseas. As little children, they needed their parents to provide stability within all the new adjustments. It meant that we needed to be there for them and be intentional in showing them love. It meant finding a few things that would help them settle in. It meant looking for an apartment with a playground. It meant providing normalcy with a routine or a small special time each day to read together or do something together a few days a week, if not daily. (My girls feel so loved when I colour a picture with them or when my husband plays a game of UNO with them.) It may mean sticking to routines they’re used to as much as possible so not everything is different for them.

Honesty and looking to God together in prayer

Our daughter is constantly interested in knowing about her future school. She’s enrolled in a new homeschooling centre which is beginning this year but due to many different reasons, we are still not certain it will even open this school year. We’ve had to be honest with her about not knowing, and that we were praying and trusting in our good and perfect Father. He alone knows what her year will look like. We pray together about it and encourage her to pray too. It’s our family's faith journey as we all wait expectantly to see how this will play out.

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

God is faithful, merciful, and kind

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Through all our challenges and moments of weakness, poor choices, and parenting failures, we can testify to our heavenly Father’s compassion, kindness, and faithfulness. At times, when I’ve been overwhelmed and could barely hold myself together, He gave the girls so much joy just playing together that they don’t notice a thing. He knew our needs before we did. There were things we didn't even know to pray for as parents who hadn’t made a move like this before. He provided for these. Now when we look back, we realise the transition would have been a huge struggle if not for His provision. I can’t thank Him enough for how He has cared for our family through His community.

Transitions are often hard, but we have One who walks with us through them, and if we truly seek Him, He can bring us to a place of greater dependency and rest in Him, and through that, deeper intimacy with Him.

 

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

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Pauline

Pauline lives with her husband and two adorable daughters and is a physiotherapist by profession. She loves dancing and being silly with her daughters when she is not stuffing her mouth with food. She loves music, board games and exploring street markets with her family.

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