Your teen just ran away. You badly want to freak out. Where would they go? What if they get injured? Practically speaking, what should you do if your child runs away?
I vividly remember the cold, rainy night our 15-year-old son left a note saying: “I’m too mad to be at home. I’ve left. Don’t come looking for me because you won’t find me. Don’t worry, I’ll be safe.”
I did what any panicked, desperate parent would do. I disobeyed my son. Ignoring the note, I worried madly, called close friends, and went looking for him. I imagined every worst-case scenario. My child could freeze to death in the rain. He could be abducted. It’s amazing how quickly our fear grips us when we feel our loved ones could be in danger.
As my mind whirled a million miles a minute, I started wondering which of my child’s friends he might turn to — and then my mind slowed. I realized: If indeed our child landed in the home of any friend, we would have no worries. We were comfortable with all his friends, knew their parents, and knew he would be safe.
As I reviewed the list of possible places he would go, my intense fear gave way to a glimmer of comfort and hope. The only viable options for our child were the kind of people who would care for our son, provide a safe harbor, and reinforce the values we hold so dear.
The forming of this kind of community was no accident
When parenting gets overwhelming — and it’s bound to get overwhelming at times — there can be great comfort in the coming together of a community in support of one another. This can be especially encouraging when there are others who will affirm and reinforce transforming love and guidance for my children. Because Lynne and I knew the research about this, we were intentional about cultivating intergenerational relationships for our kids. We made sure the people our kids most loved and trusted outside our family were people we loved and trusted too.
This got me thinking about the day Jesus’ parents accidentally left him at the temple when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:41). How could this happen? It says “After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day.”
How could they be unaware that Jesus had stayed behind? Were they bad parents? I don’t think so. In fact, they were probably great parents, which in that day was simply a matter of making sure your child was well known and cared for by your closest community. When Joseph and Mary figured Jesus was in “their company,” they didn’t worry for a whole day!
I felt like Joseph that night, thinking, Daniel must be with someone we know!
Who is in your family’s community?
The story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus raises the question: Who is “their company” for your children?
The Bible tells us to encourage one another, care for one another, and bear one another’s burdens. Could it be that an overlooked expression of these one-another verses has to do with our children?
Wendy, one of the single moms in these CF podcasts (“Being a Single Mom is Exhausting | Ep. 62” and “What’s the Best Way to Handle Shared Parenting | Ep. 63”) shared with Lynne how essential other families were when her family first went through a traumatic divorce. They provided a sense of stability, safety, and care during a really hard time. Her brother in particular came alongside their family.
When Wendy’s emotional, impulsive oldest was struggling with intense sibling conflict, she suggested that he ask his uncle about what he learned about being a big brother when he was young. This relationship with Wendy’s brother and his sons (two cousins that got along together well) were vital to begin a transformation of sibling relationships in their family toward peace and caring.
Be intentional about creating your “village”
If you only had weeks to live you’d likely do everything you could to enlist this kind of supportive community for your children. A community that would care for them and ultimately carry out your hopes and dreams for pointing them to Jesus. In doing so you’d invite those people to bear your burdens, just like the Bible says. And with good reason. It turns out that the more supportive relationships a child has, the better that child will do in life.
If “it takes a village” to raise your children, who is in your “village”? How could you be more intentional about surrounding your family and your children with a community of people who are safe and supportive? Here’s a tip: don’t wait until your child runs away! Consider making the formation of a safe, connected community part of the fabric of your family today.
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