By Shari McMinn
Children who do not fit in the “typical kid” box are often unique when it comes to how they view, experience, and interact with the world around them. This can be especially true when it comes to giving and receiving love. In fact, to be transparently honest, it can be a real challenge for some of us parents to show our kids unconditional love day-in-and-day-out.
On the one hand, we might be blessed with a child who gladly gives kisses, accepts bear hugs, and wants to hold our hand as we walk along the way. A young friend of mine who has Down Syndrome is much like this. I love exchanging a big hug with him and an even bigger smile when we meet up a few times during the year. I know his genuinely loving personality is a constant encouragement to his parents amidst the struggles of teaching him life skills and academics.
However, other unique children may not be so easy to share a tangible parent-child love bond with. Longtime friends of mine who are raising a daughter with autism struggle daily with giving and receiving love from her because at times she can be physically combative and verbally abusive. But now, their consistency in homeschooling her through the years is bearing fruit despite the difficulties. She is maturing in her ability to participate fully in groups, express her thoughts with intelligence on a variety of topics, and be a cheerful Christian servant on days when she is able to overcome some of her emotional and social delays.
So, how do we begin to teach our children to give and receive love while homeschooling them? It begins with leading them to Jesus. As we ourselves learn to understand how Jesus gives love and how we receive it from Him (based on the truth we know about Him from Scripture, i.e. Romans 5:8), we can bring our children along to witness His love in our lives. We can intentionally communicate — with words and actions — how our children can receive that love from Jesus, too, by sharing the Gospel with them. Then they will have a sure foundation for learning, living, and loving, so that they thrive, as can we.
In both of the cases shared above, these families have focused on teaching Jesus — and the truth of our own sin and His grace and love — to their children above all other subjects in homeschool.
Yes, teaching the “three Rs” in elementary school does matter. Yes, civics, history, and science are important subjects throughout higher grade levels. But, what will save our children so they spend eternity in Heaven with Christ? Only the foundation of their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Only God can save our children, but it is our responsibility and opportunity to teach our children to know of Him and to follow His ways, including the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and the greatest commandment:
And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 ESV).
In practice, this can be a daunting task for moms and dads who day-after-day slog through the tough parenting stuff of boundaries, chores, lessons, routines, sibling rivalry, and our own emotional upheaval when a child is out-of-control. It is exhausting, am I right?
So, we must make and keep the main thing, the main thing: Jesus! Here are a few ideas on how you can do that:
- Enjoy family devotions during the week — Bible reading, hymn singing, and discussion.
- Pray without ceasing — by ourselves, together with our kids, and with our spouse.
- Focus on Christ — in the mundane of life AND during the significant issues that arise.
- Put on the whole armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:10-18) — for this is a spiritual battle.
Until my next blog post, I leave you with this edification: in the years we will spend educating and raising our unique learners, let us strive to model for them that Jesus lives in us and through us as we lovingly parent them. Let us not hinder their running to Him.
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV).