Life: Longing for the Way it is Meant to Be

5 04 2016

Life is a wonderful gift. From birth to death, every unique individual is on a journey of discovery and a search for meaning and significance. Yet death is a stark reminder that life is all too short…unless…there is an alternate ending. This is the Gospel: Christ came to bring us life. Real life. Forever life. There is no need to shy away from the topic of death with children. They may not have firsthand knowledge of it, but they can grasp eternity better than you might think. Celebrate life with kids this week as they, and you, develop into all that God has planned for you.

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Eternal life is…quality of life, life to the limit.

-John Eldredge

I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.

-Jesus (John 10:10)

Over the past few months, I have written about lifespan development. My starting point for writing about development largely came from the book Development Through the Lifespan, by Laura E. Berk as well as the work of Erik Erikson and his observations on life stages.

From birth to death, individuals are changing and shifting from season to season, milestone to milestone and phase to phase. There are key markers to each phase, which we will do well to understand and acknowledge. Development theory is still a theory and so the markers may not be empirical fact, but there are significant observations to be made. Summarizing each phase is a difficult task, but the benefits include ‘aha!’ moments, establishing goals, recognizing challenges, preparing for what’s to come, influencing the next generation well, etc.

For parents or children’s ministry volunteers, especially, being able to identify that the most important target for an infant is developing trust, we can pool our efforts into that one area more effectively. Or in your family, understanding and appreciating what your parents may be feeling or working through may increase your ability to strike up meaningful conversations.

Perhaps a child wasn’t from a home where skills could be learned without shaming or she never had a safe place to struggle with her identity. Knowing this can increase your empathy, the ability to understand or share the feelings of another. Recognizing this in yourself can be a humbling first step to receiving the help you need and making the next appropriate step in your personal growth.

The bottom line is this: God values every life greatly. He created real life and has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are all changing, shifting, developing. Yet, to know God’s design for life we must wait, for our best life is yet to come. Let us live and develop and mature as God meant us to and as much as we are able. Let us wait and long for the full realization of what God has planned.

Here are the links to all of my posts on development:

Lord, help me celebrate your gift of life today.





Infancy: Building a Strong Foundation

19 01 2016

Experience plays a crucial role in “wiring” a young child’s brain.

-Judith Graham, Leslie A. Forstadt

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

-Ecclesiastes 11:5

Infancy is a marvel. While we may try to understand how a young life is formed, we might as well just throw our hands up in the air and say, “My God, your works are astounding! How can I begin to explain them?” Still, take great joy in the experiences you offer the littlest in your life. You are contributing to their worldview whether you admit it or not. Seize the opportunity!

A psychiatrist I spoke to once said that if an infant brain doesn’t get what it needs, when it gets older, it will not be able to develop it. That means if it lacks essential nutrients or attention or emotional support in extreme measures or traumatic situations, the effect on that child will be lifelong.

So I would infer that the converse is also true. What is gained at that young age will be a fixed part of that child’s brain development. What a great privilege and responsibility we have as parents, caregivers, friends and family in the life of an infant!

I’ve long believed that how we start anything, is foundational to how that thing continues. Whether it be a personal project or a race or a quilting pattern or the course we set for a ship, the path these take is heavily influenced by the first step.

So consider very carefully the influences in your infant’s life. You can’t control them all so don’t panic either. Leave your little one in the hands of God. But make positive efforts to provide a solid, foundational start as much as it is in your power.

Building realistic trust is your one focus at this stage. Meaningful connections are the pathway to building trust.

Consider these trust-building connections:

  • create safe spaces and be a safe person
  • provide different sitting/lying/cuddling positions
  • play and smile during tasks such as changing diapers
  • make a variety of facial expressions to communicate
  • provide basic needs consistently such as feeding, peaceful sleep environment, changing
  • hold your baby and allow other trustworthy people to hold as well (such as at church)
  • provide familiar items as metaphorical and literal building blocks for learning
  • recognize that babies reflect your behaviour, facial expressions and feelings
  • share a children’s Bible to hold, look at and listen to
  • begin hide and seek type games with objects or the classic peek-a-boo
  • show understanding toward emotions and identify with them (ex: “Oh, you’re so sad. I would be sad too.”)
  • sing songs repeatedly with enthusiasm!
  • be aware of your own anxieties which can transfer easily to your baby
  • build trust with others to help ease separation anxiety
  • help them form words using repetition
  • pray with them and for them out loud

Lord, help me give well to this critical life-phase.





Make Memories

19 11 2013

Memories are powerful tools for developing children. Positive emotional experiences where children feel loved and accepted goes along way for them knowing a personal God who loves and accepts them. Conversely, negative emotional experiences where children feel rejected or invaluable may lead to their view of God as being a rejecting or uncaring god. As people who have powerful influence on the lives of children by the emotional experiences we provide, consider how your example shapes their view of God.





Three Factors that Shape A Child’s Life

3 02 2012

Wikipedia Image

How a child develops is a complex wonder. There are so many variables like family history, environment, peers, location and more that play a special role in the formation of a child. Here are three factors you can zone in on and leverage as you train up children to be fantastic citizens and faithful followers of Jesus.

Motor Development
I was intrigued recently with the motor development section of Laura Berk’s book entitled, Development Across the Lifespan, as I am running a games event at my church over March break. It’s been a memorable event that uses a lot of gross-motor skills along with some fine-motor. A few quotes caught my attention:

“[Games with rules]…contribute greatly to emotional and social development.” (296)
“[Child invented games]…permit children to try out different styles of cooperating, competing, winning and losing with little personal risk.” (296)
“…these experiences help children construct more mature concepts of fairness and justice.” (296)

There seems to be a bit of a debate over competition and cooperation in games. I’ve particularly noticed two different approaches from the camps of Group Publishing (Thom and Joani Schultz) and Roger Fields (of Kidz Blitz). On one side, there seem to be the people that avoid competition saying it can hurt self-esteem or cause hurt feelings or create the undesirable feel of winners and losers. On the other side, I find people who would say competition is helpful for building up confidence and that positive attitudes and character development can be learned whether a winner or a loser. I would tend to lean towards a good mix of both. I think a child should not be crushed emotionally because they lost a game, but also that they ought to be taught how to handle difficulties with a right attitude. I also find the connection to justice very intriguing as it seems the evangelical world is talking a lot about social justice these days. I’m feeling some teaching points coming on for the games event! And not only that, but giving kids opportunities to use their bodies promotes healthy living.

Read the rest of this entry »





6 Ways to Foster Early Language Development

21 01 2012

The following is from Development Through the Lifespan, by Laura E. Berk.

  1. Respond to coos and babbles with speech sounds and words.
  2. Establish joint attention and comment on what child sees.
  3. Play social games, such as pat-a-cake and peekaboo.
  4. Engage toddlers in joint make-believe play.
  5. Engage toddlers in frequent conversations.
  6. Read to toddlers often, engaging them in dialogue about picture books.

Put these into practice and your child will develop their language skills well. They will experiment “with sounds that can later be blended into first words.” They will learn turn-taking for conversation. Their vocabulary will develop faster. They will grow in their conversation ability, develop language earlier and likely enable greater academic success later. Reading “provides exposure to many aspects of language, including vocabulary, grammar, communication skills, and information about written symbols and story structure.”








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