Parents: Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Kids Experience Suffering

The Coalition for Christian Outreach: ‘Suffering Can Aid in the Spiritual Growth of Young Adults’

November 30, 2020

PITTSBURGHCoalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) understands that whatever distaste parents may have personally for suffering and trials, the desire to see their kids avoid pain is exponentially larger.

Dan Dupee, former Chairman of the Board for CCO, explains, “If we consider objectively what causes human beings to develop courage, patience, empathy, or most any other virtue, it’s hard to avoid the obvious: men and women grow the most through adversity.”

Dupee continues, “It’s natural to want our kids to do better than we did and to have what we didn’t have, but this encourages us and our kids to be consumers and accumulators—that is, people who judge the quality of life by possessions and comfort, without recognizing how suffering can aid in their spiritual growth as young adults.”

Dupee recommends that parents consider the following when it comes to their kids experiencing suffering:

  1. Don’t overprotect. There is an unseen cost of overprotecting kids, of solving their problems for them, even when they are at an age when they are able to do so themselves. Don’t take away the opportunity for their dignity to grow through suffering.
  2. Talk about suffering, trials and consequences. From early on parents have the opportunity to talk with their kids about how God can and will use trials. They should provide their kids with Scripture and maybe a story to illustrate the distinctly Christian point of view on the topic.
  3. Don’t pretend. Years ago, Huey Lewis had a song with the lyric, “Sometimes, bad is bad.” Though he meant something a bit different, the concept pertains to life’s difficulties. Ignoring pain or stoically adopting a “no regrets” policy may seem like a good idea in the short run, but that pain will find a way to express itself in surprising and unwelcome ways. Parents should let their kids see them walk through the hard places with grace, but also with honesty.
  4. Ask for help. There is a difference between a healthy journey into suffering and clinical depression. If a child is so blue that he or she can’t get out of bed, is cutting, not eating, abusing alcohol or drugs, acting out sexually, flying into rages or manifesting behavior that could hurt him or herself or others, get a recommendation for a Christian counselor and make an appointment.
  5. Have the cause-doesn’t-equal-effect conversation. Religious people have a tendency to assume a hurting person did something to earn his or her misery. A risk of growing up in the church is that your kids will catch a “they must have had it coming” attitude toward the suffering of others. Look for an opportunity to speak to the “Why?” of human suffering—help your kids learn not to assume the worst of others or themselves.
  6. Have the cause-does-equal-effect conversation. Some of the suffering our kids will experience, of course, will be the result of their own impulsive or wayward actions. It’s our job to help them distinguish between what is not their fault (death of a friend, failing when they try hard) and what is a natural outcome of their poor choices.

The college and university campus is the most strategic mission field in the world, with only 2% of students being reached with the Gospel. CCO partners with local church congregations to help students feel a sense of belonging. A community is formed between the CCO staff and students, who are invited into the lives of local congregations. Through this community of fellowship, CCO is able to minister to the students in a life-changing way


For more information about Coalition for Christian Outreach, contact, Nick DiFazio, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.