Dear Empathy Aunt—The last of my children has now left home to go to university, and I feel so empty. I miss him so much. Any advice please?”
When it is time for one of our children to leave home for university it is a time of transition, both for us and the child. We have to trust in what values and truths we have imparted to our child to keep them safe and able to make good decisions. We have to trust them to God, and release our control over them altogether, which if we are caring parents can be difficult.
Make sure that you can text your son. Get to know the campus yourself. Go and see him on special occasions. Take him out.
It is important though, that during the first few weeks he does try to stay away, and get to know other students. University is not just about education; it is also about meeting other young people from other nations and cultures, and broadening their experience of life.
As parents, it can be a time to start a hobby or learn about something that you have always been interested in. If you are married or have a partner, grow together more as a couple. Spend time better and talk about things other than your children. It is an exciting time in which you can plan for the years you hope to have together.
Eph 2v10 tells us that God has created works for us to do that no one else can do, so spend time asking him what he wants you to do. Concentrate on the positives.
Your child may never be the same again. Be prepared for your child to mature. You may have to share your kitchen when he comes home, as he may want to continue his new cooking ability.
Be adaptable, love him, and tell him you love him and how proud you are of him. Make his friends welcome too.
May God bless you and your family
Dear Empathy Aunt – I overspent at Christmas and am having trouble paying my bills. I know I should handle my money better, but now I seem to be trapped in a vicious circle. Do you have any advice on how I can get my finances straight and keep them that way?
Did you know that there are more than 2000 verses in the Bible concerning money, and at least half of the parables address the subject? It is true that we are taught a lot about the importance of tithing and giving, but none of us are perfect, and sometimes we do let our finances slip out of control. Unless we take measures to correct matters, we can find ourselves in deep problems.
Sit down with pen and paper and work out exactly what you owe. Do not bury your head in the sand. Be brave and do the sums, you will feel better when you have done it, and you can then come up with a plan to clear your debts.
Write down everything you spend. Is there anything you can cancel? For example magazine subscriptions, satellite TV channels? If you can, cancel any non-essentials.
Try to reduce your food bills. If you shop at one of the big supermarkets try shopping at one of the smaller ‘own brand’ supermarkets. I have done this myself, the products are very good, and you can make a great saving on your food bills. Always make a shopping list and stick to it. This will stop you throwing expensive luxury items into the trolley!
Most of us own far too many clothes, so just buy essential clothing for a few months. Sometimes we buy clothes just to make ourselves feel better, and we should not do that. My advice is to stay away from big shopping centres, especially when there are sales on. Finding that one a bit difficult? OK do you want to get out of this mess or not?
Try to save on petrol costs by walking instead of taking the car.
Cut up your credit cards, and never be tempted to take loans to pay off your debts. These TV adverts offering loans of thousands of pounds to pay off your debts are from companies trying to take advantage of desperate people.
Work out a realistic budget. Calculate how much money you have left each week after paying your bills, and try your very hardest to stay within the limits of your budget. If you have an overdraft to reduce, ask your bank to drop it slightly each month until you have paid it off.
All a bit depressing I know, but look upon it as a challenge, and when you are straight, hopefully, you will be far less likely to get into this mess again.
Your local Citizens advice Bureau will put you in touch with debt counsellors if you need further help.
Remember there are four things to do if you want to be blessed financially.
WORK, GIVE, SAVE, AND SPEND. (In that order) If you follow this then you will not go far wrong!
Dear Empathy Aunt – I am experiencing bullying from school kids who I thought were my friends. They are horrible to me. How can I cope?
Nearly everyone is bullied at some time in their lives, by brothers and sisters, by neighbours, by fellow pupils, or by teachers. Some very famous people were bullied as children. If you are being bullied you feel miserable and unhappy, but you need to try and sort it out so that the bullying stops.
Your school may already have a way of dealing with bullies, so tell someone that you are being bullied. Talk to your teacher or your head. If your school ignores bullying don’t resign yourself to becoming a ‘victim’, ask others to help you. Sometimes it is the only way to get bullying stopped. Bullies depend on secrecy. Your school should be prepared to take positive action.
Here are some practical ways in which you can help yourself:
Try not to show you are upset or angry. Bullies love to get a reaction, so keep calm and walk away. If you have to speak keep you sentences short and precise. i.e. “That is my pen and I want it back.” Keep saying ‘NO’ if you don’t want to do something. Don’t give in to pressure.
Don’t fight back - you might get blamed. Just walk away towards a crowd of people. Try and avoid being alone in places you might get picked on. Stick within groups even if they are not your own friends.
Keep a diary. Note everything down. It makes it easier to prove what has happened.
Don’t think like a victim. When you have been bullied you may start to believe that no one will ever like you. Bullies often don’t like themselves, and they don’t want you to like yourself either.
Try to feel better about yourself. Every time you think something bad about yourself turn it around into something positive. Instead of thinking ‘I am hopeless at English,’ think ‘I may not be brilliant at English but at least I can read well and I enjoy a good story’. Develop a skill or an interest. Join a church group, or get a Saturday job if you are old enough. You could also do voluntary work.
Useful telephone numbers:
YOUTH ACCESS ( Provides names of local youth counsellors) 01509 210420
CHILD LINE ( 24 hour phone line free for children in trouble) 0800 1111
Dear Empathy Aunt – My friend has been told she is suffering from depression. As a Christian, she doesn’t know how to deal with this. Can you help her?
First of all, I would like to say at the outset it is not a lack of faith to be depressed anymore than it is a lack of trust not to follow a recipe when baking or to have your car overhauled. It is not a lack of faith to take medicine.
Proverbs 25:20 tells us to we must be compassionate to those who suffer with depression – Romans 12:15 ‘weep with those who weep’. Pray for your healing and get others to pray for you but keep taking the medication which has been prescribed – as you feel better, doctors are often willing to reduce the dosage.
Depression is both physical and psychosomatic, so depression is a real physical condition. Sometimes it is chemical or it can be induced by organic shock to the system, or some other cause.
Depression is a condition in which our personal spirit has died to its capacity to sustain the person fully, either emotionally or physically.
Despondency is not the same, we all have highs and lows – generally people know if it’s a lovely sunny day tomorrow they will feel better. One of the most telling facts about depression is the despair it brings. Depressed people know it won’t be better tomorrow. Depressed people very often cannot help themselves, recovery is not a matter of thinking more positively, or making positive confessions – recovery is a matter of rekindling and resurrecting that deadened spirit. No person in depression can kindle his own fire, he must be helped out of the pit by others. Psalm 88:3-4. He needs the prayers of others. He cannot do it alone. Depressions mysteriously lift, seemingly without a reason, but the depressed person knows it is from outside of themselves, it was not their willpower.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. Strong people fall into it. What you would say to people in general one must not say to someone depressed. What usually encourages will depress a depressive even further. There are many things we must not do or say and it is important for the body of Christ to understand this
· Do not say “cheer up” or “pull yourself together”
· Do not take a depressed person to a party
· Do not preach to a depressed person
· Do not scold a depressed person
· Don’t teach him – he will feel you don’t understand and feel condemned
The most common and basic causes of depression is a combination of performance orientation and hidden unresolved emotional factors of guilt, fear, resentment or rejection. The heart has received the message probably in early childhood, “only if you measure up to the standards around here will you be loved or belong”, so fear rules the heart. The result is either compliance or rebellion.
Death of a loved one or divorce may cast one into depression. If you have the gift of tears, or the ability to rage, depression seldom affects you. The quiet, disciplined people who don’t want to be a bother are the ones who may slip into depression, though aggressive people can too.
Anger expressed properly is healthy, as Jesus looked around at them “with anger, grieved at the hardness of their hearts” Mark 3:5. Remember most of the time its performance orientation that has locked away anger.
Look for ways of giving lots of positive affirmations and compliments. If a family member is depressed, let the family carry on solidly, the guilt of the depressed person will lessen. Depressives need that kind of ‘world is in place’ atmosphere around them. They can’t hold things together, so let the love and compassion of the Holy Spirit move through our eyes and voices as we lift the weary and depressed back to resurrected life. Depressives can be helped. We need only know how and persist in prayer for them.
Dear Empathy Aunt – My exams start soon and I don’t know how I am going to cope. I only have to see the exam paper and my mind goes blank.
No one likes exams, but life is a series of tests and exams—tests are necessary for us all to achieve and mature in life.
If your mind goes blank it is because you are telling your mind the wrong things, and you become anxious and fearful.
If you are anxious and have a sense that you will fail, or you are afraid of criticism then you need to take direct action to overcome these fears. Many of your future decisions will also be affected by fear of failure. Are you a perfectionist or unwilling to fail? If so, this stops your creativity and joy. It is an attempt to avoid low self esteem.
Avoiding exams or risks may seem comfortable, but it severely limits the scope of your creativity and will also affect your service for God.
Thankfully God has a solution for fear and failure, and through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross He has given us a secure self worth totally apart from any ability to perform. God has provided our right standing with Himself, so:-
· ask Him for help to calm your mind.
· don’t talk negatively about yourself.
· talk about good and positive things.
· when you pray, ask Jesus to help you to keep calm.
· remember what you have revised, and read all of the questions slowly and carefully before you start to answer them.
· ask members of the church to cover you in prayer. Give them an itinerary of what you are taking for each exam.
Remember, the most successful people have to face challenges too, so go for it with God and do your best!
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