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Monday, December 1, 2014

Communicating with our Kids: Interview with Caleb Suko, Part 1

I’m pausing my series on Hindrances to Becoming Like Christ to bring you a two part interview with Caleb from Sukofamily.org, author of What If… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You

Caleb and his wife are missionaries, and parents, in the Ukraine. Their lives are much different than the average American Christian—for starters, they have to think about evacuation plans if the war comes closer to their home. They also have to raise their kids in a violent and unstable society that is undergoing massive change.

If you’re a parent or someone in a youth leadership position—and even if you’re not—I highly encourage you to read this two part interview.

This message is important as things around the globe are becoming more unstable.

Many argue we are living in the “last days”. 

Likewise, others denounce that, saying there have always been times like these. 

There has always been murder, war, hatred, adultery, pornography, drugs, slavery, etc.

However, I contend that there has never been a time exactly like this: A time when children have instant access to knowledge through social media and technology.

Adults exert so much effort sheltering kids from certain realities (such as the beheadings of Christians in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine) but we almost passively allow our children to be bombarded with messages of sex, drugs, and violence in the form of “entertainment”.

It’s ironic and it’s making our children unprepared for the harsh realities of this world and what is coming.

I cannot say with certainty that America will have another 9/11 event, that there will be a draft  like in Vietnam, that we will experience another Great Depression, or that we are headed to WWIII. 

But I can tell you there are places in our world that are experiencing events similar to these. 

There are children who face uncertainties that many American’s think “could never happen here.”

But we are wrong.

It can happen anywhere. At anytime.

Now, on to the interview:

1.        A few months ago America commemorated the 13th Anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. As I thought back on that day and I looked at events currently transpiring around the globe, my heart was sad. I was also shocked to realize a generation of kids is being raised with little awareness of that tragic day. We shelter them from seeing the videos of planes flying into the twin towers and people jumping from the buildings. To top it off, we seem to have a “hushed” mentality of how we speak about it, leaving our kids in the dark about what that day meant. And I’m frustrated by how hard it is to filter our kids from so called “entertainment”. I have to admit, I’m struggling to find a balance between sheltering my kid and knowing how much information to give. Can you give some insight on your thoughts on this?

My wife and I simply try not to go out of our way to hide things like death from our kids. We also don’t go out of our way to expose them to it. I have always felt that American culture has a very skewed view of death. On the one hand children see killing in movies, games and on tv daily and on the other hand they have probably never seen someone die and if they did go to a funeral, it’s not likely that it was open casket.

In many parts of the world, when a family member dies, the body is in the home and it’s the family that deals with it. This may not be pleasant but it is healthy for our understanding of death and it does help people through the grieving process.

2.        Caleb, you were on furlough in America when the fighting began heating up in the Ukraine. Yet you and your family decided to return there despite the dangers. How did you speak to your children about your decision?

Honestly, it wasn’t even something that really came up. Our main concern was, “what do we do if we can’t go back?” We have family in Odessa, so we’d been talking with them on Skype regularly and no one in our family felt any reservations about going back.

Once we got back we did talk with the kids about what would happen if the war started moving in our direction. I wanted them to know that we did have a plan so that they wouldn’t be surprised if it came to that.

3.       When I wrote my book, “The Precipice” I used modern events as the foundation for my fictional stories. Yet as I read your blog, I feel as if my book is coming to life before my very eyes! You posted recently about another church being seized by armed men, about an elderly church member being killed during a supposed “cease fire”, staggering accounts such as:  70% of the Church fleeing, people going hungry and a pregnant mother dying protecting the life of her other child, as well as about a good friend of yours being drafted into the military. Life is changing fast in the Ukraine. There’s no way to shelter your 5 kids from this information. How do you and your wife communicate with them?

One thing we don’t do is we don’t sit and watch the news about Ukraine all day. There was a period a couple of months ago when things were escalating very fast and I started spending too much time on the news sites. I began to feel that it was wearing me out and I made a decision that I just couldn’t do that anymore.

I check the news now once or twice a day online and that’s it. If things are heating up we talk with the kids about it around the dinner table. Sometimes they come home with questions because their friends have told them something, so we try to deal with that as it comes.

We also spend time as a family praying for Ukraine and I think that’s one of the most important things we do. I want our kids to realize that ultimately God is still on the throne.

4.       That’s powerful, Caleb. Praying with your kids about the Ukraine, letting them hear you petition God and trust Him through prayers with things that are unsettling. I can see how that is very important. Can you tell us about the fears your kids have with the unstable world around them and how you and your wife address it.

Believe it or not they’re pretty much regular kids and they don’t seem to be too bothered by the war at this point. Last month we crossed the border from Ukraine into Moldova on the way to a conference, the kids had fun counting the army tanks we saw.

5.       That’s mind blowing to me as an American! How normal things like tanks can become to daily life, yet through various historical books I know that is a very normal occurrence. You mention in one blog post that during times of war, priorities change. Tell us about how your family’s life has changed because of the events transpiring around you. Both the good and bad.

The one word that comes to my mind is “focus.” Whenever tragic events like this occur in the world around you it forces you to focus on those things that are most meaningful and on those things that you know will last even if your home and life as you know it are destroyed.

The other major difference is in planning. No one here is planning long term. Of course, that can be good and bad. The good part is that it simplifies life for you; the bad part is that certain things just won’t happen without long term planning.

Join us next week as we continue this interview.

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