Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Helping Children Find Lessons in their Struggles and Setbacks


Three experienced homeschooling moms share methods to help their children learn life lessons as they deal with struggles and setbacks.

Trusting in God’s Plans…

Struggles and setbacks are natural occurrences in life. Everyone succeeds sometimes. Everyone fails occasionally. Plans progress as hoped, or they fall apart. The key to both successes and setbacks is to discover the lessons within.

The most effective way to teach children how to uncover the lessons veiled in struggles is to acknowledge your learned life lessons.

For example, when we bought a restaurant more than six years ago, the whole venture was a real struggle. I realized my children were watching to see how my husband and I handled the stress. One child was waiting to see if we were as trusting of God’s Plans as we’d taught them to be.

So, throughout that adventure, I made it my mission to talk with my children about the positive takeaways I garnered from each trial and setback.

Angry customers taught me to be more patient, inexperienced employees led me to be more compassionate, and financial struggles led me to pray more.

In addition to sharing your experiences, talk to your children about their difficulties. Ask them questions meant to help them evaluate hidden lessons for themselves. If they cannot see a positive takeaway, suggest some ideas. However, don’t insist on telling them the lesson to be learned. Allow your children the freedom to discern for themselves.

Talk to your children about the big and little lessons you’ve learned throughout life, in times of success or failure.

And most importantly, talk with them about their own experiences to lead them into uncovering the hidden gems of grace and wisdom concealed within.

Tara Brelinsky, North Carolina

We Are Each on Our Journey…

Acknowledge the hard.

Let your children know learning and life can be difficult, and hard things are worth doing.

I remind them of when they have done hard things in the past and succeeded.

Sometimes I just listen and offer no advice, as often they just need to know they are heard and understood. What I do not do is compare them with anyone else, especially their siblings. We are each on our journey; no one else can walk it for us.

Many days I take a page from Socrates’ book and ask them questions. “What worked well here?” “How could you have prepared better for this?” “How can you learn from this mistake?” “What can you do differently next time?”

And then let them talk themselves through it, all the while affirming my love for them and my confidence that they are eminently capable of handling this but that I am always here for support.

As a literary and history nerd family, we usually have fair doses of stories of Frodo’s journey with the Ring, Chamberlain’s defense of Little Round Top, and the Continental Army at Valley Forge mixed in.

Last but not least, I remind them to take everything, struggles and successes, hopes and fears and dreams and even cool things that happened that day, to their Heavenly Father, who loves them far more than I ever could.

Kristin Brown, Virginia

Maintain a Hopeful Attitude…

When I find that my child is struggling with something, I first ask them questions about it to understand the situation and their perspective.

I try always to use a calm voice and maintain a hopeful attitude toward a problem. I do not want to encourage despair or despondency because that will crush the child’s hope of overcoming their struggles.

I let them know that what is a challenge today will not be the same challenge in the future as they grow, mature, and experience more of life’s situations. I do not want them to think that where they are today is where they will stay forever.

I find myself saying, “It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them.”

Susan Brock, Virginia

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