Children who are in difficult situations do not always know how to fully deal with the situation. The challenge is amplified when they realize that the training provided by their parents is not a match for the situation. Many are taught to “just move on” by parents or a society wanting to cover up shame and maintain an image of piety and peace. It is not sustainable for parents to protect their image above the imperative to be a support to their children–especially children experiencing trauma.
Children of Preacher-Fathers
Preacher’s children are a group of children that deal with this challenge on a level others may not fully comprehend. Preacher’s children deal with a role in which there are higher expectations from their parents–fathers in particular. Many preacher-fathers prioritize their role as a pastor, and work to safeguard their image for the churches they pastor.
Daughters are particularly damaged in this exchange. Pastors have high expectation for all their children, but the expectation and standards for their daughters exceed that of their sons. Daughters are expected to be perfect and beside their fathers at all times. Preacher’s children want to make their fathers happy and live up to their expectations, but when difficult situations occur in life, they expect their fathers to step out of the position as a pastor and be that father figure.
Stereotypes and Judgment of Pastor’s Kids
With the stereotype about preacher’s kids, it is difficult for the kids to live a normal life. They have to do everything the “right” way. And, that right way is judged by every man, woman, and child in the church. People fail to realize that the stereotypes about preacher’s kids are not true. Everyone has their own way of living their life. Some kids choose a sustainable path to success, and there are some who make unsustainable decisions. How a parent raises a child indicates their decision-making once they become an adult. Lack of involvement in the lives of children may cause some not only to look at their fathers differently but to look at religion differently as well.
The Need for Trauma Support
Some preacher-fathers do not understand the difference between a pastor and a father because they have held the position for so long. Yet, preacher-fathers cannot preach to a church about how to live right or how to handle your children if they do not explore the same within their own homes. Practice what you preach is especially true in the case of preacher-fathers. People attending church have issues as well. They not only teach their children to deal with situations, but they endure any shame along with their children. Support, faith, and a future takes priority over image.
Children of preacher-fathers who go through traumatic situations should not have to go through them alone. Preacher-fathers must step up and love by example. Instead of trying to avoid the spectacle or embarrassment, take action. Show congregations how grace, resilience, and unconditional love behaves. That example will change the childhood of many by informing the parenting of all who call the church their home.
[by Taylor Hayes. Taylor is a 3rd year Social Work major at Tennessee State University. A pastor’s kid and an aspiring writer, Taylor seeks to impact the lives of youth through her writing and her career as a social worker.]