Episode 67: Interview with Speaker, Author, and Teacher Nadia Swearingen-Friesen (Part 2)

In this episode we continue our interview with Nadia. She shares some encouraging insights for helping our children become more compassionate toward others and some great books to bless your kids. 

Our Guest Today: Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a national speaker, educator, and author with a passion for empowering parents. Her book, Sticks! A Practical Way to Reduce Stress, Improve Discipline, and Create the Family You Want offers encouragement and ideas to parents who find themselves living in survival mode or struggling at home.  Nadia speaks all over the country on a wide range of parenting topics and is passionate about intentional parenting. She has been married to her husband, Mark, for 27 years and has four children. Nadia and her family live outside Chicago with their Goldendoodle pup, Dakota. 


Here is a link to her Sticks! book:  https://amzn.to/3A3Evno

Here is a link to her website: nadiaswearingen-friesen.com/

Books Recommended in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today, we do part two of our interview with Nadia Swearingen-Friesen. I’m so glad to have her with us again today. Nadia is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering moms to embrace intentional parenting. Drawing on her experience as an educator and mother of four, Nadia offers women specific practical ideas to help them meet their goals as wives and moms. Nadia has had the opportunity to offer presentations to a variety of organizations, including Hearts At Home and MOPS International. Nadia has also attended and graduated from She Speaks, a conference for speakers and writers offered by Proverbs 31 Ministries. Nadia also speaks locally at parenting groups, early childhood programs, and anywhere parents need encouragement and education. In addition to her popular blog, Nadia is also a regular contributor to Family Fire, a family-oriented website produced by Reframe Media. Nadia, thank you for joining us today.

Nadia:

I’m glad to be here, Terrie.

Terrie:

Nadia, last week, you shared so much good information with us. So this week let’s talk about some of the other topics that you share when you go to speak and also some books that are important to you. Nurturing your child’s spirit–that one is very intriguing to me, of course. And you share about that one?

Nadia:

Sure. In that talk, my goal is to help parents have very practical ideas about how they can help their children to grow spiritually. We spend a lot of time booking doctors’ appointments, taking our kids to the dentist, charting their growth, all of those things, but there’s another type of growth that we really do need to be mindful of. It matters that we spend time teaching our kids about Jesus, about God, about his overwhelming and sacrificial love for us. And they hear that best from us, and they hear that best at home. And we can put them in a Christian school and we can put them in Sunday school, but we don’t want to forget how important our voice is in their lives. And so that talk just gives very specific sort of, as you’re walking down the road, kind of ideas for how we can help our kids to grow spiritually.

Nadia:

Part of it is just being mindful of our conversation. There was one year when we were living in this little townhouse and we would eat dinner near a sliding glass door. And one night we noticed as we were eating dinner that this big spider had made a web in the corner of our sliding glass door, and my kids were little and they were completely taken with the spider. So we talked about it. You know, we talked about what the spider does, and we talked about God’s hand in nature. And we had no idea that we would be living with the spider for months forward because there was a light outside our house, right by that sliding glass door. So it was prime realty on a summer night for the spider to come. We would flip the light on, and all the mosquitoes and insects would come to the light and get caught in the web. And so we named him. His name was Webster because we’re just that original. And then every night we would watch him kind of go through his web and take out parts that needed to be fixed and put new parts in. And there was one time there was a big, big storm and we had brick on the outside of our house. And then it was so windy, and Webster didn’t go to the brick like you’d think. I’m blowing all over the place here. I’m going to go to the brick, but he didn’t. He sat in the middle of his web. Like he trusted what his life goal was and the work of his own hands. And he sat in the middle of his web, even in that very extreme sort of situation. That conversation with our kids was just amazing to talk about when you really try on something and you’re really doing your best work, you can trust that. That goes along the way. And so part of what we want to do as parents is we want to give our kids the ability to see the world around them from a perspective of faith. And we can’t just do that with, you know, one conversation. It’s a series of conversations that we go through. It’s helping them to see God’s hand in nature, it’s helping them to see how creative he is. We as adults look at an elephant or a platypus and we just sorta take it at face value. Well, I mean, come on, that’s hysterical, an elephant. It’s ridiculous. You know, that is a creative God. You have this giant animal with this humongous trunk. God is creative. Kids get that. You know, they create every day. You look at a platypus, and it’s like God had a table full of leftover parts and just stuck them all together. And here we have this totally bizarre animal. We want to enter into that with our kids. It’s amazing and funny and creative. And when we help our kids to see that side of God, I think it helps them to feel like he’s approachable. But what we find a lot of times, is that parents will kind of use God in a conspiratorial way. He can see you when I can’t see you, but he’s not really on our team trying to catch kids doing something naughty. We want our kids to know that he uses flawed people and small people. And the whole Bible is full of that story. You know, he didn’t use the strongest and most powerful people to tell his tale. He used people that were confused and stressed and doubtful. And those are the stories that we read about all throughout the whole, the whole Bible.

Terrie:

Yeah. That’s great. We don’t have time to go over every topic on your list, but I encourage everyone to look at what you have available and to consider booking you because you have some great things to share, especially with parents. But I would like to still take the time to talk about fostering compassion. This has been something with my own children that I’ve tried so hard to get them to everyday to think about “How can I bless someone today? How can I be a blessing to someone today?” It’s been hard with autistic kids. That’s really hard, but I’m curious about this talk. And if you could share a little bit about that.

Nadia:

So one of the things that we wanted to do was help our kids to see their place in the world around them. One of the things that we tell kids a lot as they’re growing up is God has a plan for your life. And that is true, but it feels sort of future-focused. And the truth is that even in the life of a four-year-old or a three-year-old or a 16 year old, God has a plan for your life. On this day, there are things that we can do that help to build the kingdom where we are right now, whether it’s helping our kids to show compassion to somebody in their class, in their preschool. All of those things go a really long way, but we also wanted to help our kids to see their place in the world even bigger than school. We live outside of Chicago. So we have access to just a major city, an amazing and wonderful city. It’s one of my favorite places ever. I love it. And we wanted our kids to be able to feel comfortable there, but also to see need and to be open to following their own nudge of compassion. One opportunity that I’ll share from that talk. We were taking our kids, two of our kids, to the theater one time. They were maybe in third and fifth grade, and we were headed downtown and we’re kind of tight on time, had to get to the show. They knew the show, they were excited about it. We had just enough time to like duck into a McDonald’s to have dinner. So we go in, and as we went into the McDonald’s, there was a gentleman seated on the street with a sign that said that he was homeless. And so it actually said he was homeless and hungry. We went in. My husband and I were very focused on trying to get our kids to eat before we’d go to the show. As we were ordering our food, we noticed our boys were kind of having a private conversation with each other, and they came to us and they said there was a man outside and he has a sign that he doesn’t have a place to live and he doesn’t have any food. And my husband, I said, yeah, we saw that. And my son said, but we’re in a restaurant. I said, okay. So what do you want to do? And he said, well, can we buy him food? Can we get him something? And my husband and I had a million choices at that point. And I think we, as parents, need to be really careful about what we do choose to say in those situations. We could have said negative things or suspicious things, or we could have ignored that. Instead, we said, yep, figure out what you want to order him. And we had them place their own order. We told them that they needed to eat first because we were trying to get to the theater, and they insisted we sit by a window to make sure he didn’t leave. So we went and we sat by the window. When we were headed out, the boys had their food that they were going to share with him. And I just pulled them aside. And I said, the only thing that I ask is that you look him in the face. He’s just like us. He’s a person. He’s loved by God. He’s just like us. And he deserves that respect. And so they went and they, you know, gave it to him and had a brief exchange. And that was that. We walked away, which our boys had a natural response to act compassionately towards somebody in need. And as parents, I think we need to look for those opportunities and foster them. How can we teach our kids to see beyond themselves? And technology has something to do with this, but we’re very individualized and self-focused right now. We have to intentionally, as parents, make a plan so that we are not just looking at ourselves, but we’re looking at the world around us. And we’re seeing what difference we can make. My boys had a response to this man, and that man ate. That’s big. They were just little kids, and they were able to help. Our kids can help. And we need to figure out ways to give them opportunities to do that. The talk kind of goes through a bunch of, again, really practical ideas that can help our kids to look for opportunities to help, and then to help in ways that are safe and small, but really foster that natural response of compassion.

Terrie:

I love that. I usually ask every guest what their favorite picture books are, what their favorite read-aloud books are, and if they have any books they’d like to share specifically with our parents that are listening. So would you have anything you’d like to share about some books?

Nadia:

I love that question? I absolutely love children’s books. We have an embarrassing amount of children’s books. Here I have a little free library in my front yard for the same. It was just a huge goal of mine to get it done. And we got it done last year. So I love, love, love children’s books, especially, but all books. Here are some that have been really important in the lives of our children. It’s called Tales of the Kingdom, and it’s by David and Karen Mains. If people look that up, I would highly recommend that they get the first edition. The artwork in that book is so stunning. If your kids are littler, you could use it as a read aloud. If your kids are older, they could read it themselves. It has chapters, but it’s kind of set up like a storybook. And it tells the tale of the main character Scar Boy, as he comes to know the king and the kingdom. And so it is very much a Christian story. David and Karen Mains have done a lot of Christian stories and books and all that sort of stuff. They’re actually located not that very far from where I am here, but that book is one that we shared with our kids as they were growing up. I absolutely love it. It’s a beautiful book, a great book to have conversations with your kids about, about who the king is and who is loved by the king. All of those things become very clear in that story. We also love, and I’m sure you’ve talked about this before on your podcast, but we love the Jesus Storybook Bible. We used that for devotions for quite a long time with our kids, but to be able to see the whole of scripture, like where Jesus is woven through the whole of scripture, including the old Testament. It’s just so cool to me, but so available to kids, they can see it, enjoy it, love it. So that is another big favorite of ours. I know you’ve talked about this one too, but we really loved the Chronicles of Narnia. As a read aloud, we went back and forth on whether or not we would read it in order chronologically or in the order that the books were released, but The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the most captivating. Obviously that was one of those series that we just absolutely loved doing with our kids, reading aloud. And it has so many opportunities for us to talk about the implications of the story and what that means for God’s kingdom itself in terms of not necessarily a Christian book, but just something that was really an interesting tale to share with our kids. We, and I’ve used this in classrooms as well.

Nadia:

My Father’s Dragon is a chapter book, but great as a read aloud, even for young kids. When I read it to my littlest ones, we would gather. In the book is a story about this person who is trying to save this dragon, and the dragon is being mistreated. So as we just talked about compassion, this is another opportunity for us to talk about what do we do when we see somebody that’s doing something wrong, but it also gives us the opportunity to think creatively because he brings just the weirdest things with him to get this job done. And so we would have our kids have a bag where they had to pack these things. It was like lollipops and hair ribbons. And, and then as we read the story, we would say, okay, look in your bag. What could Elmer–who’s the main character–what could Elmer use out of this bag to get out of this situation with these lions or whatever it is, the alligators. And so for us, it was an opportunity for us to talk about how capable we are and how we respond when somebody needs help. So even though it’s not a Christian book at all, it is a book that tells a story about somebody who is doing what he can do in a situation. And that has implications for the spiritual lives of our kids. So, and it was honestly fun.

Terrie:

I hadn’t heard of that one. I’ve got to look that one up. That one sounds wonderful.

Nadia:

There’s a couple of other books in that series, but I just find that kids really consistently enjoy it. I was substitute teaching in a third grade classroom last year, and we did it every time I was there. We read another chapter and they just were hanging on every word, just absolutely loved it. And so that was really great. And then there’s two other books that I wanted to mention. One of them is called Allie All Along, and one of them is called The Color Monster. And both of these books look really similar: lots of primary colors, a white cover, and they both talk about emotions in a way that children can understand. Allie All Along–I love, love, love that book. And that is a conversation between a brother and his sister who is extremely upset, and he gives her different things to do and sort of layers of emotion in these illustrations come off as she does these different things. But all of those things are actually things that can help kids who have been through trauma or been through difficult situations or have problems where their emotions get really big. So it’s a super helpful book for parents to teach our kids really healthy ways of handling emotion. And The Color Monster is also that sort of same idea to help our kids to think about emotions in new ways so that they can kind of sort out what they’re feeling, which will help them communicate with their parents about where they are.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s great. Thank you. And another question I always ask is how can we, the listeners and I, help support you in your ministry?

Nadia:

Yeah. I love that question. So I love what I do. I love to speak. I speak at conferences and schools and churches and moms groups and MOPS groups. If there are people around who would like to look into these topics, I travel all over the place. I’m happy to do that. I also partially, because of COVID, have made it possible to speak virtually. So if, you know, money is tight, and I certainly understand that, especially for ministries, then that’s something to talk about. I’m happy to do a live presentation virtually, those sorts of things. I am really passionate about helping parents to approach this really important work with increased intentionality to see how important their work and their voice is in the lives of their children. And so anywhere that I can do that, I’m happy to do so.

Terrie:

That’s great. Well, I have really enjoyed talking with you, please. If you have other books coming out, let me know, and we’ll have you on again as a guest. You can share about any new books you’ve written or new topics you’re sharing, and I know it would be a blessing to our listeners. Thank you so much for being here today. I feel like you’ve given us a lot to not only think about, but to look into your website and see what you offer. I think you’ve got a lot that would bless many parents and many churches if they would have you come and speak. I just really appreciate what you’ve shared. I appreciate your heart for the family and for parenting and making parenting something that is a positive experience, the way it’s meant to be. It’s such an important calling, and we just can’t miss it. It’s too important. And so thank you for sharing.

Nadia:

Oh, I totally agree. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. It was good to talk with you today.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to connect with Nadia, you can connect with her on her website at nadiaswearingenfreisen.com. That link will be in the show notes. Remember, you can join my mailing list on my website. And when you do, you have access to several freebies that are available only to those on my mailing list. You can reach me at TerrieHellardBrown.com.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.