Unprecedented. I’m getting tired of that word, but haven’t yet found a suitable substitution. Unparalleled, unheard of, or incomparable maybe. Really, they all mean the same thing – we currently find ourselves knee-deep in something no one in my generation or the one before mine has ever experienced. We are wading through uncharted waters. Furthermore, if you are reading this blog, it probably means you shepherding children through it as well.
How’s that going?
My kids are a bit older – tweens & teens – and we are having our ups and downs this week. They are ecstatic about sleeping but not so ecstatic about not seeing their friends. My senior is wrecked knowing that her senior prom and/or graduation might be cancelled. My waters might be a bit different than the ones you are wading through with preschool and elementary children, but I am wading nonetheless.
So, how can we help our children right now? How can we lessen their anxiety and fear? Here are some suggestions.
- Talk about it. Sometimes we think that talking about it with young children fuels their fear. Actually, the opposite is true. They have questions and they need answers. Don’t avoid the conversation. You are the lens through which they see the world and they need you to help them with what they are wondering right now.
- Stay developmentally appropriate. Obviously, a four year old cannot understand what a nine year old can. Keep that in mind as you talk. Let the children lead the conversation with their questions and don’t volunteer too much “extra” information. Give them simple, but honest answers, to the best of your ability and don’t be afraid to answer “I don’t know.”
- Offer reassurance and find the positives. Don’t dismiss children’s fears – regardless of your own opinions. Young children are, by nature, egocentric. They might be afraid they will get the virus or someone they love will get it. They are most certainly more worried about how this is affecting them than they are concerned about Italy or other states. Focus on how YOUR household is staying safe (washing hands, not going to restaurants, etc.) and point out positive things about the situation (family game nights, sleeping in, etc.) Insert some fun such as declaring tomorrow pajama day or making pancakes together.
- Stick with routines. Familiarity creates comfort for children. As much as possible, stick to routines including regular bedtimes and mealtimes.
- Finally, deal with your own fears and anxiety. Children are very intuitive and, if you are scared and frustrated, they will know. While these emotions are perfectly normal in this situation, adults need to find ways to cope with their own anxieties so those emotions aren’t transferred to their children. So, plop the kids in front of their favorite TV show and go have 10 minutes by yourself if you need it and don’t feel guilty. Pray, talk to a friend, get counseling, reach out to a pastor – what YOU need right now is important, too, and it will make you better able to help your children if you help yourself.
- Lastly, lean into your faith. In difficult times, we can either choose to push God aside or we can choose to lean into the comfort and peace only He can provide. I say lean into it. Openly show your children that your are leaning into it and take them with you. How?
- Pray. On your own or together – or both.
- Journal. (Children can color.)
- Go out in nature and appreciate God’s creation.
- Read Scripture. Here are a few verses to get you started.
- Philippians 4:6- “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
- John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
- Isaiah 41:10- “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
- Jeremiah 29:11- “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
When my kids were younger, I frequently told myself “this too shall pass.” Granted, I was typically referring to potty training or temper tantrums – certainly not a global pandemic – but, in the end, it always did pass and we came out on the other side better and stronger.
This too shall pass, friends, and we will come out on the other side with new knowledge, new perspective, and hopefully, stronger faith and more love for one another.
Stay safe and healthy. Godspeed.