We are all facing a difficult time. So it is normal for everyone to be anxious and concerned. When we are anxious we can get impatient, sad, angry, withdraw, and some buy lots of toilet paper. We can do two things to cope: we can panic or plan. Both take a lot of energy; only one helps.
Remember there are 365 times the books of the Bible say “Be Not afraid.” One for every day of the year! This is not to prevent all fear (fear is normal in times of stress and danger), but to assure us that God is with us, so we turn our fears over to God and lessen them. In Jesus we see a God who understands all things human—all feelings, all temptations, all struggles and all joys. Psalm 23 or 139 assure us that God is with us always as unconditional LOVE. In Jesus this love put on human flesh and “moved into the neighborhood”.
Anxiety: Kids of all ages will pick up the stress and tension in the air. All will need extra assurance from adults who love them.
Answering Kids Questions: Ask your kids what their questions are. Let them lead on this. They will not necessarily be the same questions you have. You want to answer their questions as best you can with age appropriate answers (simpler the younger the child). You want to create an atmosphere where they can ask you anything! You want to assure them that you and many other adults are working very hard to keep them safe. You want to assure them that God is with us. If you don’t know an answer, research it with your child.
Family Schedules: Come up with a family schedule including adults who are working from home. Kids who help design the learning/work parts of their schedule own them more (age dependent how much they can do this). Adults also need to communicate when they need to work/take conference calls etc. Have a family schedule posted, go over it the night before. Remember there are many resources online for home schooling.
Focus on what you can control, help kids focus on what they can control.
Limit access to news, we all need to take breaks or it gets overwhelming.
Prayer: Model prayer as a family and alone. Secular studies show that those who are “mindful” get through the storms of life better. Keep or develop a time for family prayer. Mindfulness can be as simple as spending 5 minutes on your breathing. Your mind will wander, accept don’t condemn, and go back to focus on breathing. You can also choose a favorite word for God—Love, God, Jesus, Father, Savior, Shepherd—pick what works for you. Repeat silently over and over—set a timer for 3 then 5 then 10 minutes. But don’t beat yourself up if you can only do 3 minutes. Go to the “Next Steps” page on this website for devotional material. God listens to all prayer and promises to be with us. God is deeper than our feelings so if you don’t “feel” it that does not mean God is not there. We do not get everything we pray for, but the practice of prayer keeps us relating to a God of love and remembering God is with us to bring us through.
Worship: We will send out a link on Saturdays for our online worship service. It will be video-taped and then available on that link. Pick the time that works for you and your family to worship. Share link with those you think might like it.
Questions about death: If they ask, “Will you or my grandparents die?” think about the age of the child on how detailed an answer you give. Assure them you are doing everything you can to stay healthy and safe. Never say, “I won’t die.”, cause we all do! Use the real word for everything including death. It is death, not sleep, passing on, etc. Never say if someone dies God needed that person or needed another angel—that makes God out to be the mean one causing the death. Instead say “God promises to be with us always.” If someone we love dies, we will grieve and we will be sad and God will help us through and we trust that the person who has died is safe with God in heaven.”
Kids under age 5 or 6 do not have ability to fully understand that death is permanent. Remember tears and sorrow are appropriate if someone you love dies.
The following scriptures may be useful. Click on any of them to go the NRSV translation. Romans 8:31-39 is a beautiful summary of our faith in forgiveness and resurrection through Jesus. If you have the children’s Bible given to 3rd graders or The Message Bible given to 6th graders get it out and read that version with your kids. We are also heading towards Easter—Matthew 27 and 28, Mark 15 and 16, Luke 23 and 24, John 19, 20, and 21 are the gospel stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They differ slightly and that is OK. Each writer was emphasizing what would help his community of faith. Even eye-witnesses to a car accident give different versions of what happened. The differences simply give us deeper insights.
Stay connected: through phone or internet with people you care about.
Get outside: Go outside everyday if realistic (with social distancing from others—6 feet at least).
Treat yourselves, and be flexible: If the schedule can’t be followed perfectly, remember that we have a God who forgives. We get to model that as well. Have healthy rewards for studies/chores followed through on etc. Healthy snacks, walks, play board game.
Music: Listen to your favorite music to lower stress.
Don’t overload on screen time. It will go up but put in some reasonable limits as well. Kids old enough to do gaming online—this is a way they connect with friends.
Plan ways to help others. This is one of the best ways for all ages to cope with feelings of fear, sadness, or anxiety. All hand washing and social distancing is helping others. Kids can make cards for others, phone or visit online. Check in on neighbors or others you are concerned about. In Italy, every noon people go to their doors and clap for the health care workers. Every evening at 6pm they go to doors and sing to each other. This may or may not make sense for us, but you get the idea—be creative on ways you can help while staying safe!
Being church now: We have cancelled gatherings but not being the church. Call or email others if you need help. Call or email Pastor Kim if you have prayer requests you want sent out to all, if you or a family member have lost a job, get sick, need food or other assistance.
Together with God we will get through this.