Here we are in October, the reality of month eight of the Covid-19 pandemic settling in and clearly staying a while. As parents or ministry leaders, we are shifting gears into a new season as school is in session, we will surely have to shepherd the children amongst us through new things – different things and sometimes, difficult things. There are many contexts we find ourselves in this fall season. Some of us parents are working indefinitely at home alongside our kids who are now doing school at home. Or, some of us may be watching our kids get on the bus with new school supplies that include jumbo hand sanitizer tubs for their classroom (which they may not get to leave for lunch or recess). We know that after-school sports and clubs have either been cancelled or constrained to new regulations, that schools may at any time be cancelled due to outbreaks and that the possibility of virtual school may soon be a reality for everyone – not just those of us in the big cities. These changes in normal rhythms are hard on us – and they can be hard on the kids in our lives. We are living through a pandemic and the changes and fallout because of this reality are endless. As the grown-ups, however, we can help the youngest of these adapt to change and maybe even learn some major life lessons for their good in the meantime. Afterall, we serve a good God and when we place our trust in him, we can teach our kids that he is in control and will be our helper. Through that lens, here are a few things that can help our kids adapt to change while living through a pandemic:
- Create Routines with Flexibility: Children (and adults) thrive on routine because they bring a sense of safety and security. While it may be impossible to keep set routines like we’ve had in the past, we can still have expected rhythms to set in motion. For example, mealtimes might be all over the map if kids are on different school schedules – but you can still have a touch point with them at breakfast, lunch (if they are home) and dinner. You can still provide their expected, favorite foods – even fun surprises with a treat here and there. Wake-up and bedtime routines should be as constant as possible, regardless of school and work scenarios. For example, if kids are schooling at home, they should still have a set bedtime routine. Even if they think they don’t like it, ultimately it will help their sleep and any anxiety that can creep in during unknown seasons like the one we are all in.
- Look for Growth Opportunities: Our kids are no longer living the same old status quo lives they are used to living. While it may be uncomfortable for them to be flexible about things they love, say getting to sit with their friends at lunch, it can also be an opportunity to stretch them and help them grow in various ways. Encourage them to take risks where appropriate, such as learning to be kind to the kids around them that may not be their usual running buds. For virtual learners, embrace the fact that while they are in front of screens more, they are indeed learning to navigate digital platforms, upload assignments, and manage their time – much like the workplace environment today. Let’s not miss these rare chances to help them try new things, take some chances, and work outside their comfort zone. It’s been said many times that kids are resilient – and they are; so, provide opportunities for growth as you see them.
- Pursue Spiritual Development: As we watch our children go back out into the world in spite of the Covid-19 virus, we as adults wrestle with our own anxiety and insecurities. In many ways, we are more anxious and nervous than they are. Experts are pleading with us to not express or process our anxiety in front of our kids because they are looking to us for safety. They take our cues from watching us so if we are pacing the floor with worry about catching the virus or stressed out at the thought of working from home while kids are schooling from home, you can bet our kids will be anxious and stressed as well. Even worse, they may think that our disappointment in the situations we find ourselves in, is an expression of disappointment in them. We do not want to send these signals. Instead, let’s pursue our own spiritual health and work out our fears and anxieties with the Lord through His Word and a strong prayer life. Let’s lay our very valid concerns before him and truly model to our kids how to live life with peace and joy knowing that God is in control and that he never leaves us. Child therapist, Sissy Goff says, “kids need a safe and non-anxious adult in their life in order for them to not be anxious.” Therefore, we must pursue our own spiritual health so that we can use this time to help our kids look to God for their own peace and contentment. Truly, a wonderful life-long lesson could come out of this season if we model what it means to look to the Father for everything we need.
All in all, our prayer should be that this pandemic would not be wasted by holding our breath until it is over, that we wouldn’t put our head in the sand or worse, articulate our fear and worry in front of our children. Our prayer should be that this would be a teachable time in spite of significant changes in our lives. Even our little ones will know that they can count on us when we have resolved to place our hope in Jesus and completely depend on him for all of our needs.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. Psalm 23:1 CSB
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of Lifeway Kids. She is a Baylor graduate and offers a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and publishing. She is the author of Kids Ministry that Nourishes and Life Verse Creative Journal, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter. She and her husband, Michael, along with their three children reside in Nashville.