Disclaimer: I am neither a licensed counselor nor a psychologist, just an untrained observer of human behavior. However, over the past few months—as preschoolers, elementary kids, and preteens have returned in-person to church gatherings—I either have noticed first-hand, heard from others, or just sensed personally that something is different.
I truly believe that our communities and churches have yet to see the lasting impact of lockdowns, long-term online learning, lengthy hospital stays, deaths of friends and family members, cancellations of extracurricular activities, lack of appropriate physical touch, shortage of kidmin volunteers, and constant mask-wearing. If present realities are any indication, we’ll experience a continuation of these three issues: anxiety, anger, and antisocial behavior.
- Anxious. Kids have a lot to be anxious about: losing loved ones to COVID-19, completing school work, maintaining their lifestyle with one or both parents out of work, etc.
- Angry. Kids are angry that they can’t play team sports, go to parties, be with friends, go on vacation, or eat at their favorite restaurant.
- Antisocial. Kids have spent a lot of time at home. They have lost the skills necessary to “play nice” with others. They haven’t had opportunities to share their stuff, and they haven’t been challenged to resolve interpersonal conflicts.
Lest we believe that only children are anxious, angry, and antisocial, think about the adults you come in contact with. Many of them probably have these same issues. Adults have learned how to cope, and in some cases, mask their feelings. Kids, however, are more transparent. And, these issues may seem to be amplified in kids because children are external processors. In other words, as a kidmin leader or volunteer, you will most likely be the recipient of that anxiety, anger, and antisocial behavior.
The question then is, “How do we provide extra care for preschoolers, elementary kids, and preteens who are anxious, angry, anad antisocial?” Among possible solutions, I suggest the following:
- Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Dealing with kids who are struggling behaviorally will be less reactionary and more lovingly responsive if we as adults get adequate rest, eat healthy foods, exercise, and nurture our minds.
- Take care of yourself spiritually. Spending time in God’s Word and prayer prepares us to love and care for kids. The more we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, the more we will exhibit “the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Take care of yourself socially. This may sound antithetical, but we as adults need to spend time with other adults in order to sharpen our social skills. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” After over a year of attending church online, working from home, having our groceries and other purchases delivered to our homes, and consuming all forms of entertainment at home, our social skills are rusty at best and non-existent at worst. How can we expect to care for kids if we ourselves don’t know how to relate to people outside of our households?
I truly believe most of us are anxious, angry, and antisocial to some extent. If we take care of ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit, then we can provide extra care to kids who have these same behavioral challenges. Paul said it best when he wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) Let’s receive God’s comfort and then give comfort to the kids in our ministries, in the name of Jesus.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ongoing Bible Studies and Network Partnerships, Nashville, TN, and is a graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The author of It’s Worth It: Uncovering How One Week Can Transform Your Church and a general editor of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids, Landry is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. He teaches kids at his church in Middle Tennessee, where his wife Janetta is the Preschool Minister. They enjoy spending time with their two adult sons and their wives, and spoiling their five grandchildren.