COVID-19 has changed everything. As adults, we are trying to adjust to this temporary bump in every way possible. But how are we helping our kids through this time? Are we just throwing busywork at them? Are we thinking about the impact this is having on their little minds, bodies and souls? How can we help our kids get through these uncertain times and come out on the other end better, stronger and rooted in their faith?
Here’s what I have learned so far.
One of the most important things we can do for our kids right now is to take care of ourselves as parents and caregivers. Self-care can look different for all of us; however, it needs to start by getting into God’s Word. Being rooted in his Word will bring us increased faith, hope, joy and peace. I don’t know about you, but I need a whole lot of that right now! When we are rooted in God’s Word, our family and our children become rooted as well. Then, suddenly, this whole situation becomes just a little easier. Mama doesn’t need more schedules, resources, time or organization. Mama needs deep soul care that connects her with the One who loves us and is always with us. Our children will benefit from this more than anything else.
What else can we do? There are so many resources out there right now on how to keep kids entertained or how to be a good homeschooler—it’s overwhelming! Remember, experiences trump resources. Giving our kids experiences will provide them with the tools they need and help them develop crucial skills to get through uncertainty. So, instead of giving you a list of activities to help get your kids through this pandemic, here are some essential reminders:
- This is not normal. Don’t make permanent decisions during uncertain times. Fix your eyes on Jesus, and what is unseen (2 Corinthians 4:8).
- Ditch the hourly schedules. Hour-by-hour schedules are usually unrealistic. Having a flexible plan is key—pick two or three things to do each day and learn to roll with it. It won’t be perfect, but refer back to point number one when needed.
- Let your kids set the pace. I am not saying let your kids do whatever they want and run the house (although there will be days). If they are tired and cranky, no activity is going to end well. Know your kids. Understand how they are feeling and move onto something else if needed.
- Do some fun projects. Leave baked goods on the steps of some neighbours. Paint your front-facing windows to bring some joy and colour to your street. Clean out the pantry and find some things to donate to a food bank. Pray together. Make cards to mail to loved ones and seniors. Leave a special note for the garbage truck or delivery person. The ideas are endless!
- Grieve what needs to be grieved. Older kids have lost a lot during this time. Friends, events, school. Some have lost their proms and graduations. They are going to be mad, sad and frustrated. Let them go through the grieving process. Give them a journal to write in and get everything that is inside them out. There is nothing we can do to fix the situation, but we can help them develop healthy emotional practices.
- Grace, not perfection! You’re going to get frustrated, your house will be messy, kids are going to fight, and you’re going to want to quit. Refer back to point one and then remind yourself that grace is what God gives us. He does not expect perfection, so why do we?
- Keep it simple. Less is more, especially when it comes to sharing information about the pandemic with your kids. We are making kids grow up too fast. Younger kids do not need to know what’s going on, and older kids only need to know the necessities from credible sources. Ultimately, kids need to know they are loved, that we will be there and that God is in control even when it feels scary.
- Slow down and enjoy. Care for your kids. Love them. Watch four episodes of Peppa Pig or binge watch some Netflix. Listen to them. Eat junk food or camp out in your TV room. Make messes. Hug longer. Slow down and enjoy this crazy time, because when things get back to “normal,” we are going to wish we were still stuck at home with our families.
In five or 15 years, when our kids are grown, they will ask about this pandemic. We will tell them it was crazy, that people hoarded food and toilet paper. Maybe we will talk about how there was so much fear, and that thousands of people died worldwide. No matter what we say, I want my kids to respond this way: “All I remember is school being closed and doing scavenger hunts in the back yard. I remember eating every meal as a family and having dance parties. I remember playing together and watching church on the TV. It was such a fun time.”
Getting our kids through this time is our top priority as parents, but don’t overthink it. They will be just fine. You will be just fine. God is still on the throne, and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
When all this is over, don’t rush back to normal. Keep the family meals and games. Keep being slow and intentional. Centre everything around God and his perfect plans, while relying abundantly on him. Keep hope and love going. Keep caring for your kids in this unique way. Make this moment in history a game-changer for you and your family, as you grow closer to the Father and grow closer to each other.
Don’t sweat it, parents and caregivers. You got this, because God’s got this.
Captain Bhreagh Rowe is the corps officer and community ministries officer at The Salvation Army’s Cornerstone Community Church in Mississauga, Ont.
Illustration: Worayuth Kamonsuwan/iStock via Getty Images Plus