Crazy times have hit the world like never before in our lifetime. Did you ever think you’d be reading about parenting during a pandemic? Change is hard, and finding our way into the “new normal” can be challenging. It is our belief, at Connected Families, that during adversity we have an unparalleled opportunity to gain new and life-giving perspective; perspective that brings God’s grace and truth to life in any circumstance.
The Connected Families parenting framework can help keep your family grounded and well connected. Especially when life gets challenging. (You can even get your reminder of these principles on a refrigerator magnet or as a free digital download.)
Foundation: You are SAFE with me
Over the next few weeks (and perhaps months) we’re going to be pressed like never before to understand that reality is ultimately not about earthly circumstances. It is about eternal perspective and promises. Though hard to put in practice, we encourage you to join us in the discipline of reminding ourselves about this attitude, even choosing to find joy. (Says Jim as he recovers from a grocery store parking lot tantrum, or Lynne as she gets overwhelmed at the store.)
Sounds easy, right? Not so much. But here are the things we’re doing these days to stay grounded:
Jim: Repeating key Bible verses and playing worship music.
Lynne: I am more determined than ever to carve out time each day to read God’s word, reflect, journal some thoughts, and pray.
Jim: Whenever I feel anxious I literally tell myself, “Jim, this isn’t helping. You can’t solve it. But you can breathe deep and remember that Jesus promised to never leave you nor forsake you. (Deep breath) That’s it. Do it again.”
Lynne: A little walk or exercise goes a long way.
As we each try to keep these practices in place, we are calmer and less snippy with each other. We communicate the message, “You are safe with me.”
The world will certainly throw challenges at your kids long after they are out from under your care. What you model during a crisis may be one of your most potent teaching opportunities to prepare your kids for a life of faith that overcomes trials.
Connect: You are LOVED no matter what
The current situation has given us unique opportunities to be together – to make memories so that years from now your kids will remember how resilient their family is and some of the interesting things they did. Here are a few practical ideas you can utilize now for parenting during a pandemic (or anytime!):
- Make sure to regularly build in times to laugh.
- Consider more frequent board games and popcorn.
- Daily outdoor adventures in open spaces.
- If you are doing school at home with your kids, remember that their connection and felt safety is more important than academic achievement.
- Include your kids in making plans to do something fun the next day.
- If sensible, make the fun be about blessing and serving others. This gives kids something to look forward to – which helps mitigate pervasive stress. It also gives you practical opportunities to share Jesus’ love with neighbors.
One of the most powerful “connectors” is to empathize with kids. If they are struggling, or unhappy, you can validate it with empathy before working to Coach (see below) some solutions. Perhaps like this: “I know it’s so hard to miss your games! I can understand why you’re so disappointed. I remember when…(insert a memory of a challenging time in your life here).”
What can you do today to stay well connected with your kids?
Coach: You are CALLED and CAPABLE
The less kids understand about change, the more they tend to be anxious. And the more they forget (along with us) that God is always up to something…and it’s always something good. As you embrace such truth, help your kids learn right alongside you about God’s presence in adversity.
This devotional from Bible Study Fellowship is a useful guide to help kids, and us, understand God’s involvement. Perhaps you can say, “It’s hard to understand, but God is with us in this! This is a new kind of germ that the doctors don’t understand yet. And they’re worried that it seems worse than other germs. So they are making rules to help keep people safe. It’s hard isn’t it? But we’ll make the best of it. God is with us!”
Then ask them to repeat this in their own words. Try saying some short prayers together. Keep it simple and light. Work so it begins to feel normal and natural for the kids to talk about God and pray about it.
Knowing that God uses all things for good, wonder together as a family how you could be a blessing to others.
- Consider painting pictures or sending cards to an older person who may be experiencing loneliness due to social isolation. (You may want to send a digital photo of the art, and the artist, now, and send the actual copy later when all is clear.)
- Work with your kids to make a daily schedule that includes work, learning, play, or rest. Knowing what’s coming will reduce everyone’s stress.
- Perhaps make your own backyard carnival.
- If you’re limited to staying inside, check out these 4 pages of fun (and big muscle!) activities Lynne developed for you from her occupational therapy background. (This document is adapted from content we normally make available exclusively to our coaching clients. Our gift to you today!)
What can you do today to coach your kids to show them they are called and capable?
Correct: You are RESPONSIBLE for your actions
In seasons of stress we’re all more inclined to sin. Parenting during a pandemic is no exception! At the end of the day, the corrective solution to all of the problems we face is to confess our sin and lean into God’s mercy and grace. Be transparent with your kids about your own struggle with this. Grace is needed for all.
In some respects, it’s when life is hard that we can best understand our need for a Savior. So when kids seem more unruly than usual, find your way into God’s grace. Perhaps like this: “I know it’s hard when life is so different. And I’m sorry I’ve been more stressed and even sinned against you by my impatience. Will you forgive me?”
These basic ideas about applying the framework can guide each of us into meaningful conversations with our kids. We will have opportunities to speak about the problem of sin and selfishness, learning to be content in difficult circumstances, and the great grace of Jesus for all.
Parenting during a pandemic is a whole new landscape for all of us. We would love to hear your stories of how God is equipping you to lead your family with grace…even during a pandemic.
We have heard from the Connected Families community that sibling conflict is overwhelming right now. Rather than squashing the conflict, consider using this time to teach resolution skills! As a special gift during this stressful time, we are offering our Sibling Conflict online course for a donation of ANY AMOUNT.