I think we can all agree that this is a strange time for everyone in the world. You may be feeling particularly strange about what the Covid-19 pandemic means for your kids and family. It would be really easy for kids to just check out and get lost in media and devices during this time stuck at home. But families can go beyond merely surviving if they choose to see this time as the gift that it is . . . to slow down and rethink what life looks like for our loved ones. There are no rules or right and wrong for how to deal with this “interruption” because frankly, not one of us has ever dealt with anything like this before. So let yourself off the hook of having to do this right . . . or even well. I’m sharing a few tips on what your kids need most right now and how you can guide them with grace-filled intention.
How to Help Your Kids Navigate this “New Normal”
The atmosphere at home is so important. Two of the keys to that atmosphere are balance and grace. As we help kids of all ages navigate, it’s easy to overdo and overprotect. You want to listen to their worries and disappointments, yet when parents get sucked into feeling every bit of their child’s discouragement and more, the child is actually left feeling more hopeless than when they started. If the adults in a child’s life act like everything is terrible, the kids we love will quickly take on that perspective, too. It’s all about finding that balance in yourself and then your family.
You want to create structure and schedule, yet you don’t want it to be so tight that you become rigid. You want to have informative conversations about the virus, yet you don’t want to talk so much that your child leans towards either disengaging or catastrophizing. You want to laugh and play and enjoy, yet you don’t want to feel the stress of constantly entertaining your family. You want to use this time to pray and read and grow closer to God, yet you don’t want to over-spiritualize everything either. You don’t want to OVER-do any one thing because it will OVER-take your home—and impact the atmosphere your kids live in as they navigate this new normal. The most important part of that whole balance is GRACE.
You will mess up, likely lots of times. When you do, pause, reset and keep going. No one is going to get it “right” during these unprecedented times!
How to Help Your Kids Stay Engaged
Pay attention to the uniqueness of each of your kids. Listen, watch, and learn what makes your child respond—each one comes alive with something different. Consider their age, personality, and stage in development as these things affect how to best connect with different members of the family. One child may be creative and engage through drawing their thoughts and feelings. Another may have a heart for others and engage when they begin to talk about how they think others might be experiencing hurt during this time. You may have a child that wants to sit down with you to plan fun activities the family can do together and that’s how they can feel connected. Another may want a challenge. Another may have their fears and anxieties come out before bed, so they are softened and more likely to talk about how they are really feeling as they are falling asleep. Knowing your child’s unique heart and personality—paired with their age and stage—helps so much.
Our books Are My Kids on Track?, Raising Girls, and Wild Things are a great resource if you’d like a deeper dive into the developmental stages of girls and boys. Once kids are doing something they naturally enjoy, they are more likely to talk; to connect and to be themselves.
How to Go Beyond Merely Surviving and Help Your Kids Find Purpose
Right now it’s so natural for our discouragement and disappointment to come out—even our apathy, sarcasm and despair. As we’ve seen with the virus, we’ve also seen how easy it is for any of these things to be contagious. Sickness and bad attitudes can spread through the house like wildfire. But you know what else I’ve watched be contagious, too? Purpose. When we see someone else making an impact, we catch that energy. When our kids watch another kid make a difference, that idea lights a spark inside them too.
Every person is made with a longing to know that their life matters and that they can make a difference. At the children’s counseling center where I’m the executive director, Daystar Counseling Ministries, we recently launched a neat social media campaign called “Daily Dose of Daystar.” Every day, kids of all ages have been sharing videos about how they have found purpose during this time at home. It’s amazing to see how just one kid can spur on so many others to new ideas—from creating a sibling skit—to teaching their parents to dance—to sticking notes of encouragement in neighbor’s mailboxes—to writing lyrics about the coronavirus to the tune of an old favorite song. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out #dailydoseofdaystar on Instagram or Facebook.
Growth Opportunities: What Could You Look Back and Say You Gained if You Approach this Season with Intentionality?
When I speak to parents across the country and ask, “What is a major obstacle in your parenting journey?” the answer is almost always the same, “TIME! We just don’t have enough time in our busy lives!” As difficult as this period is in our world, it is a season when families are forced to slow down. Children have to learn to be still, to be bored, to be aware of themselves. The Bible talks so much about “waking up” and I love that because it’s a call to open up our hearts and minds. It’s a call to pay attention to what is stirring deep down inside of us. As kids do that, they begin to become more aware of themselves and others. And as they grow in awareness, they connect. That is something we all long for so much. Connection. And it’s something we desperately need during these days of social distance.
Another thing I’m seeing unfold that excites me is how kids are building character and confidence through these unprecedented times. Children are learning how to ride a bike. What better time to teach your teenager to drive than when the streets are nearly empty?! Kids who are usually terrified of being embarrassed are trying their hand at a new game or learning to dance. Kids who would typically never take a risk on something they’re not good at are attempting to cook or craft for the first time. With all this extra time confined to the safety (and sometimes boredom) of their own homes, children and teenagers are doing things they are not comfortable with and that’s where confidence comes from. We’re seeing that even through the suffering and discomfort.
God can use this time to carve character into each one of us.
MELISSA TREVATHAN, M.R.E. first became a youth director at the age of 16. Since that time, she has been a teacher, retreat leader, head of spiritual life at a private school in Nashville, and is the founder and Executive Director of Daystar Counseling Ministries, which began in 1985. A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Melissa has spoken to various churches and schools across the country, taught graduate courses in counseling adolescents and been a guest on television and radio programs throughout the United States and Canada. She is a popular speaker for parents, and kids of all ages. Melissa is the author of eight books, including Raising Girls. She also appears on the Raising Boys and Girls podcast. When Melissa is not listening, speaking or writing, she’s usually on her bike or playing with Blueberry, her Old English Sheeppuppy, somewhere between Nashville and Kentucky Lake. You can follow her on social media at @raisingboysandgirls and find the latest parenting resources at Raising Boys and Girls.