Fear was a big part of my life as a kid.
When I was young and had a nightmare I could go to my parents’ room and they had a sweet sheep skin rug beside their bed that we could sleep on. (There was NO way that mom was letting us into her actual bed with her and dad.)
The problem was that it was a small rug and I was a big kid. Eventually it wasn’t just me feet hanging off the rug… my whole butt was on the hard floor.
Shortly thereafter, sleeping in mom and dad’s room was no longer a tenable response to my nighttime fears.
When I was about 13 I remember sharing my night time dilemma with one of my youth leaders, Dorthea Janz. Dorthea was a big sister to me and I will never forget what she told me.
“Thom [actually it was Tom back then…], I get scared at night sometimes too.”
No! Not you too Dorthea! My world was rocked.
“But,” she continued, “when I’m afraid I have a very simple solution; I sing Jesus Loves Me. Think about it, Tom. Let’s say it’s the devil who is trying to make me afraid, I start to worship, how long do you think he’s going to use that strategy?”
Do you know that I still use that strategy as an adult? Fear is one of the reminders I have to worship God.
We live in unprecedented times. (That could easily be nominated the cliche of the COVID-19 crisis.) And unlike many crises that are on the news, this one has our kids right smack in the middle of it because they aren’t going to school starting on March 23rd.
How do we help our children through this next season when another scary stat or story lurks around every corner? I want to share some strategies with you that will help you at the start of the crisis. We may very well need additional strategies in a week or two! For now, let me just give you three key ideas.
Find Your Peace as a Parent
I know. I really do. Rates of anxiety are sky high at the best of times. And right now the weight of the world is on parents’ shoulders.
I also know that just saying “Don’t be anxious or you’ll make your kids more anxious” is about as helpful as a toilet paper meme. It might be funny, but it doesn’t stop people from hoarding.
Finding your peace may be the toughest assignment as a parent. It might require the most work on your part, but to find peace, genuine peace, needs to be a your first priority.
Keep doing devotions.
Avoid binging on media and feeding other addictions.
Get your sleep.
You can do this!
Go to “Church” However That Looks
In a strange way we have more options to check out churches than ever before as they go online to stream their services. It’s actually kind of neat… as a short term solution at least.
Yesterday, I felt more connected to my church family than I would on the weekend because of all the fun social media engagement!
There are two points here: 1) We can connect and worship in creative ways – there’s no need to take a break. 2) Our kids need as much normal routine as possible.
Should the need to livestream services continue, make sure you attend as a family. It can be a very precious time.
I firmly believe that our primary community, the family, can be strengthened in the next little while, and a strong family is a HUGE weapon against fear! So gather your family, and perhaps a few people who don’t have one, and do church together!
(PS If you missed Pastor Lorne’s AMAZING message on fear yesterday, just click here to watch it!)
Talk About Specific Strategies With Your Kids
Do the spiritual work, yes, but also get practical. Just like Dorthea gave me a specific strategy to deal with my fear, your kids need specific strategy.
Here are some suggestions:
- Talk about turning off the internet and any other ways that news can get into your house. We are bombarded by messages all day, we don’t need that in our homes after dark too.
- Unplug regularly. It’s difficult to avoid sitting on media when we are stressed out, but reading, playing games, going for walks, getting outside are all essential to our mental health. You need to intentionally help your kids do these things.
- Help them them get their feelings out. Perhaps start a communication journal where they can write all their thoughts down and you respond to them.
- Memorize some Bible verses about fear as a family. Here’s a list to get you started.
- Remind them that we are more emotional (fear is an emotion), when we are tired so we need lots of rest these days.
- Give them a safe place to go at night when they are fearful. Get your own “sheep skin” and make sure your kids know it, and you, are there for them.
- Give them good information. There’s no reason to hide the truth from your kids, because they will just form their own version in that case! (Just keep it to small doses at a time!) Our middle school shared a very helpful paper from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration this week. Take a look for good information and other helpful tips for parents.
Above all, ask them when they feel most at peace and work to make those time happen!
I’m praying that families grow closer during this very unusual time in the world, and I am hopeful that they will!
For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you.Isaiah 41:13 (HCSB)
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Associate Pastor – Southland Church
Thom has worked with children and youth for 18 years. He and his wife, Tara, have 7 kids; 4 boys, and two daughters and a SON-IN-LAW(!). The kids are spread across 23 years too, so that gives him plenty of experimental material to write about! They have welcomed 31 foster children into their home over the past number of years.