(Photo courtesy of Selma Komisky)
COVID Crisis Parenting 101
Scriptures to Navigate the Journey
By Joy Wilson
While living in shelter-at-home, every parent needs to do what works best for them and their family. I have been a high school teacher for almost 20 years, and I have three children of my own. Due to quarantine, I am working from home while homeschooling my own children. In my opinion, homeschooling takes a lot of self-discipline and self-motivation from the child. It requires patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control from the parent. Before I start each day, I ask God to fill me with the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Homeschooling is difficult and very challenging. Work, school, and family have been intertwined within one domain and it feels like three worlds have collided under one roof. When I put God’s will above everything else, the chaos begins to settle, and I feel a sense of calmness. Relying on His promises and guidance to get me through each day, one day at a time, gives me strength and courage to embrace what each day brings. In this article I will share helpful tips and Bible verses that have helped me adjust to my family’s new normal.
1. Remember You Are Taking Care of God’s Kids
Thinking of my children as God’s children automatically gives me more strength and more patience. By trusting the Lord as my Father and my children’s Father, I feel a lot less pressure to be the main decision maker. Throughout each day I pray to God. I talk with Him and ask Him for guidance. His promise to always be with us reminds me that He does hear every prayer.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
– Joshua 24:15
2. Keep a Consistent Schedule
Try to stay close to the schedule you were living by before social distancing began. Children need structure and they thrive on routine. When a child knows what to expect, their confidence will help them meet expectations. Imagine your boss throwing a curve ball at you. You would feel uncomfortable rather than excited. Even as adults, we have a hard time with change. During my family’s first two weeks of quarantine, we had no schedule. It was as if the rules for work, school, family time, and socializing were thrown out the window. I was not finding time to care for myself. After a week of mimicking our pre-quarantine schedule, our bedtimes and meals etc., my anxiety levels began to decrease, and my children were happier.
3. Let Go of High Expectations
If you’re working from home and have children to keep busy while you work, take your child’s age and attention span into consideration. I have learned that three minutes, per each year of age, is a reasonable amount of time for a child to engage in an activity alone. For example, my youngest can engage in an activity for almost 10 minutes while my oldest can engage in an activity for at least 30 minutes. Working from home for two hours without distractions is an unrealistic expectation. Plan for distractions and that your children will need you at some point while you work. Have snacks available and set up age appropriate activity stations to keep children busy. With younger children, engaging in parallel play can be super helpful for a working parent. With my 3-year-old, I sit with him on the floor while he plays, and I work. I take little breaks to play with him and to let him know that mommy is available when he needs me. Do what works for you and your child. The key is to have realistic expectations so that you do not set yourself up for disappointment or frustration.
4. Stay Active
Children that attend public school are used to playing outside for recess at least twice a day. During recess, children are able to get fresh air, feel the sunshine, and interact socially. Try to incorporate recess and physical activity into your days. Children need a way to burn off energy and so do you. Go for walks outside, play catch, or dance (while social distancing). Any amount of physical activity that you can incorporate into your day will be well worth your time doing it. You and your children will feel less anxious and sleep better at night.
5. Acknowledge and Validate Feelings
There is no doubt that children know things have changed and may feel a lack of contentment. My 3-year-old told me one afternoon, “I hate my house. I don’t like it here.” He did not actually mean that he hates his house, but he was voicing his frustrations with being at home for almost two months. Rather than ignore him and tell him that “hate isn’t a nice word,” I acknowledged his frustration. “I know how you feel. We have been at home a long time. Do you want to play outside or go for a walk?” The conversations I have with my 3-year-old are much different than the conversations I have with my 7-year-old daughter or 10-year-old son. While my 10-year-old son may not understand why he cannot play his video games all day, my 7-year-old daughter is concerned with why she cannot play with her friends. With each child, I have age appropriate conversations with them. We talk about why life is temporarily different and why it’s important to stay home. It’s important to me that I have an open line of communication with my children that incorporates honesty and love.
6. Be Honest
Kids may hear correct and incorrect information from the news or from friends. Keep the line of communication open with your children so that you’re their source for news. Many small children can’t process the magnitude of this Coronavirus. When children become fearful, remind them that their home is safe. “We are not stuck at home. We are safe at home.” Parents, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, do your best to not overly express your fears with your children. Be sure to have a good support group that you can share and express your concerns. Ultimately, the best way to ease fear is by replacing it with God’s promises. When you combine the power and assurance of God, this brings much comfort.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
– Isaiah 41:10
7. Take care of yourself!
This is a tough time. If you do not take care of yourself, you will be lacking in your ability to care for others. Just like a flight attendant would remind you before take-off, “Put your oxygen mask on first, then help your child with their oxygen mask.” While you are preparing meals for your children throughout the day, do not forget to feed yourself too. Stay hydrated. Stay active. Find time to be alone with God. Reach out to family and friends each day. The most important thing to remember is to not feel guilty when you are taking care of yourself. You need “me time” to recharge. Ask God to help you gain strength through proper self-care and rest.
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
– Isaiah 40:29
8. Look for Hidden Blessings
Even during the darkest seasons of life, God provides light and hope. Even if it does not feel like it now, it’s a season. Meditate on good things God has revealed to you. Try to give all your worries and fears to the Lord. Before you know it, we will be back to the fast-paced life we once knew. Because our children grow up much too quickly, enjoy the time you have at home with them. You are creating memories and history without even trying, and the bond you have with your children will be stronger than ever.
“These commandments that I give to you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
– Deuteronomy 6:6-9