Question: We have two children who have had to be on distance learning for the past year. Our daughter, who is 10, is doing okay. We’re concerned about our son, age 7, who is a second grader. He literally crashed a few days ago and began crying. He said to us, “We can’t do this – we can’t do that – I miss my friends at school and my friends at Sunday school. Will I ever get to go to school and Sunday school again?”
We told him that we, too, have had challenges with the stay-at-home orders and we, too, are looking forward to not living this way. We also told him that we believe that soon we’ll get back to the way we used to live but for now we must be safe. We were careful with our vocabulary because of his age.
Do you have any words of reassurance we can share with him? We appreciate any help you can give us. ~ Caring Parents
Dear Caring Parents,
This has been a very challenging time for families. Parents and children alike are missing their old way of life. The most important thing you can give your child for reassurance is your love. You are correct in sharing your feelings with your children and letting them know that you understand how they feel. Providing them space to feel sad and express their frustration before jumping in to try to make things better for them is important to validate their feelings. Then give them your unconditional love, extra hugs and kisses to help them feel better.
There are some other things you can do to offer support and help them during this time in addition to what you’re already doing. First is to cultivate a gratitude practice with your children. You can start your day with talking about what you’re all grateful for, like your health, each other and the ability to use the computer to do schoolwork. Then, in the evening, share things that went well during the day and what you’re grateful for. Acknowledging gratitude and positive experiences can boost your family’s mood.
Another thing is arranging virtual play dates, if you haven’t already. Many kids and adults alike have been playing games together, cooking and eating meals, and watching favorite TV shows together online. I’ve also done scavenger hunts and collaborative drawing projects using Zoom. There are many ways to connect and have fun virtually. It’s obviously not the same as in-person, but it will build the bridge until we can all safely be with each other.
Lastly, virtual volunteering is a great opportunity to not only give to those in need but it also helps us when we’re struggling. There are many things that kids and families can do together. You can make greeting cards, homemade facemasks, or collect food to donate to your local food pantry. DoSomething.org is one place to look for ideas, as well as your church or spiritual center.
We will all get through this together (exercising) patience, compassion, creativity and faith. You are teaching your children how to be resilient and strong! These are skills that will support them their entire life! And they will know what it’s like to be cared for and loved.
Rev. Dr. Ellen Faith
Dear Caring Parents,
Thankfully, the end seems to be in sight! But I have found that each of my kids, at different times throughout this year, have hit an emotional wall. One of the earliest lessons I learned was that I needed to give them room to grieve. Rushing to encourage or console – without acknowledging how they feel – only made matters worse.
When our kids are feeling down, we can communicate that how they feel matters and how they feel will not last forever. We are lonely now, but will not be lonely forever. I have found that sharing ways that I also feel how they feel is helpful. Agreeing with their assessment shows them that they are not alone, and that there are others who can bear their burdens with them.
But we, as parents, have the benefit of perspective to see beyond this time. While this moment is unprecedented in our lifetime, history shows that people have weathered seismic shifts in “how things are.” Building resilience in our kids can be tough because we often want to protect them from bumps and bruises. But they only learn how to get up when they fall down.
Perhaps it would be helpful to talk with your kids about how they’ve learned to adapt before: learning to read or how to do math; learning to ride a bike or play a game; and learning how to cope with new rules about COVID-19. It does get better. Showing them that they have overcome something difficult before can give them resolve to overcome this, too. We have also built ways of looking forward to the end of a week – movie nights on Friday with popcorn and candy; donuts on the weekend for breakfast; spending money for a trip to Old Town Pasadena.
Finally, I think it is appropriate to dream and imagine – to hope. Where should we go when we can safely travel again? What restaurant do we miss the most? Who should we invite over for a sleepover when it’s safe? You can also make plans toward this end. Maybe you perfect a cookie recipe so that you have a special snack when friends come over.
In Holy Week we learn that timing is important. There is a lot of waiting, anticipating, and even hurting, along the way. But the new life we discover once we get through it is filled with grace. We are sustained by God’s spirit and by those God has gifted to us. It is an important lesson: We are not alone!
Question: I’m a professional, age 54, who has worked for the same company since I was out of college. I worked my way up and am now in the position where company profits are my responsibility. I was able to maintain the profits above and beyond until last year because of COVID-19 restrictions. I don’t think my job is at stake, but I worry about it because I have a family and a daughter in college. The owners tell me not to worry, that they expect profits to resume once businesses begin opening up. I’m a Christian but my faith is faltering.
I pray and I’m still losing sleep. What else can I do? ~ Stressed
It sounds like you have worked hard and done well for your family. As Christians, we know blessings come from God. As humans, we also know life is filled with trials. One aspect of my own relationship with God that I am so thankful for is the peace He promises us. The other is the wisdom He provides me with when it is time to seek out outside support.
We are human beings – flesh, blood and a complicated brain. We worry. We stress. We experience anxiety, sadness, depression and grief. The Lord promises us peace during difficult times: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
I also believe that during particularly challenging times we need a professional and scientific approach. Talking to a therapist can help tremendously. Therapy is more than just a chat. Therapists are scientifically trained to help you ease your anxiety, stress, insomnia, depression and the like. During seasons in our life that are particularly difficult, it is wise to seek out professional help, just as you would a medical doctor if you broke your leg.
It sounds like it could be time to not only pray for peace amidst your circumstances but to also speak to a professional who can help you with the above-mentioned challenges you are enduring. I encourage you; do not suffer alone.
The Reverend Kimberlie Zakarian
Thank you for sharing your dilemma. First of all, congratulations on your success at your job thus far. It could not have been easy keeping your company’s head above water during this past year with the COVID-19 pandemic. And I am impressed that you have maintained your Christian faith this whole time. However, as I have told other people whose faith has faltered, there is nothing in the Christian tradition that makes you bulletproof. I mean, simply because you believe doesn’t mean that “dark clouds won’t gather around” you, to paraphrase a certain spiritual. And some of the great heroes in our faith had to go through hard times.
Consider that the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died for his faith, and so did Stephen way back in the book of Acts. You may not have to make the ultimate sacrifice, but simply being a believer doesn’t mean that somewhere along the way you’re not going to experience any pain.
In at least one place in the Gospels, Jesus is quoted as saying that his heavenly Father sent rain and sun alike on both the just and the unjust. What that says to me is that even Jesus recognized that good things and bad things fall upon the good guys and the bad guys, and simply because – indeed, maybe because – you’re a follower of Jesus, you just might have to suffer. I hope not, for your sake – but we were never promised a rose garden, to paraphrase another song.
What we were promised, however, is that God will be with us and, regardless of circumstance, nothing can separate us from the love of God, even the loss of a job. Such a loss is not fun, of course – but it’s also not the end of the world. And I certainly hope it’s not the end of your relationship with God.
Good luck and may the blessings of God continue to follow you all the days of your life.
The Rev. C. L. “Skip” Lindeman