A month ago, our school district closed unexpectedly for a couple of days because of the flu. Our family had already been hit hard by it, so it came as no surprise to me. Since I had recently been out of town, I was actually thankful for the extra days at home with my kids.
But then coronavirus protocols took effect, and all our daily activities were upended. No longer are we looking at a few days off to rest from the flu. Now, we’re staring down the barrel of multiple weeks at home with nothing to do.
Many parents are in the same situation. We have to think through not only the disruption to everyday life, but also how to lead children through cancellations that affect them.
Maybe you work from home, and now have to find a way to work while also caring for your children. Maybe you work outside the home, and now have to find a way to care for your children and still do your job. Maybe you stay home with half of your children (like me), and now have to figure out a new normal with all your children with you all day, every day.
Or maybe your school cancellations fall over spring break (like ours), and now you have to tell your kids that their long-anticipated trip to Disney isn’t happening. It’s a worldwide crisis, but our kids are still going to be disappointed by canceled birthday parties, delayed T-ball seasons, and the prohibition against playing with neighborhood friends.
Everyone in your home is facing unexpected challenges. So how does your family cope with all of this uncertainty?
Help Your Kids See the Value of Your Work
With abrupt school closings, the perennial problem of work-life balance seemingly just kicked over the scale. It’s hugely disruptive. It’s also an opportunity to show our kids the value of work.
In a modern world, our kids don’t always see our work. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most work was done in the home, and most work was done alongside children. Now we work in offices, on computers, even while our kids play outside (as we scrub down the bathrooms). Our work is largely done out of sight—not only of our kids, but also our spouses.
We have to think through not only the disruption to everyday life, but also how to lead children through cancellations that affect them.
A forced time at home, while trying to figure out work, helps our kids see the value of all work—both paid and unpaid. It helps them see what we do, especially as we help them learn boundaries while we try to knock out an email or finish a house project. We can even invite our children to participate in our work—asking them to play with their little brother while we answer email or have them wipe down the bathroom counters after we’ve disinfected them.
Here’s something to ask ourselves in this extended time at home: What do I want my kids to learn and appreciate about the work I do? And how I can help them learn to see themselves as a contributor to the work, too?
Find Ways to Serve
In times of crisis, people are often eager to help their friends and neighbors. But it’s hard to know what to do when we are all supposed to distance from one another.
Here’s something to ask ourselves in this extended time at home: What do I want my kids to learn and appreciate about the work that I do?
Recently, I saw a mom post on social media about how many of our elderly are no longer able to receive visitors due to coronavirus risks. Prolonged hospital care is hard on anyone, especially the elderly. She proposed that her children write letters and make cards for those unable to receive visitors.
One practical way you can serve those in need is to call your local nursing home, or ask your church if they have lists of shut-in church members, and have your kids make a card or write a letter to our most vulnerable neighbors. As Andy Crouch has said, we all need community in these difficult days, so finding ways to safely serve helps people feel less alone in the uncertainty.
When pandemics hit communities, Christians rise up to serve. We know we have a better possession than physical comfort (Heb. 10:34). While containment is vitally important to stop the spread of the illness, we can still look for ways to serve even when we can’t leave our homes or do much beyond our neighborhoods.
Pray with Your Family
Even if many of these suggestions are not possible for you, there’s one thing you can always do together: pray. It’s good to be outward focused as we look for ways to serve, but it’s also vitally important to look inward to our nearest neighbors (our children) who may be frightened by all the uncertainty and disruption.
The biblical authors were no strangers to frightening days. Psalm 46 describes terrifying events: mountains crumbling, uncertainty, trouble, earthquakes, and a host of other scary things. But before he lists these terrors, he reminds us of a vital truth: “God is a very present help” (v. 1).
Our job as parents, above all else (even more than figuring out work-life balance and disappointment), is to help our kids see the God who is there, and give them language for crying out to him in times of trouble.
Our job as parents is to help our kids see the God who is there, and give them language for crying out to him in times of trouble.
So pray with your kids about all that is going on. Pray about their fears. Pray about their disappointment. Pray for the leaders in your community and our national leaders. Pray for those who are sick. And most importantly, pray that God would be trusted as our very present help in these troubling days.
Every day seems to bring new uncertainty in this crisis, and that can be hard to come to grips with for kids (and their parents). But as we walk through this as a nation, as a world, and especially as a family, we can see God’s hand in all of it. May he lead us to the throne of his grace, and may we cast ourselves on his mercy and love in these uneasy days.