At some point in 2021—depending on the coronavirus situation—parents will transition their families from quarantine back into more regular routines (Lord willing). It’s an attractive prospect, given the limitations and frustrations that sequestered life has created.
But along with our eagerness to ditch stay-at-home life, are we blind to its benefits? If all we can say of quarantine is, “Well I’m glad that’s over!” we’ve missed it. Wisdom means lamenting our losses, yes, but also recognizing gains.
Think back on the last few months. How has God deepened your family’s relationships? What new, healthier spiritual rhythms have sprouted in your household? Going forward, how can you continue cultivating these rhythms?
A few weeks into the stay-at-home order, my wife and I marveled at how many families were out and about. Each night we’d harness the dog, put the baby in the stroller, then assimilate into the ant-like procession of bladers, boarders, dog-walkers, and bikers swarming our block. Along with walks, families have bonded through scavenger hunts, puzzles and board games, reading, learning new skills, and eating together.
Despite the tensions of living in close quarters, surveys report that family relationships have deepened.
These trends of family connectedness are encouraging, yet it’s unnerving that it took a pandemic to produce them. How do we keep connecting, especially when activities we’ve missed reemerge and demand our loyalty again?
To be together, we must say “no.” And we must redefine “healthy.”
Much of our freneticism, distractedness, and fatigue is self-inflicted. With good intentions, we load our family schedules beyond our bandwidth. Quarantine forced us to clear the calendar; in the days ahead it’s something we’ll have to choose. As Clint Edwards reflects:
I’ve had more time to reflect on my family and our obligations than ever before, and it’s only now that the activities we used to fuss over have been stripped away that I’m starting to rethink how much of it is necessary. . . . Perhaps what we really needed all along was less on our plates and more time with one another.
The simplicity of quarantine life has debunked our buffet-style, all-you-can-eat approach to schedules. Turns out, less might actually be more. Parental FOMO, which embraces every extracurricular as essential to a child’s well-roundedness, gives kids activity-vertigo. It trains them to participate broadly but not deeply.
Our kids don’t need us to be A-list coordinators or chauffeurs. They need us. Present, available, unhurried. That’s health.
Cultivate At-Home Discipleship
One of my most poignant quarantine moments happened while teaching a class for kids who’d recently accepted Christ. In the last few minutes, I asked each parent to pray a blessing over their child. Over Zoom I listened to the chorus of prayers with teary eyes, not only because of the moment’s spiritual significance, but also because it’s rare to see both parents attend things like this.
Our kids don’t need us to be A-list coordinators or chauffeurs. They need us. Present, available, unhurried.
Like family connectedness, at-home discipleship has increased for many during quarantine. Parents are stepping up, taking ownership of their kids’ spiritual training. Too often, spiritual leadership is outsourced to the church, relegating parents to the periphery. But Scripture clearly affirms parents as the primary disciplers of their kids (Deut. 6:4–7; Prov. 22:6), and many have enthusiastically increased their efforts in recent months.
I interviewed several families about how quarantine has affected their spiritual habits and rhythms, and many report an increase in family devotions, prayer, worship, and discussing spiritual topics.
Additionally, families are worshiping together, often in the living room huddled in front of their church’s livestream. Family worship time shouldn’t be an anomaly, but sadly many church models disperse families the moment they arrive, depriving children of watching, imitating, and learning from their parents in worship.
Seize this moment to lead your children spiritually. Reflect on how quarantine has prompted new, healthier rhythms of discipleship. Decide now how you will continue these, even when in-person church resumes.
Cultivate Rhythms of Grace
The elephant in the room is that many parents feel exhausted right now, not empowered. You’re at wits’ end. You’ve blown up at the kids, a lot. Spiritual vibrancy feels frustratingly distant.
If your quarantine track record is marked by angry outbursts with your spouse or kids, model humility and gospel grace. When moms and dads apologize, humbly owning their sin to their kids (1 John 1:8–10), it shows what grace-dependence looks like.
When I was a high-school Bible teacher, a wise coworker said, “The greatest impact you will make on students isn’t your lesson content. It’s how you respond when a student disrespects you. It’s your gut reaction to their sin.”
Maybe the greatest impact you’ll make in this season is owning your sin in front of your family. By displaying your own insufficiency, others under your roof will know it’s safe (and vital) to need Jesus too. Humble confession fills our sails with the sanctifying wind of the Spirit, propelling us deeper into the sea of Christlikeness.
Like any garden, families only grow through intentional cultivation. Chances are, much of the spiritual and relational growth we’ve experienced lately happened right under our nose. From here it’s every parent’s responsibility to faithfully cultivate that growth, with gratitude that God produces fruit even in seemingly desolate seasons.
Get specific, write down a plan, discuss it with your spouse, and identify the family rhythms you want to protect. While there are ways 2020 has felt like a frustrating detour, by God’s grace it might help many families get back on track.