I caught my five year old washing his hands again. He had already washed them several times that hour, so I asked him if he was okay. He told me he didn’t want to get “the virus”. That was before I had told him anything about coronavirus, but we did spend a morning driving from store to store looking for toilet paper. He must have heard me talking to the cashier. Children pick up on everything, and it is a disservice to them to pretend like they don’t.
How should a Christian parent explain what is going on in the world right now?
After the hand washing incident I realized I needed to sit down and explain exactly what is going on. I told my children about the virus, about the symptoms and how quickly it spreads. We talked about what it might look like if we get it. We talked about what we can do help slow the spread of the virus. We talked about why there is no toilet paper or Tylenol in the store. We talked about why school is different and why all our spring break activities have changed. We talked about why we need to keep a distance from people, especially those who are already struggling with their health.
It is very important that we are completely honest with our children without giving them a spirit of fear. If you are afraid to talk to your children about coronavirus, you might ask yourself if it is because you are afraid. Confess your fear and sing some Psalms. I want to tell my children the truth- the truth that they are just as safe today as they were a month ago. Their lives are completely encompassed by the protecting hand of our Father, just as it always has been. Just because there is a threat of evil, does not mean that God has changed. How can they see the protection of God unless they understand the greatness of the threat? How can they see how good God is unless they see how fallen this world is?
There are three things I want to work on with my children during this time of uncertainty in our culture: praying, praising, and learning the Psalms.
I am teaching them to have hearts of compassion towards those who have a greater threat than we do. We are praying for the healthcare workers and their families. We are praying for the elderly, for those with compromised immune systems, for those undergoing chemo, for new babies, and mostly for those who are consumed by fear. Fear is anticipation of something terrible. Fear itself is an enemy. We are praying that our nation would be delivered from fear. It is different than praying that we would be delivered from the things that cause fear.
I am teaching my children to praise God during this time. As soon as I heard about the effects the virus is having on our culture, I started looking for things to be thankful for. Families are being forced to spend time together. Parents are being forced to figure out how to interact with their children. Couples are spending time working at home together. Home is temporarily becoming central (and I pray fervently for those whose homes are not safe). Business owners are being forced to trust God for their provision. Tell your children about these wonderful shifts in our culture. Point out where God is creating good out of evil. Praise God that this is a time when His people can shine the brightest. When fear is consuming many, our hope is a bright light. Praise God for this opportunity to love our neighbors in tangle, visible ways.
I am teaching my kids to love the Psalms. My husband decided that during the month of March we would learn to sing Psalm 40. How fitting for this time! Psalm 40 reminds us that we are waiting on the Lord, that He stoops to hear our cry, that He lifts us up. When there is a real threat, the comforts of the Psalms are more poignant. Psalms 34 and 139 are my favorite to teach to children. I’ve been reading them to my children every day. Let the Psalms teach them that God alone is the only real comfort we have, that He is our only safety, that we sleep in peace because of Him.
I know that many of us are home with our children more than usual. Even if you are a homeschooler, I’m sure many of your activities have been canceled. The state of Oregon has banned gatherings over 25 people, and if that hasn’t already happened in your state, it is likely coming soon. Instead of thinking of this time at home as a burden, see how you can turn a profit in it. What can you be doing to make this a productive and memorable time for your family? You can teach your children life skills that you would otherwise not have time for: cooking, sewing, cleaning, laundry, changing sheets, setting a table, changing the car oil, planting a garden. You can throw a little celebration: make a feast and decorate the house and play some games. Show your children that the righteous do not stop rejoicing before God even when scary things are looming. Be creative: let them paint, craft, make jewelry, sew, build forts. Play some education games. Have a spelling bee and math competitions. Read everything. Re-read your favorites. Listen to audio books. I’m sure you can come up with dozens of other things your children enjoy. I am working with my children to keep journals. We write down every day what they are thankful for, what they are praying for, and a report of what is going on in their life right now. This is such a strange time in history that I’m sure they will be glad they have the memories written down.
Don’t pretend like nothing is going on in an attempt try to protect your children from fear. Use this time to teach them what faith and trust look like when fear is a real temptation. Use this time to tell them about Daniel facing the lions, David facing Goliath, and Moses at the Red Sea. Lead your children in a spirit of faith and rejoicing. The visible result of trust is joyful productivity. We are safe in the shadow of His wings.
Lindsey Tollefson is a homemaker in Moscow, Idaho.
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