As a parent of three, I have found myself overwhelmed at times and pushed to the limit in regard to the challenges I have faced in managing my own children.
Whether it’s trying to manage their distance learning and their educational development, or dealing with the ever-changing situations that have continued to come up. In addition to the constant questions that have accompanied them from my kids (Let me just say, it’s okay to be honest and say “I don’t know”.. There really is so much that is still unknown!). And then there is the energy it takes to defuse sibling conflict which seem to sometimes spiral into real life family feuds…
Anybody with me here?? – Sometimes it feels like I’m refereeing a heavy weight championship bout… I kid! Not really.
Not to mention trying to manage my own health, well-being, professional responsibilities and other pursuits. To say the least…. IT’S BEEN A LOT!
the same I want to share some of the things that I have learned as I’ve gone looking for answers.
5 lessons on parenting in a pandemic
1. We’re in this together
It goes without saying, though we live together and share the same space, we can really be disconnected and relationally feel apart, isolated, or as though no one understands. TRUST ME! I’ve been there more times that I care to remember over the last 6 months.
But if the truth is told (And I believe it should be)… Our children often feel the same way!
Recently, my daughter began to share with me through tears, something that was really painful to her. She began to explain to me what it feels like for her to be disconnected from many of her friends (who she hasn’t seen or even been able to talk to some of them) in almost half of a year! She said, “Dad I don’t even know what I will say when I see them again? I feel like I don’t know them anymore.”
While that might seem ridiculous to an adult, for a tweenager, that’s a BIG DEAL!
After, hearing her heart that day, I’ve tried to adjust my schedule and include her more in my day (even as it is often an inconvenience for me).
I realized the most important thing in all of this, is that I go through this ALONG WITH my children not AGAINST or APART from them!
2. Care for the caregiver
As a professional practitioner of spiritual care, I am very much used to placing the needs of others before my own. However, I have learned through all of this, that in order to be fully present for my children, I have to take the time to assess and engage what is going on within me!
As a parent, I have to be honest about my agitations, irritability, or whatever other unpleasant/uncomfortableness I might be experiencing in any given moment. AND THEN do something to manage or tend to it!
3. The family that prays together
This may sound like an old traditional, church axiom (believe me I am not a fan of some and don’t even know the meaning of others – What is a ‘traveling mercy’? … Couldn’t we just pray for protection?) I digress…
Being intentional to keep your family centered spiritually and connected to God through this crisis is imperative!
Fear and anxiety is contagious… But so is faith!
We can present all of our angst, worry, discouragement (and our childrens’) before the presence of God. And allow prayer to help us sort out our greatest family issues.
Besides, what better way to model authentic faith to our children, then when we pray with transparency and openness with them?
4. Listen… Your children need to talk!
If your children are anything like a couple of mine, sometimes they have a lot to say! (Of course all children have different personality types and preferences and some are not as audibly excitable and energetic as others.)
But if your child(ren) doesn’t prefer to verbalize as much, surely, they have feelings around all of the disruptions and disappointments the pandemic has caused. And they need a way to be able to express themselves.
Maybe through drawing, writing, dancing, etc.?
That pensive energy needs to move from internal to external somehow.
5. Make meaning as a family
What is meaningful to you? What brings you joy, wonder, fulfillment, purpose?
What do your children find enjoyable?
How can you collaborate the two so that you and your children feel connected through this?
As a family, you can create your own meaning to take back some of the control that quarantine has seized. Play games, do puzzles, ride bikes, create a gratitude journal.
Do whatever feels suitable. But just do it together!
Eric Hatcher, MDiv is Pastor of The Life Church. He also works as a hospital chaplain in the area of geriatrics. His ministry focus is to reach the least, lost, and left out.
Here are a few resources for parents and children