Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Pandemic Peace for Families


Who knew 2020 was going to expect so much from families? We’ve had school at home, online church, sports cancellations, staycations, and now challenging choices regarding returning to school. While we find a ray of sunshine in the realization that the current pandemic does not seem to be hard on children in terms of health, at the same time, we realize that the emotional health of families has taken a beating. Many of the things that help us to weather stressful times have been shut down or made more complicated.


Situations such as these are where resilience is forged. When our children experience little to no struggle, they have little opportunity to develop coping skills. This is the time to learn confidence in the ability to conquer disappointment and obstacles. However, when a family is weary of restrictions, guidelines, and stressful decisions, it is discouraging to add the already long lists of tasks the one of building resilience.


Coping with stress and building resilience are two things we cannot teach our children outside of a situation where they are needed. The brain learns these skills when the times call for them. This current time calls quite loudly for the need for resilience.


It would be great if I could write a post outlining the ten best ways to build resilience. If this list existed, and it was true, then our work as parents would be easy. However, we can’t merely teach resilience. Instead, we nurture it through family time and family values.


In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. Isaiah 30: 15


The times we live in now require strength and trust, but they also urge us to try to take control. As we work through decisions, we feel our sense of peace diminish. We do not find peace in our strength. We find it in faith and family fellowship. By repenting our need to solve the world’s problems and returning to the trust God gives us, we begin to create an environment that not only offers peace but builds resilience.


A family that nurtures peace and resilience will:


Focus on what God asks us to do rather than on what the situation demands. The pandemic is in God’s hands. Through science and expertise, God has given us things we can do. Once we have instituted these practices, we leave the rest to God. In doing this, we change our parenting goal from the need to make every decision right and instead put our trust in God. If we ignore the clutter screaming at us from social media, we can better discern God’s plan.


Be diligent about worship. Whether online or in-person, attending church feels different, but it is still God’s word. It still feeds our faith and invites us to trust. Your best tool to nurture resilience is to also look for faith discussion opportunities at home. Daily devotions and nightly prayers are wonderful, but so are car ride talks and Gospel reassurances at times of struggle or discipline. During this challenging time, your faith dialogues will connect the concepts of faith and struggle as part of brain development. The discussion you have about trusting God, now, will become a coping strategy for future troubles.


Look for ways to come together as a family. Busyness and stress tend to pull us away from each other. We mistakenly believe that when we need rest, it means we need time away. However, we build resilience in fellowship. When family members are together, relationships grow. These experiences and relationships are how children learn to cope with stress and trouble. Look for ways your family can play together. Everything from board games to backyard dodgeball will provide small problems solved by togetherness as well as good memories. Little by little, children learn that God has given us each other as a source of help, comfort, and joy. Projects completed together will afford the same practice and add in the sense of accomplishment.


Value family discussion. Children learn so much when they listen to and participate in a family discussion. This is why research on family mealtime shows a link to academic achievement. Children develop language skills as well as learn the unspoken rules about communication and relationship building. Ask your children to share their joys and concerns. Share with them your strengths and weaknesses and create a safe place to talk and grow. These times are excellent opportunities to slip in your faith, showing your children how your faith shapes your understanding and your ability to cope.


We do not need to be perfect decision-makers to find peace. In fact, that is the least likely path to take you to peace. Find ways to rejoice with your family – in activity and in prayer. God’s peace will reign, and He will bring about good for your children.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 4-7



Weary Joy: The Caregiver's Journey

By Kim Marxhausen

Concordia Publishing House