We are all in a new, and hopefully short-term, normal. Schools, churches, and other major gatherings are limited or closed because of the Covid-19 global pandemic. These changes can be frightening and create uncertain times for us all, children included. Yet we remember that God is in control. God tells us “...do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). This should give us great comfort, even as we wisely wash hands regularly, don’t touch our faces, and keep our distance from other people.
With weeks and months of precautions ahead, we also ask, “What do we do with our kids when school, church, and other activities aren’t an option?” Here are some ideas.
Children thrive in routine. While it may be fun for a short time to stay up late, sleep in, eat meals at any time, and watch TV or play video games all day, those things don’t contribute to long term health and thriving. Maintain a similar bedtime and wake up time each day whether there is school or not. Keep mealtimes at similar times for meals and eat them at the table and not in front of the TV. Even scheduled times throughout the day for reading, exercise, and other activities are important. Maintaining this regular routine will make the stress of the situation less for parents and children and will make it easier for everyone to reintegrate into regular school and church routines again when the time is right.
Enjoy the time as a family. Take advantage of the extra time together to do things that everyone enjoys. Play games or do puzzles together. Work on a family project around the house. Read a book together or watch a movie that everyone enjoys. Our time with our children is so limited. Take this extra time as a gift from God and treat it that way and not as an annoyance or a disruption to our lives.
If churches and youth groups aren’t an option right now, spend extra time together doing a family Bible study. Pray together every morning for your family, your neighborhood, your church, your school, and those who are sick. Pick some favorite songs and sing them together around the dinner table. Have each person in your house take turns preparing family devotions. Or ask your pastor to prepare a liturgy for your family to use each week that you can’t meet with the rest of the body of Christ at church. Subscribe to our Today daily devotionals. If you need helpful resources for kids and families, check out our partner site, Kids Corner for lots of adventures, devotions, podcasts, Bible stories, and activities. If your church is not broadcasting a sermon consider tuning in to hear encouragement from our pastors on Groundwork.
Take the opportunity to serve one another. If you have elderly or at-risk neighbors, offer to go grocery shopping or run errands for them. Offer to do outside yard work for people who can’t leave their homes. Call up your friends who are isolating alone and check in on how they are doing. Write letters to nursing home residents who are not allowed to have visitors. Make virtual visits with relatives to show your concern for their well being. Take this opportunity for God to use you and your families gifts and abilities during this time of need to care for the well-being of others.
Above all, keep the panic and the fear out of your house. Our kids need stability and support right now. They need us to be calm and to teach them to rely on God and on each other during these uncertain times. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 46 that “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble.” Live into that each day and help your children see what that means and live into it as well.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster