Coronavirus (COVID-19) currently dominates conversation in the media and our communities. As people debate the appropriate measures to be taken, our kids pick up the anxiety in the room. They may feel worried about their safety, and have misconceptions about how the virus spreads, and wonder who can be affected. As parents, we need to talk honestly with our children and help them gain perspective about the situation. We need to steer them toward rational and open-minded understanding and away from fear, suspicion, and self-interest. We want to model for our children what it really means to trust God for guidance and comfort. This means helping them get the facts straight, move past fear, and turn that fear into prayer. We have to show kids how we will plan ahead and take common sense measures to protect them and everyone else in our communities. Kids need to see that their parents believe the truth of God’s awesome faithfulness; he does not leave us to face crises like Coronavirus alone, but he walks with us through times of trouble.
When talking to our kids, parents should start with the facts about Coronavirus. A guide for parents, developed by the National Association of School Psychologists and National Association of School Nurses, explains the symptoms and transmission of COVID-19. The guide stresses that when kids ask questions, we should give them honest answers. “In the absence of factual information, children often imagine situations far worse than reality,” it reads.
We encourage you to review the entire article, but here are key facts about Coronavirus to share with your children:
More than anything else scripture commands that we “Fear not.” God is still in control of the world and we can trust him. Children know that sometimes even Mom and Dad are afraid. Social media and the global news cycle have brought the crisis right to our door, and cases of the virus might already be present in our communities. Children need both an honest statement of the unpredictability of our lives and constant reassurance of God’s faithfulness in our lives. We don’t know who might get sick, but we know that God loves us and he is in control. Our faith permits us to both see the facts and be assured of God’s goodness.
One way to battle fear is to have a practical prevention plan that your children can understand. Stay informed about basic protective measures against the Coronavirus. Take this opportunity to teach your children about the importance of basic sanitary tasks. Washing your hands does not guarantee against infections. However, it will provide a stronger first defense against illness.
Here is some advice for the public from the World Health Organization:
Xenophobic rhetoric associating a particular people group with a disease is not new in our culture. Pandemics that originate outside North America, such as SARS in China or Ebola in West Africa, get more scrutiny. Get ahead of any racist fear, misinformation, or jokes toward people from Asian countries, particularly China. Children and teens may see online posts that single out people of Asian descent as potential carriers of Coronavirus. Not only does this language hurt and bully innocent people, but also trying to find a “scapegoat” for a global health crisis is counterproductive. Additionally, it is important to talk with our kids about false narratives concerning the virus. A lot of misinformed and false ideas are making the rounds on social media. Avoid placing blame on a person or group for what is clearly not in anyone’s control. Let’s support any minorities that are being singled out, give children the tools to stop hate speech, and take this opportunity to talk about respect for others.
We actually get to choose whether we focus on our fears or on our God of healing. Let’s encourage our children to choose to focus on God and his care for us as his children. We need to model for our kids what we do with our fears: we take our concerns to God and trust him to work out his plan for us. Encourage your children to actually voice their fears to God. Psalm 46 reminds us that God is our refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble. Because God is in charge, we do not have to be afraid, no matter what is happening in the world around us. Romans 8:35-39 reminds us that there is nothing that will ever separate us from the love of God. Because we believe these things, prayer should be our default. When a concern comes to mind, demonstrate for your kids how to release it with prayer. Meet each fear with the truth of scripture; recite God’s promises each time worry tries to interrupt your thoughts.
Before talking about fear and courage with your children, talk to God about your own fears and ask him for guidance to help you address your children's fears.
We all carry a testimony of God's faithful provision in our lives. Remember how God has cared for you in the past, and pass those great stories of God’s love along to your children.
Paul speaks about this idea in 1 Corinthians 1:3-4. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.” Comfort your children with stories about how you trusted God in challenging times in your life, and use the Bible to talk about fear and courage.
Talk openly about fear and courage. When you pray with your child about fear, be honest in naming what is scary. Demonstrate and teach how to turn to God for everything, including dealing with fear. God is bigger than any challenge that we face, including Coronavirus. He is still our refuge and our strength. The Coronavirus has caused a lot of fear on a global but also personal level. Let's make sure to take practical steps—including practices, conversations, and most importantly faith —to reduce the concerns of the children around us. Let's take this opportunity to build faith, not fear.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster