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Pandemic Parenting: What Every Child Needs (Part One)

By Dennis Rainey

Nine non-negotiables that your children need from you.

“As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines.”

Virgil, Roman Poet, 30 B.C.

It’s back to school time … and time for a “Pandemic Quiz” about your children:

What are your children’s the top 2-3 needs right now? Do you know, really know, how they are doing after nearly six months of a pandemic-edited lifestyle?

How about your adult children? Whether they are single or married, have you had a conversation with them about how they are handling issues thrown at them by this pandemic?

Barbara and our daughter Ashley

If you have grandchildren age six or older, have you had an opportunity to ask them what they think about this virus?

In light of your answers, have you prayed and asked God how you can use this pandemic to develop them by talking through their thoughts and feelings? If not, why not stop and pray right now.

No one I’ve talked to over the past six months has disagreed that we live in one of the most uncertain, ambiguous, and challenging days in our lifetimes. Last week I wrote about what every parent needs in the midst of the pandemic. This week I’ll begin my discussion with nine non-negotiables your children need from you:

1. Children need a Navigation System.

Think with me for a moment: You and your children are living in the midst of a storm. With one exception, this pandemic is like Hurricane Laura, which just hit the Gulf Coast. The exception is that “Hurricane Covid-19” has been with us for six full months with no end in sight.

You and your children are facing the reality of this hurricane daily. Your children need you to help them make sense out of what is happening. Don’t feel like you must KNOW all the answers to their questions and don’t be shy about telling them you don’t know.

They need a navigation system that will equip them to do three things:

· They need to know how to think about this storm.

· They need to know how to respond to this storm and its aftermath.

· They need to know how to navigate additional storms that will come in their lifetimes.

They need a navigation system with God at the center. They need a Biblical worldview that makes sense out of everything taking place, and that creates stability and direction. In essence your children need to know, apply and experience the following:

· Who God is. Read Psalm 145 and 146 at dinner tonight and make a list describing who God is.

· God is in control (Psalm 95 and Romans 8:28).

· God hears our cries for help. (Psalm 121 and 124).

· God can be trusted. (Psalm 138:7-8).

· God uses suffering to produce character. (Romans 5:3-5).

As parents, Barbara and I didn’t face anything like this pandemic, but we did face the war in Iraq and the terrorist attack on 9/11. When these events occurred we engaged with our family, discussing how we should think about what’s happening. We talked honestly about what we were all feeling—fear, doubt, and questioning what God was allowing in our country. And we read Scriptures that reminded us of the truth about God and the truth of God. God’s Word is the VERY BEST navigation system we’ve found for ourselves and our children.

The Art of Parenting Book

We wrote a comprehensive overview about this navigation system in our book, The Art of Parenting. Check it out at

2. Children need a home with a Great Security System.

Parents obsess over child safety locks, car seats and safety belts, security cameras and locks on cable TV channels. These are all good. But our children’s biggest needs are love, emotional stability, and peace. There is no stronger human bond that creates this security system than a family comprised of a mom and dad who love and are committed to one another for a lifetime.

Your marriage covenant is the equivalent of a rock wall that is 30-foot-tall and 10-foot-thick and there to protect your family.

I was only four or five years old when an argument erupted between my mom and dad. It was the only major conflict I ever witnessed between them. But I recall the emotional earthquake and aftershocks of fear that ripped through my heart at the thought that they might get divorced. And this was in 1952 when virtually no one got divorced. Looking back, I have no idea where I’d even heard that word or why I thought my parents might split. They ended up being married nearly 45 years until my dad’s death.

Fast forward 30-plus years to when Barbara and I had a disagreement in the kitchen that began to escalate. Suddenly I was aware that our intense “fellowship” was being witnessed by six radar units.

I called a time out, turned to the kids and said, “Your mom and I are having a little stimulating discussion …” I paused with six wide-eyed kids around the kitchen island nodding their heads affirmatively.

I looked at them and said, “Your mom and I are two imperfect people who don’t always agree with one another.” They nodded in unison again. “… But I want you to know that we love each other and are committed to each other in our marriage … and we are NOT going anywhere. Divorce is NOT an option.”

Our little radar units

Your children are like radar units locked on to how you two relate to one another during this pandemic. Covid-19 has already created enough fear your kids have to deal with. Instead, let the peace of God that passes all understanding fill your homes with the fragrance of Christ.

3. Children need Boundaries and Guardrails.

Kids aren’t going out with friends or family much, which means lots of time at home where a parent can’t be omnipresent. They need to know what is expected of them, their responsibilities during this pandemic.

For one thing, they need clarity concerning chores and school responsibilities. A daily schedule will provide guidance and security. Be sure to include time to get up in the morning, get ready for school, and go to bed.

They also need boundaries on media and how to spend their time (Ephesians 5:15-17). For example:

· Use of electronics and screens. Outside of schoolwork and homework, how much time can be spent looking at screens? Where are the acceptable places to use screens? What is not an acceptable place (like bedrooms with doors shut). When are the screens to be turned off? Where do smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers go at night? Answer: not in their room with the door closed. NEVER! Always in a public place.

· Accountability for who they hang out with online … where they go online … what videos they watch … video games they play. The pandemic has brought a slower pace to families … and with it boredom for teens. Your children are a click away from moral and physical danger.

4. Children need parents who are Shock Absorbers and who don’t freak out when…

· One of their friends they’ve been with tests positive for Covid-19.

· Their classroom at school shuts down because of students and teachers who test positive.

· Some or all of their sporting events, competitions, and social gatherings are limited or shut down by the pandemic.

· A child withdraws, seems depressed and even confesses he’s thinking about suicide.

· They catch a child sneaking out of the house after bedtime to go visit a friend.

· They discover their child is sampling porn or playing video games on the web after everyone is asleep.

· They unearth evidence on their child’s phone or computer that reveals a suspicious online relationship with a person she/he thinks is a peer, but may be a predator.

Because this pandemic has given adults and children a lot of free time, ask each of your children (ages 10 and above) what they are exploring and viewing online. Many boys and girls have been exposed to pornography by the time they are 10. And don’t just ask your sons if they’ve been looking at something online that they shouldn’t be; ask your daughters, too.

Instead of freaking out or caving in, parents need to parent well and give their children what they need, not what they want. On these issues your children don’t need you to be their “buddy,” but their protector.

If you are blindsided or discover something potentially dangerous or unhealthy for your child, consider one or more of the following:

· Call a time out and huddle up privately as a couple … perhaps take a walk to unpack what both of you are sensing and thinking. Two are definitely better than one in these situations.

· Ask God for wisdom in how you respond and follow-up with your child (James 1:2-8).

· Craft your plan on how this issue needs to be addressed.

· Decide if both or just one parent will talk to the child.

· Explain the plan to your child with clear boundaries and expectations.

· Hold the child accountable by inspecting what you expect.

Your kids will make mistakes, disobey, lie, and press the limits as they grow up. Parents should use these errors and failures to develop their child’s character and conscience. This process can be exhausting but your children are worth it.

You’ll have to wait until next week for the remaining 5 non-negotiables…

Rather than submitting an epic length “Gone With the Wind” post, I’ll pause here. Next week I’ll provide five more non-negotiables of what your children need from you.

In the meantime, Mom and Dad, why don’t you get together, look over these four non-negotiables, discuss each one and decide which one you want to focus on first.

May God give you courage, and wisdom and keep you and yours safe. See you in a week.

Dennis Rainey

Psalm 112:1-2


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