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Pandemic Parenting: What Every Child Needs (Part Two)

Effectively training your children means equipping them to know

how to respond in seasons of crisis.

By Dennis Rainey

One of the most consistent themes of the Bible is that God uses times of testing to get our attention and develop a closer relationship with Him. I often flunk the test because mid-test I don’t recognize it for what it is. I don’t understand why after all these years, I sometimes just don’t get it! I have to be reminded: Testing has a purpose.

The Apostle James does just that in the first chapter of his book:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

The Covid-19 pandemic is a test for you, your children, and you as a parent:

For you and your faith: After six months of new pandemic life how are you doing? Are you growing more steadfast in your faith? More resolute in following Jesus? Are you more sensitive to what God is doing in you and through you to impact others?

For your children and their faith: Have they recognized that God may be trying to get their attention? Are they exhibiting courage in their faith as they confront the limitations this pandemic is placing on them? Are they praying about how God could use them to encourage others?

For you as a parent: Have you embraced your responsibility as the daily developer of your children’s faith in this ongoing trial? Are you asking them how they are processing their tests? Are you sharing the lessons you’re learning as you grow your faith muscle?

And most importantly: Are you taking advantage of your “simpler” lifestyle to equip them for the “tests” they will repeatedly encounter in life?

In my last post I shared the first four essentials your children need as this crisis and its impact continue. They need:

· Parents who provide a navigational system.

· Parents who create a great security system.

· Parents who build boundaries and guardrails.

· Parents who are shock absorbers, who don’t freak out…

Today I want to finish building the blueprints for the nine things your children need from you as a parent as they face this test.

5. Children need an “emotional vocabulary.”

I can guarantee you that your children have experienced a LOT of emotions in this pandemic. Children need us as parents to help them develop a healthy vocabulary and perspective about their feelings. They need to understand three things about emotions:

· They are given to us by God and are part of how we are made in God’s image.

· They need to be able to name the major emotions they experience … love, joy, fear, anger, grief, compassion, regret, happiness.

· And they need repeated training in how to process those emotions.

To effectively train your children, you need to be a “safe” person who will allow them to both succeed and fail in expressing their emotions. You need to be their most “trusted” confidant and cheerleader. (Be sure to read chapter 14 in our book, The Art of Parenting, for a more comprehensive plan to develop your child’s emotional identity. Barbara wrote this chapter, and it is excellent.)

Several years ago Barbara had major surgery to correct a life-threatening “wiring problem” in her heart. Multiple times in the 14 years before surgery, our children witnessed her being rushed to the hospital with a heart rate of 300 beats per minute.

Finally after researching solutions, I discovered a procedure that was invented and perfected by a cardiologist in Oklahoma City. The waiting list was over three months long, but we got in line and waited.

We didn’t fully anticipate that our six children, ages 5 to 15, were waiting, too, with their mommy.

About a week before we were to leave, we were putting our 7-year-old daughter, Deborah, to bed and noticed something odd piled up under her bed. She was our most fastidious child, so when we discovered a herd of 15-20 stuffed Beanie-Babies, teddy bears, ponies, and dolls, we were puzzled.

We sat down on her bed and asked why she stuffed all those animals under her bed? Her response was confusing: “I was scared.”

Barbara asked, “Why are you scared?”

She replied, “I am sad.” Another bewildering answer. We sought to help her unpack more of her feelings and asked, “Why are you sad?”

She talked a bit and finally her answer came out. Suddenly it all made perfect sense. “I’m afraid that mommy is going to die during the operation.”

At that point she began to cry, then sob.

Our daughter Debroah and her family

In a sandwich hug we wrapped our arms around her and with words of love, thanked her for sharing her feelings with us. We tucked her in bed and prayed for her, asking God in His perfect love “to cast out all her fears.” I John 4:18.

Barbara and I had not talked with our children about the surgery and its risks because we wanted to protect them from fear. Deborah had picked up on our tension and apprehension. She needed us to pursue her, to ask the questions, that allowed her to name what was going on in her soul. She needed our help with vocabulary.

Children need a safe relationship with parents who love them … a place where they can attempt to express their emotions without being made fun of or rejected. They need parents to gently empower them to articulate what they are thinking and feeling, and they need coaching in how to process and express these emotions in a way that honors God.

I promise you: COVID-19 has created a lot of fear in your children. Help them unpack what they are feeling.

6. Children need a trusted “spiritual dictionary.”