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.”

Think with me for a moment. What does a dictionary do? It gives us authoritative and reliable spelling and meanings for words. A parent needs to access the God-breathed “spiritual dictionary,” which defines this pandemic our children are experiencing. The best seller of all time, the Bible, is God’s spiritual dictionary and His final word on living life God’s way.

Now read carefully: A parent is the first Bible a child reads.

Where does a child witness his first glimpses of God?

Where does a child find their first personal introduction to God?

Where does a child first begin to learn Who this God is and what He is like?

Where does a child learn and experience one of the most profound truths in the universe—God is love and He loves us?

Where does a child first experience boundaries?

Where does a child first learn to trust?

Where does a child first hear what is expected of him by God?

Where does a child first find meaning in life?

Where does a child first observe forgiveness and hear the Gospel?

It’s with mom and dad. It’s with a single parent mom or dad. Or with a step-parent.

It’s why God’s number one choice for building His Kingdom and establishing a nation is parents. In Deuteronomy 6:1-9, He commands parents to define who He is and what He commands children and future generations to do:

· To fear Him, obey Him and love Him with all of their hearts


· To pass on that love for God by teaching their children


· To diligently teach children God’s ways for life as found in the Scriptures

Your assignment is to think of yourself as a tutor of this spiritual dictionary. Appointed by God to help your child find an authoritative definition of God. To equip your child with the biblical meaning of this season of suffering. Tribulation produces character (Romans 5:1-5).

Make certain you don’t leave your child to find God and meaning in life in the wrong dictionaries.

7. Children need an interpreter of the “new normal.”

Interpreters translate the language and culture for people from a foreign country. They teach foreigners enough language to understand what’s taking place. Interpreters clarify to visitors the meaning behind their customs and values so they know how to experience their country and culture appropriately.

This pandemic has brought a number of parents back into their children’s world. Parents can watch teachers online and see not only how their children are taught, but also what is taught.

Some parents are discovering their children are being taught that choosing your gender is normal. The choice is no longer either male or female, but multiple choice, with over 60 different blends of “sexes.” Some children are being taught that living together is the preferred form of marriage preparation. And the new frontier for the family is polyamorous relationships … multiple men and women in a sexual relationship.

Parents can’t ignore their discoveries of what’s taking place in culture, social media, school, entertainment etc. Simply stated, they need to be interpreters, explaining to their children what they see taking place and what God says about it. Our children need to understand the moral revolution taking place and be taught how to think critically and how to respond as followers of Christ.

Increasingly, children who attempt to be Christ followers in the classroom, in sports or performing arts, while on social media and relating to their peers, will feel like foreigners. Our children must be trained to think and act as “ambassadors for Christ.” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Parents should be employed as full time “interpreters,” explaining not only what they see taking place in this culture today, but the values their teachers, coaches, peers and their families embrace.

8. Children need a “FUN DADDY and a “FUN MOMMY.”

This pandemic has sucked life and fun out of families. Some parents have become fuddy-duddies. And even though everyone is home, an evening together should not be mom and dad looking at the big screen in the living room with the kids scattered throughout the apartment or house glued to their tiny screens.

So how much fun do you have in your family, especially being home because of the pandemic?

Having fun with the whole family

Consider giving your family a survey. Ask them three questions:


· On a 1-10 point scale (1 being none and 10 being Disneyland), how much fun do we have a family?


· Why did you give our family that score?


· What is one or two things we can do as a family to have fun?

After dinner meet together as a family and discuss, agreeing on “when” and “what” to have some fun. Delegate responsibilities to the kids if appropriate. LET GO! And ask God to give your family a great time.

For some who read this, you may need to break the fun meter. A couple of laughs a week is not excessive. Make a poster that says, “Over the next 12 months we want to be found guilty of having too much fun, rather than too little!” Then tape it to the fridge.

Your kids need to have fun and so do you!

9. Children need to know how the REAL STORY ends.

The pandemic has brought all kinds of questions. One is, “Do you believe this pandemic is God’s judgment on America and the world?”

My answer is simple: “I try to be careful about speaking like I understand what Almighty God is up to. But I do know for certain that Jesus is coming back. And I am absolutely certain that we are much closer to the Second Advent of Christ than at any point in history.”

Jesus promised His disciples (and us), “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

Over 40 years ago I was riding a ski lift in Breckenridge, Colorado. The guy I was with looked over his left shoulder, pointed to a snow-covered range of mountains, and quoted the verse above. With awe and expectancy he said, “Just think Dennis, Jesus created those magnificent peaks in six days. He’s been gone over 2,000 years and He’s been preparing a place for you and me! What kind of place do you imagine that would be?”

He’s coming back. We need to remind our children of this regularly.

Are you ready to meet Him?

Are your children ready?

In the midst of this pandemic, give your children the hope of His return. And remind them that God is working out a much BIGGER STORY that is taking place.

Now, look over these 5 things your children need, or all 9, and pick one of two you can become intentional about and create a simple plan to begin to execute. If you have time, write me and our team here at theraineys.org and we will pray for you.

Dennis

Psalm 112:1-2


If you missed part one of "What Every Child Needs" Click Here

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