Over the past few weeks, I have seen some really strong people succumb to the grips of fear. Fear that paralyzes, fear that controls and fear that won’t let go. I understand, we are living in a time like no other, one day we were all living our lives, doing the things we do and the next we are stopped, to live our lives inside our houses with only those who live there with us. Daily broadcasts from the governor of our state and the President tend to be unsettling, like a massive disaster that seems to be replaying over and over.
And, somehow in the midst of all of this situation it seems that fear has crept into our lives, even for those of us who do not lean toward being fearful. Really, is it any wonder?
But, I want to encourage you today to let go of the fear. The fear will crush you and grip you tighter and its one of those things that will multiply over time so that even when the pandemic is over, your fear continues. We can stand victorious over fear knowing that our God is still in control—even if the world seems to be spiraling around us. He knows what he is doing.
This is important for your mental health as well as that of your children. Our children are unable to process situations in the same way we are and, as a result can become fearful over everyday things. Children are also very intuitive, absorbing the emotions of those around them-so, if you are fearful, they will internalize that fear and begin acting out that fear in a variety of ways. (None of which we as parents really want to deal with).
So, to keep your fears and concerns from getting the best of you, we’ve included some tips and strategies—
- Maintain a daily routine – All of us function better on a daily routine. Our kids behave better, we tend to eat healthier and our lives are provided with a sense of normalcy and structure. This doesn’t mean that your routine needs to be strict and inflexible; as a matter of fact, during this time, your family probably needs to relax a bit and take a break. That’s where spontaneity comes in—fun, unexpected opportunities within a normal routine.
- Turn off the television – I know that it is really tempting to turn on the television or social media to “stay up to date” on all the latest information. But, really is it necessary? Do you know what you need to know to keep your family safe? If so, turn it off. Once on overload, our brains (and those of our children) have a really difficult time sorting out what’s real and what’s not. Somehow, the situation becomes much more dire in our minds that in reality.
- Have an honest talk with your kids – Perhaps you have been avoiding discussing the topic with with your kids because you simply don’t know what to say. Without the facts from someone who has their best interests in mind (you) they will turn to other sources for information and those sources probably do not have their best interests in mind and may not even have the facts straight.
What I always found to work with my kids – having an honest conversation. I would ask them questions to determine what they already knew (or thought they knew) about a situation or issue. This information would give me a starting point and would allow me to correct any misconceptions. Having this conversation will also help you know where they are developmentally, in other words, what their little brains are capable of understanding. Then, you can tell them the truth. One thing I always found to be helpful was to let my kids know that sometimes the truth changes and that does not mean I am not telling the truth, it just means that the truth may change as new information is discovered or events unfold. Then, let them know that if they have additional questions, they can come to you for answers (because really, wouldn’t you prefer they get their answers from you then somewhere else?). Using this pattern of communication will help build an honest, trusting relationship with your children that will last far belong the current pandemic.
- Take Care of Yourself – It is really easy to slip into habits that are simply not good for us, but this is a time when you need to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Carve out some time each day for exercise –maybe a family walk or hike, or perhaps a workout video that can double as physical education for your kids. Plan out what you will eat and what your children will eat-when we fuel our bodies with good food that nourishes us, we all respond better and maintain better mental health.
Perhaps the biggest drain for all of us throughout this time in our lives is that on our mental health as we struggle to make sense of it all. You might be trying to figure out how to make ends meet financially or worrying about family members who fall into a vulnerable population group. Our minds are fed just the same as our physical bodies – by what we put into them. So, I ask you what are you feeding your mind? Fill it with positive messages, learn something new or help someone else –all of these turn into healthy fuel for your mind to use.
- Develop the habit of gratitude – Now is the time to develop the habit of gratitude in yourself and in those in your family. If you think about it, you have sooo much to be thankful for; if you live in America, you are wealthier than 99% of the rest of the world; so all of your issues and concerns really become first-world issues. But, without focusing on gratitude, it is easy to let it slip through our fingers.
Gratitude is a time when we give thanks for all the good and perfect gifts that God has given us. Now is the perfect time to start a family gratitude journal and every evening have each person give at least one thing they are thankful for that day. Number the items with a goal of getting to 1000 in a year. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it, but if you think about it, God’s mercies are new every morning and so are his blessings.
The gratitude journal will lead to some real fun for your family because all gratitude inevitably leads to generosity. As your family lists those things it is thankful for, begin to think about who you can show God’s love to—pay it forward. And, maybe you can’t do it right now, but plan for it in the very near future.
Even when our world seems to be falling down around us, we do not have live in the grips of fear. Jesus says, “Fear Not.”