Question: Our family has been stuck at home for most of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve enjoyed the extra time together, but lately I’ve noticed our nerves are fraying. Lots of bickering and rolled eyes, and not just from the children. Any ideas for teaching our kids how to be gracious and forgiving toward each other, while reminding our adult selves to do the same?
Answer: Hopefully I can bring some context to your problems at home. As parents it is understandable you feel claustrophobic, needing space and freedom, while battling the guilt that comes from wishing you could just run away from home, if only for an hour. We’re facing new questions, like will the kids go back to school? And should they? Meanwhile, the world outside our homes seems darkened by a massive cloud of grief.
Imagine your former self (one year ago) hearing that more than 170,000 Americans would be dead from a brand-new viral pandemic; millions would be out of work, and our country would be as divided and contentious as ever. Imagine learning we could no longer hug our friends, attend a wedding, sit with a dying parent, or attend church. And while processing all the above information, realizing that many of the problems we had prior to the pandemic, remain.
So, cut yourself some slack. In the face of everything going on outside your front door, I would say you are doing pretty well.
We can tolerate a few eye rolls, and withstand a bit of bickering. You ask for ideas for teaching your kids how to be gracious and forgiving. This is a question you already know the answer to: model it. Be honest and apologize for your part of the problem.
I might also suggest a family Bible study on the meaning of the words grace and mercy. We use these two words interchangeably, but many of us have difficulty articulating the difference between them. Simply put, grace is God giving a blessing to those who don’t deserve it. Mercy is God withholding his wrath from those who do deserve it.
Knowing this difference will forever enhance your children’s understanding of Scripture, and it might just help them (and us) be less cynical and more accepting of those who suffer around us.
Mark McCormick is director of clinic operations for Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services.