Question: Our kids, who are 7 and 9, are asking questions about what’s going on in the world. Our oldest in particular is quieter than she was a few months ago, and more withdrawn sometimes. We’re wondering if she could be dealing with some fear she’s not talking about. How can we help them?
Answer: With something as scary and unpredictable as a global pandemic, we shouldn’t be surprised at your daughter’s processing difficulties. In a sense, we are all like children experiencing this for the first time.
We are all likely dealing with fear we aren’t talking about. Kids are often reluctant to discuss their fear, in an effort to protect their parents from pain. They may perceive you as worried enough already.
It is helpful to take a quick mental snapshot of your own fear, current behavior, and recent conversations, to gauge the extent to which you may be inadvertently transferring your anxiety to the children. We have all observed how calm parents are often followed by calm children, and vice versa. Of course, there are exceptions to this; however, it is wise not to underestimate the correlation between our emotional state and the emotional state of our children. Kids become experts at reading body language and detecting unease.
How is God redeeming these otherwise dark days? Through families, who are sitting around the table together, laughing, sharing a meal, and relearning how to have a conversation. Parents are more focused on what matters most: God, and family.
You ask, “How do we help them?” First (and always), pray to be present and wise. Address them with honesty and simplicity, leaving out global markets, politics, and death statistics. Reassure them: it isn’t clear how long it will take, things are getting better, and you will be here to keep them safe.
Preservation and perseverance are two godly characteristics we should always model to our children. Adult Christians have been gifted with wisdom, developed through countless past deliverances. It is helpful for you to remember, meditate on, and share these past deliverances with your children, to help them begin their own accounting of God’s presence in their lives.
Mark McCormick is director of clinic operations for Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services.