*This post contains an affiliate link.
These are wild times we’re living in. No doubt your routines and lifestyle have slowed down or even turned upside down. As parents who love our kids, we want to do everything we can to help our children experience peace and calm even when the world outside our home is fearful and chaotic. It is my hope and prayer that these strategies will be of service to you, not only in crisis, but in the good days ahead.
Calm in our home starts with us as parents.
If we want to cultivate a calm atmosphere in our homes, it starts with our own hearts and minds. Please don’t dismiss the most vital piece of what will increase your child’s sense of security: your own. I’m not talking about sucking it up and posing strong for your kids. Quite the contrary. I’m talking about bringing God the storm inside of us, releasing that emotion in a healthy way and letting His Word breathe grace into our souls. Listen. If you’re dealing with anxiety, overwhelm, depression, sorrow, anger or disappointment, refuse to allow shame to keep you from receiving the love that meets us in hard places and gives us a firm place to stand when everything else feels like shifting sand.
Your family may be experiencing financial strain or loss due to COVID-19 or the measures being taken to prevent the spread. That’s real. And HARD. You may feel beside yourself with multiple kids at home, have special needs in the mix or a living situation that’s completely overwhelming. You are not alone.
Give yourself space to cry, vent and process what’s going on in your heart. Whether that’s with God in prayer, a friend over the phone or your spouse at home, or all of the above, tending to your own inner well-being will go miles in helping your kids thrive during this time. If you’d like to receive a free resource I created to pray the Word of God over your heart and family as well as receive encouragement straight to your inbox, click here to share the email address I can send it to.
Be mindful about how much news and negative discussion you allow in your home.
In times like these it’s incredibly easy to become consumed with the latest news via social media, television or our phones. But our kids are sponges. They can’t handle an overwhelming amount of information. (I would argue that adults can’t either, but that’s a different article.)
Between changes with school, routines, extracurricular activities, and vigilant hygiene, we absolutely must have open communication with our kids. But if we’re frantically checking news sources or talking openly about money concerns, our kids will feel that keenly. Our children should get the benefit of hearing necessary information through a news source – us – that’s sober yet calm, rather than panicked. But let’s be honest, even then navigating these unusual times can feel brutal to a child’s heart, which leads to a critical point.
Allow your children to vent their thoughts and emotions about what’s going on.
I know this can be hard. For many parents, handling an emotional or argumentative kid can trigger anxiety. Let’s face it. Especially in situations like this, we can feel powerless when telling a kid that the thing they’ve poured weeks, maybe even years into is now cancelled. Or that they’ll finish their last year of high school without a prom.
The first emotion that may come up is frustration or anger. Maybe he or she even says something that normally would not come out of his or her mouth. Pay attention because anger is a secondary emotion. Under those fiery words or glances is someone who is either deeply sad, disappointed, anxious or all of them at once. Let’s ask God to give us eyes to see our children’s hearts rather than judge them by their knee-jerk reactions.
God is not daunted by our feelings. By God’s grace, we can display the nature of God to our kids by empathizing with what they’re going through rather than shaming their human emotions. It’s only through genuine empathy that we can lovingly interject a compassionate perspective of the world around us and lead the way with gratitude. I’ve seen it firsthand.
Besides when we consider the bigger picture, it’s better for them to externalize their feelings now and learn how to walk through them than internalize strong emotion that may fester as unresolved baggage in the future. None of us do this perfectly and grace is really good at filling in the gaps, but this is the time to model a healthy inner life. The very tools we use to stay anchored in the storm are strategies we can teach our kids when they’re ready. But fellow moms in the trenches, what may be some of our greatest times of inconvenience and disappointment may also be some of our greatest opportunities to shepherd our kids’ hearts.
Focus on connection and relationship above all else.
I’m incredibly task-oriented so it’s easy to feel frazzled or distracted when a lot is going on. Here are a few ideas and opportunities that you can take advantage of in your day to foster connection as a family.
- Establish news and social media browsing for a specific time of day. Keep notifications off on your phone.
- Eat meals together even if it’s just one per day. Leave your phone somewhere else and focus on eye contact and engaging conversation, which may mean you listen to your kids tell you all about the characters in a favorite new movie.
- Go out of your way once a day to stop everything you’re doing just to listen to something your child wants to tell you. If you can, take that one step further and look for a way to enter their world with them, even if it’s just for a few minutes. (With my kids that’s looked like anything from admiring Lego creations and joining in, listening to and helping to edit a fictional story, and helping my 4-year-old with her dress and joining in her tea time.) You know your kids. Join in for 2 minutes with undivided attention and watch their eyes light up.
- Do things that your family enjoys together. Our family loves books. Stories are a huge part of our bonding time. Card and board games, walks in nature, dance parties and singing sound tracks are also super fun. If you’re not sure, this may be a great time to start experimenting and find some new pastimes you can enjoy together.
Leverage both predictability and spontaneity to foster a calm and fun home atmosphere.
- Establish a daily rhythm. When routines are disrupted, it’s easy for one day to flow into the next. Kids crave some structure. You may be imagining a color-coded schedule detailing an agenda for the day. I don’t do that fancy. What’s worked best for us is having a general flow to the day. We gather for breakfast and do what we call morning time. We pray, read the Bible, some poetry and one additional book. Afterwards, everyone gets ready for the day. I help the kids as they’re learning hygiene and household responsibilities. Then they have time to explore and learn about whatever they want. We regroup around lunch or early afternoon and then have a whole rhythm around bedtime. It can be more simple or complex depending on the unique needs of your family. But don’t be afraid to put some flexible structure in place. It can go a long way to save some sanity on long days at home.
- Mix it up with some spontaneity and fun. Magic happens when you chase the spark. See your first robin? Maybe it’s time for a spring scavenger hunt. Surprise the kids by having watercolor and art supplies waiting for them on the breakfast table when they get up in the morning. Write and perform a play in your living room. Or better yet, give your kids some old clothes for costumes and send them off to create it all. One thing that our family has enjoyed this year is observing fun holidays like Pi Day (fun geometry, math and of course pie!) and St. Patrick’s Day (with green waffles and the real story of St. Patrick). If you’re stuck, just do something that you really enjoy and watch your own curiosity and wonder start waves your kids won’t want to stay out of.
- Be mindful of screen time. Lastly, if you find a child seems disconnected and uninterested in anything you want to do as a family, could screen time be the culprit? Listen, this parenting gig is hard. There is no shame. If you suspect a surplus of screen time is the culprit, could you tweak screen time to be at a certain time of day, set a cap or focus on screen time that the family can relish together? If you need more support in this area, my family greatly benefited from Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time (available here on Amazon).
I am confident that as you lead the way tending to your own heart, limiting negative influences, and focusing on connection, you’re blazing trails your kids can follow. The best news is that God is so incredibly faithful to give us wisdom and strategy when we ask for it. Whether through coronavirus or ordinary days once this storm has passed, I pray that God would refresh and strengthen you as you lead your kids in peace and full of hope.
If this has helped or encouraged you, I’d be honored if you’d share this on Pinterest, Facebook or with a friend. What questions do you have? If you have other ideas you would add, please share them in the comments below.