The following is a brief conversation that we as deacons serving in Zoe Kids want to share with parents in our church. We hope it encourages you and lets you know that you’re not alone in navigating the responsibility to raise children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord while also dealing with a host of other challenges the pandemic has brought into life.
Please feel free to send us thoughts, questions, and experiences you’ve had during this time at home with your families. We would like to grow together in parenting our children.
Nancy: Hi Tiff, What does it look like in the Wada household these days?
Tiffany: Hi! Our day to day definitely has changed. Starting with Jeff being at home, and as of last Sunday, he’ll be home until May 20, 2020. The two older boys are no longer in school and school work is being sent home so that takes up 2-3 hours of our day. And Riley loves the company of everyone at home, which then makes it difficult for me to get anything else done. So it’s chaotic, but a blessing to be together.
Nancy: What are some specific challenges you think you’ve faced having young children at home during these changes?
Tiffany: The biggest challenge so far is keeping a routine and balancing that routine with fun and comfort that I feel the kids should have while being at home. So, balancing is our new challenge – balancing school work and games, or chores with free creative time, going outside for fresh air and exercise but staying in and away from others, and also being cautious but not instilling fear because of the pandemic.
How has it been for you as a grandparent? What are some new challenges you face since we began social distancing?
Nancy: FaceTime is great, but it’s no substitute for actually spending time together. I’m sad not to see Pey and Reezy these days and sometimes the sadness is quite strong. I’ve been challenged to pray for them more and think about them and to look forward to being together again. They’re enjoying a sweet time with their mommy and daddy and I’m thankful for that. Being apart from our two daughters in California is similar, but we’re able to share more online. But with children, there are so many moments when you’re just with each other and not necessarily having a conversation.
Tiffany: I completely understand. I’m praying for us to all get back together again as well.
Nancy: How have you talked with your children about what’s going on around us?
Tiffany: In terms of the situation, I told them that there’s a disease going around that is hard for doctors and scientists to track and kill, so in order to help these doctors we need to stay inside so we don’t catch or spread the virus. We can catch the virus by being near people who may have it but aren’t really sick yet. The virus is so small that it can travel from one person’s breathing to another person and it gets trapped in our lungs and that can cause a lot of damage so that breathing is hard. Even if Mommy or Daddy or you catch it, it might not be very scary, but if someone who is already sick or older, like Grandma and Grandpa catch the virus, then it can be serious.
Nancy: What about spiritually speaking? Have any opportunities come up to talk with them on that level?
Tiffany: Definitely. A month ago when I was taking the kids grocery shopping with me, they noticed something was different. They noticed the empty shelves, people’s rudeness, that some grocery carts were completely filled, and some people even had two carts, while others had empty carts.
Nancy: What sorts of conversations did that lead to?
Tiffany: I felt it was a good time for me to teach them about sin and how Christians can be Christlike during this time of darkness. Right now is a scary time, and unfortunately some people respond with selfishness because of that fear. So maybe they buy a lot more food or toilet paper than they need and forget that others might need those things too. In regards to some of the violence or anger circling the media, I explained that sometimes when people are really scared, that turns into anger and they can even hurt others to feel in control. But, I told them, we can be different. When we trust in Jesus, we know that God loves us and will take care of us. So instead of feeling like we need to look out first for ourselves, we can buy what we need and use what we have to share with others. Even if we can’t find everything we need or want, God will provide for us or help us live with what we already have.
Nancy: Do you think they were able to understand what you said?
Tiffany: I think they’re learning. They have many follow up questions, and I try to direct the answers toward God because ultimately He is the answer!
Have you had some of these conversations with your grandchild or even adult children? Any words of comfort for the 4 year old to the 33 year old?
Nancy: Actually I haven’t talked that much to Pey about it, but I know her parents have explained what’s happening with the coronavirus and that’s why she isn’t going to preschool or church or seeing us. With Jesse and Christine, we’ve just briefly talked about how this time has opened up time and space to provide opportunities — to rest, to be with family and reach out to others, to trust God.
Tiffany: Have you gone through anything similar to this? Maybe not a pandemic, but a time of uncertainty and general fear? How did you manage your family during that time and any parallels you would apply to now?
Nancy: 9-11 comes to mind. That was 2001 and our kids were 15, 12 and 9. So, a high schooler, middle schooler and an elementary age child. I asked all three of them and they couldn’t remember us talking about it as a family in any depth. The older two remember talking about it at school and my youngest says she remembers asking me if the same thing could happen when we lived (Los Angeles). As for what I answered, she said it was something like, “I don’t know.” I was surprised when she told me she remembers feeling reassured. I hope I hugged her! 9-11 was a different kind of threat than Covid-19. It was distant and we in California were not directly affected. So it’s a little hard to compare.
I wish I could say that we shared God’s comfort and perspective with them and were sensitive to any of their questions or fears. We were not strong in our faith or grounded in the Gospel. By God’s grace, we’re in a better place now. And I am thankful that many Zoe parents are able to and, I hope, are already teaching and leading their children in these uncertain times.
Tiffany: Trusting in God can be a hard concept to teach. Looking back to 9-11, what would be something you did that you would advise our parents to do at home with their children?
Nancy: In 2001, although we regularly attended church and read the Word, we weren’t that mature in our faith. One thing we did practice with our children was learning/memorizing Scripture. Stan would teach the verses to the kids and they had to recite it by memory before they could be excused. I think it’s important to share your faith and relationship with God as part of your life and not only as something you’re teaching them. I remember a few times that my kids would see me reading the Bible and ask me about it. Those were important moments.
And what are some ways your family is able to practice trusting in God?
Tiffany: One of my foundations in parenting is not only should I correct and discipline, but I also want to model and practice. This idea comes from Christ telling us as Christians to put off sin and unbelief and put on faith and love. So parenting should model putting off old ways of life and putting on Christlikeness. While Jeff and I tell the children to put off fear and selfishness and teach about why we don’t need to worry because God is in control, we also need to give them examples and an opportunity to practically see what trusting in God looks like. Because God is taking care of us and is in control of everything, we can think of other people and try to love them. This can be something as simple as saying “hi” when we go for walks, or giving away an old bed frame to a nurse in need, or writing letters to the senior care center just last Sunday. We want them to see that we can give what we have, share what we have, but I can’t stress this enough, we also allow them to see how we ACCEPT HELP, too. We don’t even have to be in need; we just want the blessing of giving to go around.
If we don’t receive help from others, then they won’t be able to see how humility is a blessing as well. So we have asked for prayer, and shared our struggles with our children and with our church family and we have also asked for toilet paper and certain foods when we couldn’t find any. And when we haven’t received help right away, that’s also God telling us to trust Him more. That can also be an answered prayer.
Does a Bible story or verse come to mind that would be a great devotional tool in helping parents shepherd their children? It could be for feeling anxious, frustrated, or even bored at home!
Nancy: I think it’s always important to help our children to see how BIG and how GREAT our God is. So, the Bible stories from the Old Testament which the children should know pretty well, are good to point out. At the same time, we need to thank God for His nearness, His tender care and love. God’s love for children and the sick, and, of course, His dying for us on the cross all point to His great love. We need both.
I would encourage parents to pray, thanking and praising God in these ways so their children can hear them and be encouraged to pray in that way themselves.
Tiffany: I think Deuteronomy 11:19, which says, “You shall teach [God’s Words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise,” is so fitting because so many of us are home together! We are sitting with our children at the kitchen table, lying with them on the couch, and rising with them to walk as far as to the living room and back! So what better time than now to teach our children about God through our words and actions!
Nancy: Thanks for sharing. Even in these uncertain and anxious times, there are certainly wonderful opportunities to have conversations like these with your children. Without distractions and busyness in our lives, there is space and quiet to notice things, ask and answer questions, and point our children to faith in God.
We hope you were encouraged and blessed by this conversation. We know that many of you are having similar talks with your families during this time. If you could use help taking advantage of your time together, here are a few links to some resources you can use in pointing your children to Christ.