Parenting in a Pandemic: Some Practical Considerations

The jokes about going crazy with your kids at home during this pandemic are rampant. Some of them are funny (“women are at greater risk, spas have been designated as safe zones – send your women alone immediately!”), others honestly make me sad (usually marked by the need for copious amounts of wine and alcohol). I get it. I’m writing this at home and have been interrupted every ten minutes by my daughter asking for me to play with her. Balancing work-at-home with kids who are going stir-crazy is going to be a challenge. So I’ll keep this short (I told my daughter I’d play soon, so my time is limited!).

I want to take this space to encourage you to shepherd your kids/teens through this Coronavirus hysteria. School has either been closed or transitioned to online learning for the coming weeks and they can’t see their friends for that same time period. If your kids are like mine (6th & 4th grade), they’re exhausted of hearing about it. They’re also scared and anxious. Here are a few reflections I’ve taken note of in the past few days:

  1. Set a Faithful Example

If mom and dad are freaking out and only talk about how terrible this could be, of course this will lead to fear and anxiety in our kids. Don’t pass down your anxiety about it to your kids… pass down your faith in God. Demonstrating faith in the midst of these anxious days speaks volumes.

  1. Don’t Talk About It Constantly

Talking about Coronavirus all the time will only breed more anxiety and fear. Turn off social media and the news, and watch a movie, play some board games, go for a walk. Don’t allow this to consume your life, even if work and school (and church) are cancelled.

  1. Be Wise But Not Fearful

Take precautions. Make sure everyone is washing their hands and being careful. There’s a difference between making preparations for quarantine and hoarding as if it’s the end of the world. Being prepared is wise; going beyond that is hoarding resources your neighbor might actually need.

  1. Love Your Neighbor

Take care of your older neighbors and family members. Offer to do their grocery shopping since they’re more vulnerable right now. If a neighbor or friend needs yardwork done, consider it a family service project. Coronavirus doesn’t cancel the biblical command to love your neighbor as yourself.

  1. Slow Down: Play and Laugh Together

We’re always complaining about how busy we are. Well… we aren’t anymore, are we? So enjoy it. Slow down. Pull out some board games (or try some new ones, like Telestrations or What Do You Meme: Family Edition). Teach your kids how to play some card games you learned when you were young. Go for walks, throw the baseball, and create memories that aren’t electronic.

  1. Drink Deeply of God’s Grace

Parenting is difficult anyways. Parenting during quarantine is more challenging. There will be blowups and arguments… even as you see your friends posting on social media about all the amazing family bonding they’re enjoying. Resist the temptation to compare. Especially during this season when we need to worship at home, remember worship is not a competition. If you see others posting on social media about their sweet times of worship on Sunday mornings and feel the crushing weight of shame because your family worship time involved yelling at your kids and family bickering – drink deeply of God’s grace. As you come face-to-face with your parenting failures, remember that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you perfectly… and he has given you grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. Love your family according to your Heavenly Father’s example, not in competition with your neighbors.

Our hope is in Christ. We know this already, but let me remind you. These are uncertain days, and I believe we’ll all talk about the Coronavirus and “social distancing” fifty years from now as a moment in our cultural history that changed our society. My hunch is, we will never go back to “the way things were” just a few weeks ago. That can be scary to consider. But our faith in Christ is firm, and his provision for his people is certain. Walk with confidence that your Heavenly Father cares for you deeply and personally. Have honest conversations with your teenagers about what’s going on. Lead them in conversations, and lead them by example.

The Lord is good and his steadfast love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5

Mike McGarry is the Director of Youth Pastor Theologian, has served as a Youth Pastor for 18 years in Massachusetts, and has two youth group aged kids at home. He earned his D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has published three books – most recently, “Discover: Questioning Your Way to Faith.” Mike is committed to training youth workers to think biblically about what youth ministry is and to training them to teach theologically with confidence. You can connect with him on social media @youththeologian.

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