The spread of Coronavirus is threatening untold numbers of lives, de-stabilizing national economies and disrupting the lifestyle of people across the world but for Christian parents it poses an additional risk—the spiritual well-being of our children.
How can they learn about faith if they’re surrounded by uncertainty, anxiety and fear?
It’s not that we shouldn’t be concerned. The danger of this new virus is real and taking extreme precautions only makes sense. That’s why we’re washing our hands more in an hour than we used to wash them in a day. Trying not to touch our faces. Staying away from crowds.
And making sure we have plenty of toilet paper.
I couldn’t resist bringing up the toilet paper hoarding thing since it’s become the billboard for our national response to the virus. Maybe when our children are grown they’ll look back on this time and call it “The Toilet Paper Pandemic.”
But right now how do we encourage them to believe when so many others are giving them the opposite message?
Part of the problem is the difference in perception between parents and their children. What I mean is that parents view the Coronavirus in abstract ways like health care provision, financial impact, social distancing and how close the latest reported victim lives.
Children perceive it in more personal, concrete ways. They’re more impacted by things like their parents’ distraction, the disruption of their regular routines, the boredom that comes from sitting around the house all day or not going to church with their friends.
Parents have to find ways to bridge the gap. What good does it do to provide for the safety of our children if we don’t make sure they feel loved?
But that’s not the whole story. On a deeper level we have to help our kids understand that faith isn’t just something you talk about at church or sing about in a song. It’s the bedrock conviction that whatever happens they can still trust Jesus. Christian parenting means preparing our children to become mature Christian adults.
The Coronavirus is an opportunity to help Christian parents do that.
Think of it this way. In Little League baseball we help our kids understand that when they strike out the world doesn’t come to an end.
If they do poorly on a test at school, we tell them they’re still loved.
If they get injured playing volleyball and have to go through the pain of rehab, we remind them that’s how life is.
When a friend says something ugly and they think their world is coming to an end, our job as parents is to help them see the bigger picture.
We see each challenge as a small step toward adulthood.
This moment is no different. So here are a few suggestions to help every Christian parent lead their child through the next few weeks:
• Manage your own anxiety. Our children feel anxiety to the degree that we do.
• Find a key Bible verse that expresses your conviction of God’s protection and use it as a touchstone for these next few weeks. You and your children memorize it together and refer to it often. God’s Word always makes a lasting impression.
• Keep Sunday morning worship a priority. Gather around a computer or television screen and connect with an online worship service—most churches are offering them. Mark these passing weeks according to worship and children will have a different framework for understanding what’s going on.
• Teach your children by example that following Jesus means trusting Him in the hard times as well as the good times. The more they see your faith, the more they will build their own.