Helping kids cope with uncertainty: Facebook live

19 May 2020
In this Covid season, everything is different. With so many unknowns at the moment, what can we do to help our kids find certainty in a very uncertain world?

We're in a weird temporary middle ground. Will we go back to school or not? Will this affect my future? Can I hug grandma today? What will happen about my exams? Will everyone be OK? What will it be like when dad goes back to work? Our kids' world has gone from known and normal to uncertain.  

In our Bedtime Drinks with Rachel Facebook Live, Rachel considers how we might help our children cope with this uncertainty.

You can watch the videos of the Facebook event or scroll down for the highlights.

Here are links to the two stories Rachel mentioned in her videos:.

                    God's night light               Rescue in the dark

Both stories are from the book Comfort in the Darkness.

For under 5s

Even though your children are still very young, you can teach them ways to cope with uncertainty that will help them all through their lives. These are three things Rachel suggests might work with under 5s.

'When ... then'

You can help them understand the new normals using the same tool that you use to teach them about everything else ('when we get to the road then we stop and look both ways' or 'when the oven light is on then we don't touch it'). For example: 'when there's a bad virus, then we shield other people', or 'when the government says it's OK, then we can go and see grandma'. This keeps things simple and easy to understand for young children and gives them certainty that they can understand.

Let them know where their 'yeses' are

We're having to say 'no' a lot. 'No you can't play with your friends / go to pre-school / have your birthday party / visit aunty', which can feel very unsettling: all the things that once were OK aren't now. By giving them their 'yeses' - the things they can do instead of the thing they can't, they find certainty instead of uncertainty, and a sense of purpose and powerfulness. For example: we can't go to see grandma, but we can send grandma a card, Skype her, call her, stand outside her house and wave, and bake some cookies for her. Which would you like to do?' 

Help them see what God is doing

When everything's uncertain, the only thing that is always certain is the character and heart of God and this is something our children can see and experience in this season.  Share stories to help them see God:

  • Talk about what you can see about how God is busy and active in the world: partnering with scientists to find a vaccine, comforting the lonely, caring for people stuck indoors. 
  • Share your stories of times in your life you felt uncertain and what God did
  • Share stories from the Bible about people in uncertain times, like Noah stuck on his boat waiting for the waters to go down. Even though Noah could only wait, God was busy getting the world ready, receding the waters, planning the next steps.
  • For older under 5s you might want to use our 'Me, God and Covid-19' journal to help them think about where God is and what he's doing in these times.

 

For 5s to 11s

The world is a very uncertain place for primary aged kids at the moment: they are aware of some of what's going on and are being affected directly by the restrictions, school closures (and openings) and potential changes ahead. But we can help them navigate this season and not be overwhelmed by the uncertainties. Rachel suggests four things that might help your child, depending on their character, experiences and make up.

Help them name what 'uncertainty' means for them

Children will not just be feeling 'uncertain'. Some will feel frustrated; others lonely; others bored; there are many more emotions they might be feeling. By helping them name what they are feeling, you can help them begin to understand what feels wrong and so their next steps. They may need help to identify their emotions; some ways to help you do this include:

  • If you think you know what they are feeling, you can create windows into what it's like for you when you feel that, so your kid can see if they recognise it too.
  • Use 'either / or': do you feel either more frustrated you can't go to school, or mad that even if you did you couldn't play with your friend?

Help them find patterns of power

Uncertainty can make us feel powerless, so if they can find their patterns of power life will feel more certain.

  • Establish ways for kids to feel that they know all the information they need: maybe a regular family review or a weekly time to catch up on questions.
  • Help them figure out what their purpose is: giving feedback on ways they have helped you, as well as seeking out things they can do to help others.
  • Check in with God: what are you calling me to? What jobs do you have specially for me in this season, God?

Help them handle worry well

This season is a great opportunity to coach your kid in how to handle worry - for a lifetime! Think about your kids: what tools do you want to give them to help them work through dealing with worry? Ideas might include:

  • Creating windows into how I deal with worry (and when I don't do it very well)
  • Teaching them how not to let worry overwhelm them and find out how God walks alongside us in worry

Create windows into what God is doing

Help them see in all sorts of ways that God is busy, active and working for us:

  • Talk about what you can see about how God is busy and active in the world: partnering with scientists to find a vaccine, comforting the lonely, caring for people stuck indoors. 
  • Share your stories of times in your life you felt uncertain and what God did
  • Share stories from the Bible about people in uncertain times, like Noah stuck on his boat waiting for the waters to go down. Even though Noah could only wait, God was busy getting the world ready, receding the waters, planning the next steps. For more suggestions of stories that might be helpful see this post here. 
  • You might want to use our 'Me, God and Covid-19' journal to help them think about where God is and what he's doing in these times.

 

Preteens and teens

For our older children, the affects of the coronavirus pandemic may feel massive: not only the interruptions to their normal life, but the impact on their future. Rachel has some ideas for what might be helpful for your teens.

Help them process their emotions well

Your teen might be feeling big emotions right now; if they don't recognise what they are feeling it can all become about their worry and uncertainty rather than processing what they are actually feeling. This is an opportunity to teach our kids how to walk through their emotions in uncertainty, so that they have ways to do this for life. If we can help them name what they are feeling, they can then take steps to process that feeling. Depending on your child some of the following might be useful:

  • If you think you know what they are feeling, you can create windows into what it's like for you when you feel that, so your kid can see if they recognise it too.
  • Ask questions about are you feeling this or that?
  • Ask 'curious questions' (questions that help you hear your kid's heart): for example, what's the worse thing that you think will happen if you don't get to sit your exams next year?

Help them see what God is doing

For our teens to trust God in this season, they need to see that he's working for good in the midst of the crisis.

  • Create windows into what you see God doing and how you think about God
  • Open up the big questions about God so teens know they have permission to ask them and to doubt and wonder.
  • Share your stories of times in your life you felt uncertain and what God did
  • Share stories from the Bible about people in uncertain times, like Noah stuck on his boat waiting for the waters to go down. Even though Noah could only wait, God was busy getting the world ready, receding the waters, planning the next steps. For more suggestions of stories that might be helpful see this post here. 
  • Share how God wants them to be powerful and purposeful and help them surf the waves of whatever God's got for them. Encourage them to chat and catch with God, to discover what small part of his great plans he has for them in this season.both at home and in the wider world.

 

Image acknowledgements

Black mother and daughter embracing sitting on couch by Fitzes from Canva Pro