The first instinct of a parent is usually to shield their child from any harm. It’s easy to believe “ignorance is bliss” and the best way to protect our children is by not telling them anything, but children are often intuitive. They pick up on things, emotions, and can tell when their parents are carrying a weight whether they can vocalize it or not. As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded and has altered many of our children’s routines it has caused children to wonder, ask questions and maybe even worry. Similar to adults, children too worry when they are left in the dark. Therefore it’s important, before a child seeks answers else where, for parents to become their safe haven by discussing with them the impacts of the virus while reassuring them in a way that doesn’t cause worry. Here are some ways to have a conversation with your child about COVID-19.

Be available to answer any questions

With so much unknowns going on around your child he or she is bound to have some questions. However it’s wise to ask this question first, “What have you been hearing about the coronavirus?” This question will help you understand what they might already know or clear up any false information. Then create a space for your child to ask questions by opening up the conversation with, “Do you have any questions about the virus?” Give your child an opportunity to be heard and to understand the facts. Encourage your child to ask any question they may have but if they ask one you don’t have an answer to, help them accept uncertainty. Even though we may not have all the answers we serve a big God who knows all and who offers us hope and peace. Remember this truth, “ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7 NKJV).

Be comforting and speak calmly

Before engaging in a conversation with your child about COVID make sure your own anxieties are in check. If your child senses any fear and panic they too will begin to take on your emotions.  Be sure to be calm and collected when discussing the virus with your child. Reassure your child by explaining that most people who get sick have cold or flu like symptoms and that it’s mainly adults who catch it. Speaking calmly will give your child a sense of peace and comfort knowing “if mom and dad aren’t too worried, I don’t have to worry either.” Be honest and truthful to your child and bring comfort if any fear or worry rises up within them. Let them know you are here for them.

Give your child a sense of control

No matter if you are an adult or a child it is always comforting when you feel like you have a little bit of control of something. So offer this control by teaching children how to protect themself and why certain mandates have been put in place. Teach them that getting plenty of sleep and regularly washing hands especially before eating can help there bodies stay strong and healthy. Explain that washing hands for a solid 20-seconds or the length of Happy Birthday will not only protect them but others as well. Another way to keep yourself and others safe is by wearing a mask. Reassure your child that hospitals and doctors are prepared to take care of people who are in need and that scientist are working diligently at developing a vaccine. Encourage your son or daughter that all the changes that have been happening are to keep everyone safe. 

It is normal to feel a little stressed when a lot of changes happen all at once. However for a child having the comfort of a parent can make all the difference. Keep the line of communication open; make yourself available for your child. As you walk alongside your child stand firm on this truth, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Some of the best things about being a teenager is finding different ways to socialize, whether that’s hanging out with a friend group at school, being apart of sports, or shopping for the next school dance. Being with friends is a huge part of being a teenager, not to mention all the milestones a teenager looks forward to, like driving, prom, and graduating. Once COVID hit all of this was stripped away and many of the activities a typical teenager enjoys was either postponed or cancelled, limiting, what teenagers do best, socializing with their friends. Being confined to their home, many teens have been impacted emotionally; feelings of depression, anger, and even boredom have begun to weigh heavy. So let’s discuss some ways you can best parent your teenager during these hard times.

Emphasize Precautions

Teens often feel invincible, which may make it a bit difficult for them to comply with new mandates. Therefore it is important that they understand that social distancing, wearing a mask and regularly washing their hands apply to them too. These mandates are in place to not only protect them but to protect others as well because it’s not really a matter of how you are feeling and that you may feel fine. The danger is when a person is asymptomatic and they are carrying around the virus without knowing it. Even though your teen may be comfortable taking the risk of getting sick, to be with their friends, help them see that if they end up getting COVID they will have possibly infected everyone they interacted with that they did not social distance from or wear a mask around, which includes their family. Even though your teen is young the coronavirus is still unpredictable and affects people differently, from mild to sever symptoms, no matter the age. Therefore it is vital that your teen has a clear picture of this virus and it’s important that, you as the parent are there for them to answer any questions, bringing them comfort.

Support a Healthy Routine

No matter what age you are it is can be frustrating to change up your routine. However it’s important that your teen plans out a new schedule and routine that helps them maintain a healthy lifestyle that keeps their mind and body engaged rather than letting time aimlessly pass them by. Your teen will be able to cope better during such a stressful time if they are getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, and regularly exercising. This will help your teen maintain a positive mood and fulfill academic expectations. Encourage your teen to get active, whether you go on family hikes, walks, or bike rides. Maybe this is an opportunity to get active with your teen, maybe try running together or take an online workout class, regardless remind your teen sleeping all day is not an option, it’s important to remain active. 

Include social connections within your teens schedule by allowing time to connect via Zoom, Facetime and social media. Even though screen time should be monitored it’s also important to know this is their way to feel connected. Encourage your teen, during this “down time” to learn or do something new like finding a fun recipe and making it for the family. A new routine can include new memories and precious moments together. 

Be Mindful of your Teen’s Mental Health

If sulking about being home with parents and siblings becomes a regular occurrence with your teen a conversation may be helpful. Acknowledge their frustrations, and maybe sharing your own feelings, may help your teen not feel alone. Listening to their heart and validating their feelings can have a positive impact on your teen. Help them understand that you want to work together at making this situation more bearable. Regularly check in with your teen asking them how they are doing and how they are feeling in their low moments. Be mindful of any emotional changes such as: acting out, irritability or being tearful, changes in sleep or eating, and if they are isolating more often. Have direct conversations with your teen about their mood and mental health.

As difficult of a season this is…this too shall pass. The best thing you can do as a parent for your teen is to simply be available.

When two people fall in love and get married but have children from previous marriages it becomes a blended family. It is a beautiful thing when two people make a life long commitment to one another but it can be a process and a big adjustment when two families come together as one. You as parents may enter the remarriage with excitement and expectation, while the children may have different feelings. They may have feelings of uncertainty of how things will change and may be worried about living with a stepparent or stepsiblings. Blending families together may not be easy but with good communication, mutual respect and a ton of love, grace and patience, a bond can begin to form between stepparent and stepchildren creating a healthy and thriving blended family. So here are some tips to help your family be successful in growing together. 

Keep your marriage a priority: It will take some adjusting to being a married couple while parenting but without the marriage there is no family. The marriage must come first, so be sure to continue nurturing and strengthening your relationship by making time for you two. Your children will be looking to you two, so demonstrating love towards one another is the best way to be an example and to show how important the family being together truly is. 

Build a relationship with your stepchildren: Get to know your stepchildren. Include them in your daily life through conversation and even fun activities. Listen to them, become interested in what they enjoy, hear them when they share about life, school, work, friends etc. Become a safe, secure person in their life that they can trust and know is available whenever needed. Be intentional in building a relationship with your stepchildren.

Have open communication: Recognize that families coming together can be difficult for all parties, so bring ease to your children and stepchildren by letting them know they are safe to be open and honest about the new family dynamic. However, in the same way, you too need to be upfront with any problems you may be having with your spouse and anyone involved. If you want others to be vulnerable you will most likely need to pave the way. 

Form a partnership with the former spouse: As strange as it may sound, forming a partnership with your spouse’s ex is important when children are in the picture. There needs to be an agreement on how both sets of parents will parent when they have the child(ren). When a stepparent is willing to honor and respect the biological parent the better the relationship will be between stepparent and stepchildren. This is one that shows that you have the child’s best interest at heart. 

Have fun together: Make memories! With all the adjusting, focus on the positives of your new family. Learn and grow together over fun experiences and lots of laughter. Spend quality time together, whether it’s over an adventurous hike, making a mess in the kitchen while making a favorite dessert, or showing everyone’s competitive side over a board game. Regardless be reminded how blessed you are to have one another. Blending families is no easy feat but is absolutely worth it. God has brought you all together, and what a sweet blessing that is. Embrace the challenge and enjoy one another. 

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