Can you imagine being a kid right now? In the midst of a world-wide pandemic? Wondering what is going to happen? Adjusting to a new schedule and scenario where you don't go to the physical school building. Afraid someone you love might be taken from you by death? Having to maintain contact with your relatives via Skype instead of in person?
It's a new, unfamiliar world out there for kids right now.
And one question that needs to be asked is this.
What effects will this have on kids long-term?
As they grow up, having lived through this, how will it weigh in on the next generation's world-view of life, relationships, academics and the general sense of how we live our lives in today's postmodern world?
As doctors work with kids who have the virus or kids whose family, friends or other acquaintances have the virus, it reveals first and foremost that kids need safe, stable and nurturing relationships.
Dr. Rahil Briggs, the national director of Healthy Steps, a nonprofit that supports the well being of babies and toddlers, says this...
'It is unlikely the vast majority of children who come from stable homes will be affected negatively by the pandemic in the long term."
Sherrie Westin, president of social impact for Sesame Street says, "The most important thing for children is to have caring adults that they are engaged with."
First and foremost, I believe these studies show that they every child needs a caring, loving adult who knows their name, prays for them and protects them.
And who should that adult be? The child's parents. Like never before, children need their parents to be the biggest part of their life.
Studies were done for kids who were were separated from their parents during the World War II bombings in London. The children who were shipped away (to keep them safe from the bombings in London) were more insecure than those who stayed with their parents...even while being bombed.
Another biggie is all the kids who are missing school. Education leaders are working toward online learning. This is good news for kids who come from more afluent households. But for kids who already live in poverty, this can be a challenge. In many instances, the children don't have access to the tools needed for online learning.
Dr. Richard Carranza, the school chancellor for New York City schoolers says an estimated 300,000 children in New York City alone do not have the tablets or computers it requires.
And Betsy Zorio, VP of programs and advocacy for the Save the Children organization, says that poor children can be up to three years behind affuent kids because of summer learning loss. Imagine adding to that the impact of school closures from the conronavirus. It may cause the education gap to widen even more.
These challenges are opportunities for the church to be the church. Of course, no one or no organization can replace the nurturing and loving that a child receives from his or her parents.
But we can step in with meals, shelter, clothing and other means of bringing some stability back to their lives. And we encourage and equip parents on how to care for their children during these times of instability.
For children who are blessed with living in a stable home, this period won't be easy for them and their parents either. They may experience anxiety and find this experience very challenging.
Here are some tips.
Number one - stay on a routine. Kids are more secure within the confines of their schedules and daily routines. For those who are doing online or home schooling, stick with your normal learning schedule.
Number two - show them affection. Let them know that you love them. Churches can also help with this by equipping their volunteers who work with kids on how to best minister to them. Every child needs a spiritual guide who can look them in the eyes and say, "God is with you. He loves you. He will never leave you nor forsake you."
Stay updated on changing procedures and policies. The pandemic can change by the hour. Check your state and local situations on a regular basis.
Continue practicing social distancing during this time. This means sticking close to home and avoiding large groups of people. Play dates should not be scheduled during this time as well.
Avoid public spaces like playgrounds. The virus can live on metal, glass and plastic surfaces for up to nine days. Instead, go to big, wide-open parks for solo outdoor play, like riding a bike.
How long should they wash their hands? Tell them to sing "Happy birthday to you" twice while washing their hands.
Hand sanitizer - make sure it's at least 60% alcohol and let it fully dry before you touch anything.
Know what to watch for. Signs of the coronavirus include fever, dry cough, mild fever, runny nose and soar throat. If these symptoms appear, call your pediatrician first before going anywhere.
Even in the hardest times, God is at work in our lives. Our children are watching us to see how we will respond to this crisis. Much of how it will affect them will be based on how we let it affect us.
We know this to be true...
"Kids don't always do what we ask them to do, but they never fail to imitate who we are."
Now is the time to step up to the plate. Now is the time to show kids how to trust in God. Now is the time to ask God for wisdom. Now is the time to lead by example.