Question: From the onset of the Covid-19 crisis our kids have experienced a roller-coaster of emotions—fearful, sad, anxious, angry, depressed–and it’s been much more pronounced than usual. While we’re trying to manage our own emotions, are there some ways that we can do a better job of heling them manage theirs, and experience God’s presence?
You’re in good company. In the past few months I’ve heard from many parents who feel overwhelmed with how to manage their own emotions let alone those of their kids.
At the outset, its important for parents to understand that when God made us in his image he gave us a mind, emotions and a will—the ability to think, feel and choose. But most people, especially us males, grew with little understanding of or training in what emotions are, where they come from and how too manage them. So they often end up managing us . . . and that’s a recipe for disaster.
This significant deficit can lead to huge problems in our individual, marriage and family relationships. Parents who don’t know how to manage their own emotions are more likely to shout and scream at each other and their kids, and when under great stress become physically abusive.
Start by taking your own needs and concerns to God in prayer. Be specific. Share your fears and griefs and losses with Him, each other and trusted friends. Yeah, I know, it sounds pretty basic right? But it works.
Then open the Bible and make a list of the gazillion passages that talk about emotions. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible has a lot to say about emotions. Some say that the Bible mentions “fear not’ and similar phrases over 100 times.
Now have each family member get their Bibles. Then go around the table with each one of you looking up and reading what God says about anxiety or fear. Then talk about how you might be able to apply it.
As you talk with each other and your kids, talk about your own emotions and label them. It can be something as simple as “this is really scary” and then in 60 seconds or less share what that looks and feels like for you . . . then invite your kids to do the same.
It's absolutely essential that you help them find words for their emotions. We can’t really understand and learn how to manage emotions that we can’t name. As they learn how to label what they are feeling, they will be much more likely to be able to both understand them and make those emotions work for them rather than against them . . . and that’s a big deal. With God’s help you can seize this unique ”opportunity” to create a home in which your kids know it is safe to experience and express emotions.
You can teach them that emotions are God-given, that they are important and that they can have a positive or negative impact. That God cares about the things we care about and is indeed is “our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1).