We may be in a global pandemic at the moment, but life always has its stressors. Your kids may be extremely anxious at the moment, or have barely noticed anyone has any concerns at all. Yet the same child who is calm now may melt down right before his or her next exam or performance.
The key is to teach your kids how to manage their stress in godly ways. To lean on God so that stressful times can still be times when they learn, grow and serve. Stress may never disappear from their lives, but they can learn how to minimize the negative impact it has on them.
Here are ten great tools to give your kids to help them manage their stress in godly ways. Use the current situation to help them practice and incorporate them into their lives.
- Listen to what God has to say. Whether they hear Bible stories or scriptures from you or read them independently, there is a lot to learn about stress in the Bible. The names may change, but the Bible has a little bit of just about any stressful situation you can imagine including plagues and wars. Notice the ways people handled these stressful situations. Who leaned on God and grew spiritually? Who panicked and made choices without God that caused even more problems? What patterns do they see?
- Make prayer a priority. Kids and teens raised in Christian homes believe in prayer even if they aren’t so sure about other aspects of Christianity. Keep a family prayer journal. Have special times of family prayer. Encourage special times of independent prayer. Have your kids touch base electronically with friends and family and add their prayer requests to the mix. Note when God answers prayers – even if the answer is “wait” or “no”. Periodically go back and see how faithful God has been over time.
- Put scripture permanently in their hearts and minds. Find a verse or a passage that seems to really comfort your kids. Encourage everyone to memorize it and repeat it when they start feeling anxious. Older kids and teens might want to memorize a few individual verses and a longer passage like Psalm 23.
- Sing it out. It’s hard to feel negative when you are singing. Psalms was a very active book used as both songs and prayers for centuries. Find scripture songs or write your own. When everyone starts seeming anxious or sad, start singing.
- Philippians 4:8 your home. Turn off the news. You only need updates once or twice a day and young children probably don’t need to hear those first hand. Encourage teens to turn off those automatic notifications from most if not all news sources. Discourage negative books, movies and games. Create an environment that is full of things that are good, pure, lovely and all of those wonderful positive adjectives in Philippians 4:8.
- Exercise. Sitting around all day disrupts sleep patterns and can cause depression under the best of circumstances. Exercise works out stress and strengthens the immune system. At this point in time, it seems safe to go for long walks or runs – especially in areas where it is possible to do so and maintain a safe distance from others. try to get everyone walking several miles a day. You may have to start walking a shorter distance and walk a little farther each day to get to that point, but that’s okay. Kids and teens who are in sports or dance may need more vigorous exercise. There are also plenty of online exercise programs that are free and available for working out indoors if necessary.
- Be productive. It’s hard to worry about what might happen when you are focused on learning something new or challenging yourself mentally in some way. You may have to experiment a bit if your kids’ schools aren’t providing work. Thankfully there are so many homeschool resources online – many of them free. Don’t forget artistic as well as academic pursuits. Now is the time to practice that instrument, write that song or paint that painting.
- Do chores. There is something about taking something that is dirty or messy and working hard to make it clean and neat that is soothing. It allows time to think, but the hard work that is often involved burns off the stress. Your house may never again look as clean and be in as good repair as it will after several weeks of daily chores by everyone. Don’t forget yard work. Planting season is here and watching flowers or food grow can be extremely rewarding (and helpful). You can order supplies online and have them delivered if you want to avoid stores.
- Serve someone. It’s hard to focus too much on your own problems when you are focused on helping someone else. Even if you are confined at home, there are things your kids can do to serve others. Get creative, but encourage regular service while you are all at home together.
- Create something. God is the Creator. It only makes sense that if we are created in His image, we are designed to create things, too. Get your kids involved creating something – whether it’s a new recipe or a painting to cheer a grandparent. In the process they may also discover gifts God gave them to serve others. Art and music in particular are a great way for kids and teens to work out their emotions in the creative process.
No one knows how long we will be asked to stay close to home. Use this opportunity to teach your kids how to manage their stress in godly ways. They will use those skills long after the current crisis has long passed.