Fun Ways for Kids to Serve Neighbors During COVID 19

Your kids are probably homeschooling now, regardless of their regular school situation. Contact with others outside your home is strongly discouraged. In most places though, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhoods and do things in our yards as long as we don’t come close to others.

Your kids can use this time to reflect God’s love to your neighbors. There are quite a few things they can do to serve and encourage the people nearby. Encourage them to be creative, but here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Chalk sidewalk art. Send a neighborhood email and offer for your kids to decorate the sidewalk near their mailbox or their driveway with colorful chalk drawings. Remind neighbors to stay inside while your children work. If you have public sidewalks in your neighborhood, most localities allow chalk drawings which will wash away in the next rain. Encourage your kids to come up with cheerful designs that point people to God in some way.
  • Mailbox art. Have your kids make works of art and tape them to the mailboxes of neighbors. Once again, encourage the use of cheerful colors and finding ways to incorporate scripture or point people to God in some way.
  • Encourage a neighborhood cheer project for the kids in your neighborhood. Have your kids make fliers and distribute them in your neighborhood. Encourage neighbors to put a specific type of object like a stuffed animal or a drawing of a giant Easter egg in the window of their home where it can be seen by children taking walks with their families. Encourage the families with small children to go on a “treasure hunt” to see how many of the chosen objects they can see in the windows of homes while they are walking with their parents.
  • Design work out stations. Have your kids design a special workout families can do at certain spots on their family walk in your neighborhood. Space the ideas far enough apart and make them quick enough so families don’t risk exposure to the germs of others. For example, draw a hopscotch board with chalk on a corner sidewalk and tell families to hop rather than walk that distance. Or at a certain landmark, jump up and down ten times. Be creative and distribute the ideas to everyone in your neighborhood digitally or otherwise.
  • Share Spring. If you have flowers or shrubs blooming in your yard, share them with those in your neighborhood who can’t get out at all. Have your kids decorate containers to put the flowers in with a little water. Then put them on a doorstep of a neighbor, ring the bell and run far enough away to not spread germs when your neighbor opens the door.
  • Offer weekly check in calls. Have neighbors sign up to receive a weekly video call from your family. Encourage your kids to come up with stories to tell, a song to sing or other things to fill the time after making sure the neighbor is fine.

There are so many ways your kids can use this time to be creative in the ways they serve others and share their faith without endangering themselves or others. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids how God wants them to live their lives.

Are You An Engaged Parent?

You’ve probably heard about all types of parenting styles. Some help children, while others hurt them. Unfortunately, many young people today are suffering because their parents aren’t truly engaged with them. Oh, they will swoop in and project manage their kids when they feel it’s necessary, but parents having a real relationship with their children is becoming increasingly rare.

Merely spending time at home with your kids is not necessarily the answer. You can be in the same room as your children for hours without any meaningful interaction. In fact, your children may feel more hurt because you aren’t even engaged with them when you are physically present. Your kids may feel as if you have a constant “Do not disturb” sign hung around your neck.

How do you know if you are truly engaged with your children or merely co-existing or project managing them? How would your kids answer these questions about your interactions with them?

  • When your child needs to get your attention, how long does it take you to notice and acknowledge them?
  • When your child has something important to share with you, how willing are you to put down whatever it is that your are doing and listen to them (fully)?
  • When your child is telling you a story or something that is important to them, do you actively listen by looking them in the eyes, making gestures and facial expressions that indicate your interest and asking appropriate questions?
  • Can you name your child’s friends and teachers?
  • Can you name several concerns your child has at the moment?
  • Do you know your child’s hopes for the near future?
  • Do you know your child’s dreams for the future?
  • Do you know what questions or doubts your child has about God, the Bible or Christianity?
  • Do you know how God has gifted your child to serve Him?
  • Do you know what one thing your child wishes you would do to help him or her navigate some aspect of his or her life?
  • Can you name one aspect of his or her spiritual life with which your child needs your help and guidance?

Why ask your child’s opinion of how you should answer these questions? Because often our perceptions of our behavior and attitudes are very different from that of the people we are impacting with our choices. You may think you are fully attentive, while your kids can’t remember the last time they felt as if they actually had your undivided attention.

So ask your kids to help you take this quiz. Then make any needed changes. Your kids need an engaged parent to help them grow to be the person God wants them to be.

10 Ways to Calm Your Kids in Tough Times

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

What Is Your Spiritual Legacy?

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.” Psalm 78:4 ESV

Have you ever given much thought to your spiritual legacy? Psychologist Erik Erikson noted that as people grow older, they are either generative or stagnant. They work towards leaving a meaningful legacy for those who come after them, or they fail to work towards much of anything at all.

The choices you make now about how you point your kids towards God will impact their spiritual choices in the future. But your legacy will possibly continue long after you are gone. Those choices you made that influenced the spiritual choices your kids make, will in turn impact the spiritual decisions of their own children.

Legacies can change over time, but starting your family with a legacy of strong spiritual foundations gives future generations of your family a better possible beginning. How can you help your kids develop those strong spiritual foundations and grow to their godly potential?

Erikson found that in late adulthood, people reflect on their lives. Those who had worked towards leaving a meaningful legacy – contributing something positive to the world – spent their later years with a sense of integrity and wisdom. Those who had neglected to make the world a better place were usually filled with regret and despair.

Remember the 12 spies in Numbers 13? When giving their recommendation, Joshua and Caleb’s faith in God became part of their spiritual legacy not only to their children, but to all of the Israelites. Thousands of years later, we still learn from the spiritual legacy they left of their words and their faith in God. The spiritual legacy of the other ten spies is at best a cautionary tale of what happens when our faith in God is weak.

What will your spiritual legacy be? Helping others – especially your children – grow spiritually is the best legacy any of us can leave behind. What can you do now to begin creating that legacy? Don’t wait. Your legacy is based on the choices you make each day – make ones that really matter.

Ideas for Valentine Family Fun and Service

Ready for Valentine’s Day? We are big celebrators in our family. Any excuse for adding a bit of fun, joy and love to our days and we are there! Valentine’s Day may have been founded to celebrate romantic love, but why not use it to teach your kids about agape love and have some family fun.

Agape love is the type of love God has for us and we are to have for those around us. It’s a higher love not based on attraction, romance or even friendship. It’s loving others just because they are human beings whom God created and loves.

There are a lot of fun things your family can do to spread some Agape love on Valentine’s Day. You should still have time to accomplish one or more of these before the holiday is over. (Because Valentine’s Day is on a Friday night this year, restaurants are “celebrating” on Saturday and Sunday, too. Let’s do the same!)

  • Shower widows, widowers and single people with love. There’s nothing like Valentine’s Day to remind you that you are single. No matter how happy someone single may be normally, everyone celebrating love can leave one feeling lonely and alone – even unloveable. Have your kids make cards, cookies or little baggies of those heart chocolates. Allow a few minutes to stay and visit. If necessary prepare your kids ahead of time about some things they can say to help the conversation.
  • Love on friends and “frenemies”. Every child has someone at school or in their activities who is less than kind to them. They may have even been treated by another child as an “enemy”. What a better way to teach your kids about loving their enemies than helping them prepare a Valentine surprise for their friends, but especially for those “not so nice kids”. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Having some discussions on the subject though can help your kids feel more loving as they give a card or treat to someone they may normally avoid.
  • See the “invisible” people. People with special needs, people who are socially awkward or “unattractive”, people who are poor…our world has lots of people that are unseen by others, because they don’t fit the mold of someone who makes a good friend or even acquaintance. Consider having some of the “invisible” people your family knows over for a meal or dessert. Or give them a Valentine’s treat and have a real conversation with them. Find out the things they enjoy doing. Get to really know them as “real” people with real stories. Make them visible to your family.
  • Thank the unappreciated. How many bus drivers, crossing guards, or maintenance people are ever thanked, much less receive Valentine’s treats? Even teachers can be forgotten. What about the mail carrier, the garbage collectors and the counter person at the dry cleaners? How many unappreciated people can your family make feel appreciated over the next few days?
  • Serve those who help others. Ministries and non-profits usually have ongoing needs for items or volunteer hours. Can your family find a way to give a ministry or non-profit some extra help?
  • Surprise your family members. Let’s be honest. The people in our family know how to get on our “last nerve”. Living in the same house can create conflicts and hurt feelings. We can say the worst things to the people who love us the most. Why not change that dynamic? Encourage everyone in your family to find ways to surprise, encourage and love everyone in your family. Make it fun and focus on all of those little things that would make life more pleasant for the people in your family.

Make Valentine’s Day a day when your family has a tradition of loving everyone they can. Encourage your kids to pour out love generously. Who knows, your family may enjoy it so much it becomes a habit every day of the year!