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.
You probably have some basic supplies at home your kids can use to create crafts that will help them develop habits to encourage their spiritual growth. If you don’t have the materials listed, get creative and use what you have on hand.
Paper bags can substitute for regular paper. You can make natural dyes to substitute for paint using things like onion skins, hot water and vinegar (Just make the consistency much thicker than you might use to dye eggs.) Paint brushes can be made from attaching a pencil with a rubber band to things like a piece of sponge. Encourage your kids to look around and use their natural creativity.
Here are three great crafts to get your kids in the habit of doing things that will help them grow spiritually.
Prayer container. You can use any container, making sure there are no sharp edges or it’s unbreakable for younger children. Have them decorate the container by covering it in any decorative materials you have or let them get creative and use unusual items to decorate it. Then have them cut slips of paper that they can also decorate on one side. On each slip, have them write the name of someone they know. Place the slips of paper in the container. Encourage them to pray independently at one or more set times each day. Before they begin praying, they can draw some names to mention specially in their prayer. The activity can be adapted to include slips of paper with topics they can pray about if they are struggling with what to say to God. Have them place the completed prayer jar where they can see it and be reminded to pray.
Gratitude journal. Take a blank notebook or some card stock to create a cover and paper for the pages. Encourage them to decorate the cover with images of things for which they are grateful. On each inside page, they may choose to add a verse of scripture about being thankful and a border or small design. Encourage them to take a few minutes before bed each day and write down or draw three things for which they are especially grateful that day. Have them thank God specifically for those things in their evening prayer. They may want to place the completed journal next to their prayer container so they will remember to use it each day.
Bible bookmark. You can use a piece of card stock or the cardboard that often comes with clothing. Cut it to the size of a large bookmark. If you have crayons, have your child color various parts of the bookmark in different colors. Make sure they bare down, so the colors are vibrant. Once every part of the bookmark is randomly covered in color, have them color over the entire thing with a black crayon. The layer needs to be thick enough for a design to be etched in it. Encourage your kids to etch a design using a stylus, the handle of a spoon, a paper clip or something similar. Have them create a design that reminds them of God. They can “polish” the design using waxed paper or a plastic bag. You may want to cover the bookmark with clear tape (not cloudy) to protect it and the Bible. If you don’t have crayons, they can decorate their bookmark using homemade natural dyes and paintbrushes, markers, colored pencils or anything else you have in your home. If you have ribbon or yarn, your child can use a hole punch to punch a hole at the top of the bookmark and add the ribbon or yarn. Have them place the bookmark where they are reading in the Bible.
Have your kids make these crafts. Then encourage them to use them to get in the habits of praying, expressing gratitude to God and reading the Bible. They are habits that can help them stay strong spiritually for the rest of their lives.
Popular culture is fascinating. Sometimes the things it supports can be absolutely horrifying. At times, they actually have a good idea. Unfortunately, the secular nature of culture often means this good idea is twisted away from God’s wisdom and can actually cause problems.
Christian kids are susceptible to accepting the world’s view of these seemingly Christian concepts. Unfortunately, when they don’t compare it to God’s complete wisdom on the topic, they accept the diluted or changed wisdom the world is promoting as truth.
The latest example is the emphasis on kindness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being kind to others. In fact the Bible even tells us to love our enemies.
The problem is how kindness is often interpreted by the secular society in which we live. To many, kindness means we can never share God’s truths with someone because it may hurt their feelings. Once our children believe those sorts of things, they will not grow up to share their faith for fear it isn’t being kind.
There are three key principles Christian parents need to repeatedly teach their children about kindness.
Kind and nice are two different things. Kindness is doing what is in the best interest of the other person. Niceness is more focused on the feelings of the other person – causing the one being nice to avoid saying or doing the things the person may most need.
Being kind is learning to speak truth in loving ways. It may be in the best interest of a friend to know they have garlic breath before walking into a job interview. Telling them is the kind thing to do. Often though, we forget there is also a loving way to share these difficult truths with others.
The ultimate kindness is helping people get to Heaven. Christian young people often believe it is unkind and unloving to tell someone they need to be a Christian to go to Heaven or to hold someone accountable for their sin. Teach your kids that making someone believe they are going to Heaven when they have not become a Christian or are living a life enmeshed in sin, is actually the ultimate unkind act. They are placing someone’s possible hurt feelings over teaching them God’s truths. This should be done in kind, loving ways, but don’t allow your kids to grow up believing withholding God’s truths from others is kind.
The world will probably continue to equate kindness with niceness. Teach your kids about what God considers kindness. It can make a huge difference for everyone your kids encounter during their lifetimes.
Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? A man was robbed, beaten and left to die on the side of the road. The religious people who should have helped him, walked on by, too busy to help. The Samaritan, who culturally would have hated the victim, stopped and took the time to serve him.
That story should open our eyes to how important it is to God that we stop and help those He places in our path who have needs. Unfortunately, some of us are so obsessed with our own lives that we don’t even notice the people around us who need our help.
There’s a great way to teach your kids how to be more observant of those around them who need to be served. If you have the time, it’s also a great way to teach them how to use their gifts to serve others and to share their faith while serving.
Grab a Bible and read the story of the Good Samaritan to your kids. (Luke 10:25-37) Explain to your children that as sad as it was that those first people refused to help the victim, it’s even sadder when we are so self-absorbed we don’t even notice someone needs to be served.
Tell your kids you are going on a family service walk. It can be in your neighborhood or in a public place like a mall. As you walk, tell your kids you want them to be really observant and notice people that might need someone to help them in some way. With younger children you may have to give them clues like, “Look for people who look sad” or “Look for people who look like they could use an extra pair of hands to help them.”
Your kids can write down what they notice or just try and remember the things. (With young children, if they share in the moment, you may run the risk of hurting someone’s feelings.) After your walk, talk about what they noticed. Are there things they or your family can do to help those people or people like them? With older children, you can begin having discussions about discernment and how God wants us to use our resources to know the best ways to help people.
Doing this activity regularly can train your kids to be more observant of the needs of others. If your family follows up by actually serving some of the people you see, you will make an even deeper impression on your children. You may even want to encourage other families to do the same thing and then share with each other the needs you see in your community. It’s a great way to strengthen the faith foundation of your children and help them grow to their godly potential.
Let’s be honest. Friends can cause a lot of drama for kids and teens. Your kids will probably have struggles in this area from time to time. They may wonder how many friends they should have, worry about finding the “right” best friend, struggle with peer pressure or any number of other friendship issues.
They need your guidance. You can’t control their friendships, but you can influence them. The younger your kids are when you start teaching them about friendship, the easier it will be for them to handle whatever happens.
So what are some things you should be sharing with your children? There are a lot of things that may help, but these are some of our favorites.
Teach them how to find godly, supportive friends. David and Jonathan are a great example of this type of friendship. They both worshipped and trusted God. They were supportive of one another under extremely difficult situations. Situations that would have made most people enemies. Talk to your kids about ways to find out if someone will be a Jonathan type friend to them. Help them understand the value of a friendship that will make them grow in positive ways.
Teach them to be friendly to everyone, but choose close friends carefully. Kids and teens are more likely to become like the kids with whom they spend the most time. It’s a rare young person who would have the ability to convince a child who is constantly in trouble to change his or her behavior. It’s more likely your child will soon start to get in trouble with his or her trouble bound friends. That doesn’t mean however, your child should act in unkind or unloving ways to people whom they have not chosen as close friends. Their behavior should reflect God’s love to everyone – friend or not.
Teach them the types of people who can cause them to move away from God’s plan for their lives. Sometimes, those negative traits are hard for young people to see. They may only notice outward appearances or common interests – missing the warning sides this friendship could change them in negative ways. Teaching them proactively – from places like the friendship wisdom in Proverbs – can keep you from having to point out the negative traits in a new friend.
Teach them to be encouraging, kind, supportive, loving friends. Teach them by how you treat your friends. Discuss ways they can support, encourage and love their friends. Correct unkind and hurtful words and behaviors towards others. Help them correct bad habits that can annoy others and cause them to reject your children’s attempts at friendship.
Help them develop multiple friend groups. Some children only need one or two close friends to be happy. Others will have lots of casual friends. Unfortunately, for many young people, they are only in one friend group. When the drama of their friend group becomes hurtful or annoying, they are left feeling they have no friends. If they have several friend groups – school, church, activities – it’s more likely they can find friendship respite in a friend group not currently involved in drama. It also lessens the effects of peer pressure from one group – their entire social currency is not invested in making that one group happy.
When friendship blues happen, remind them of everyone who will always love them. Yes, they will quite probably roll their eyes or tell you that those people “have to love them” (so it doesn’t count). Deep down though, there is reassurance in knowing God, their family and others will love them in spite of any “mistakes” they may make.
Give them hope for future friendships. Some kids are mature for their age. Or have special needs. Or are extremely talented. They may feel like there is no one in their current environment who really “gets them” enough to be a close friend. It can become discouraging – especially in the teen years. Explain to them that as they move towards college and/or a career path, they will move or specialize more. It is often in those environments they will find those friends who are more like them. Sometimes just giving them that hope for the future is all they need to move through their current friendship woes.
Watch for serious signs of trouble and get help when needed. Falling grades, changing eating habits, lethargy, lack of interest in things they normally love, flat affect and other signs of depression are often red flags. Don’t let things go on so long serious issues like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders or suicide become a reality. Start having conversations to try and find the roots of the changes in behavior and attitude. If you feel like the problems are serious, get professional help for your child.
Friendships are essential for your children’s health and growth. Preparing them to choose and be great friends can make it easier for them to form friendships that will encourage them to reach their godly potential. It’s worth your time and effort.