Let’s Not Pretend it’s OK
By Dasha Peipon
- What kind of virus is this?
- Will I get sick?
- Is it everywhere? Like, is it flying in my room?
- How does somebody know he has it?
- Then WHY would a sick person go somewhere and spread the virus???
- Where did it start?
- How did it start?
- Why did it start?
- Can we stop it?
- What will happen if I get it?
These are just some of the questions my 8-year-old asked me, when he was given the chance.
In our family we don’t burden our children with all the problems of the world. We don’t stop talking about COVID-19 when they walk in the room, but we also try not to focus on it. Instead, we stay positive in an attempt to maintain a normal lifestyle. Basically, we try to protect them from the reality we’re in right now.
The first few days of quarantine were pretty normal. We worked on the school assignments, went on walks, did art projects, and enjoyed Disney+. Our days weren’t busy, we weren’t burdened with daily tasks and extracurricular activities. We were doing lots of fun things as a family. And yet, my son, who is smart, intuitive and sensitive, was not acting like himself. He had mood swings and was irritable and distressed, upset about little unessential things.
I’m thankful that my mama intuition kicked in. My son had worries and anxiety about what is happening, just like we all do. His out-of-the-norm behavior was his way of expressing his feelings of confusion and fear. I bet he didn’t know if it’s ok for him to feel this way. And if his parents seem so calm (we do try), then perhaps he thought he was overreacting. Those are big feelings to deal with for a small human. My son needed help but he didn’t know to ask for it.
At the end of the day when I went to his room to pray with him, I asked him if anything troubled him. After a few seconds of hesitation, he said, “I’m afraid I might get the coronavirus.”
I explained the risks of getting the virus and assured him we are taking all the precautions to stay healthy. And I reminded him God was in control, and He was bigger and more powerful than any virus. After that I said “Hey, do you have any other questions about the virus? Ask me anything. I will answer every single one of your questions. And if I cannot, I will get you the answers.”
And then it felt like a big cement wall fell and shattered into pieces in front of me, because my son shared his raw emotions, his fear, his anxieties. He asked one question, immediately followed by another one, and another. I was afraid he would forget to take a breath between those. I answered every one of those questions. We both stayed past our bedtime.
Finally, he yawned really big and rolled over in bed, his anxiety gone (for now). He slept peacefully that night. The next and following days he was back to his regular self.
Our children here in Jackson have been through a lot this year. As my son put it, “First we had the tornados, then the flood, and now the coronavirus! What is going on?!” Whether we want to deal with it or not, our children see, hear, and understand a lot more than we think. And if they are too young to understand the details, they can sense the tension. It’s on the news, it’s in the conversations, it’s on our faces. We can’t hide it. So we might as well open up about it.
Even with the best intentions, such as protecting our children, in their perception sometimes we come across as not being honest with them. In my personal experience I have learned that my children deal with my pain and struggles a lot better than with my pretend calmness.
If your child is not acting like himself and discipline is becoming an issue, maybe it’s time for an honest conversation. It is hard even for the grownups to understand why this pandemic is happening. My children found it helpful to read a note from their school Bible teacher, Kathryn Day:
“Before Spring Break, we left off in our Bible reading in Exodus 7. God told Moses and Aaron to go to pharaoh, telling him to let God’s people go. The only problem was, God was going to harden pharaoh’s heart and he was going to say, “No!” Do you remember WHY God was going to harden pharaoh’s heart? God wanted to unleash His power in the 10 plagues, showing all of the Israelites, all of the unbelieving Egyptians, and even pharaoh himself that there is only one true God. He wanted to turn the hearts of ALL the people, both the believers in Him and the unbelievers, to worship God and give Him glory. Moses and Aaron and the Israelites were confused, for sure, but God had a plan, and God was NOT confused! The same is true for us. It’s confusing that we can’t go back to school yet and we wonder what God is doing, but remember, He hasn’t changed. He is the same God to us as He was to the Israelites in Exodus, and God ALWAYS has a plan.”
I am praying our children can rest in this truth. But they might need help in understanding it and could use a grownup explaining that truth to them. I am praying for the hard conversations that have yet to happen.