Five Big Feelings Our Kids Are Experiencing
We all have experienced a wide range of emotions during this time of dealing with Covid-19. Our kids have dealt with a lot as well. Kids rarely express their true feelings, but it is our job to discern what is going on in their hearts. I have heard five statements from my kids and friends’ kids that I feel express five significant emotions that many children are dealing with.
1. Frustrated – “I don’t want to be muted!”
Schools and kids’ ministries alike have done our very best to help kids feel connected via digital means. But even at it’s best, technology is an insufficient substitute for everyday, normal interaction. After weeks of online class meetings and online kids’ ministry groups, my first grader declared that she didn’t want to participate because she wanted to talk. We’ve done a great job of teaching kids to hit that mute button. But, our kids are ready to talk whenever they want to. They are tired of just looking at friends’ faces. A big part of a being a kid is saying all of those words to their friends.
What opportunities can you create that allow kids the freedom to just be with friends and talk? At the beginning of our ministry video calls, we let kids who are on early do “show and tell” or tell everyone something that they have been dying to say. As gatherings become more commonplace, what fellowship opportunities can you plan where kids can spend time with friends?
2. Grief: “It doesn’t even feel like summer.”
Our kids have sacrificed so much. Kids have missed end-of-year parties, field trips, yearbooks, special school traditions, birthday parties, vacations, and more. Many of those things may seem trivial to us as adults and we also can recognize that their sacrifice is for a greater good, they are still legitimate losses for our kids. My middle schooler finished her schoolwork for the year today and commented that not much was going to feel different. Her camps have been canceled. Sports aren’t happening. Her “normal” summer is gone before it even starts.
“Normal” summer may not happen, but what unique experiences can you create that will help this be a memorable summer? Maybe camp is canceled, but can you replicate some of the favorite parts in a fresh, local way?
3. Boredom: “Do I have to watch it? How long is it?”
Kids and parents are done with virtual everything. DONE! Now, kids will watch YouTube all day long, but required screen time has become exhausting. We took away all of the fun parts of school, such as talking to friends and playing on the playground. We replaced their social interaction with worksheets and screens.
As you plan for the coming months, plan for as little virtual as possible. Think creative. Think fun. Think unique experiences. Help kids create new, fun memories in real life.
4. Anxious: “The first day of school is going to be even more awkward.” Everything has been so different. Kids have gone from being anxious about an invisible virus to now being anxious about returning to normal life. We have all encountered one unknown after another. Kids, understandably, may be nervous about what’s around the next corner. They worry about if school will resume and how strange it will be. They worry about if their friendships will remain and if they will remember all the math they were supposed to.
Keep this emotion in mind as you plan curriculum for the coming months. God’s word has much to say about anxiety and peace. Be intentional in what you teach to address their fears and anxiety with Christ at the center.
5. Anger: “I don’t even have any friends!”
Kids’ relationships depend primarily on day-to-day routines. This is especially true for younger kids. Friendships live on the playground and in the lunchroom and playing games in P.E. Add in the occasional playdate and sleepover. All of this has been gone. Some kids in some families have felt this isolation to the point that it has been traumatic. They are lonely and sad. Those types of feelings often are expressed as anger.
Think about kids who may have been especially isolated during this season. Only children or kids with much older siblings may not have had other kids around. Think about the kids in your ministry that are quieter or don’t connect easily. Is it possible for you to give them some extra attention? Is there another family you could connect them with to encourage some interaction? As you gather again, be intentional to watch out for kids who express hard emotions.
Psalm 34:18 is such an encouraging promise. It says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” As we emerge from quarantine life, let’s continue to pray for God to heal the hearts of our children.