This year isn’t what any of us had anticipated. The spread of COVID-19 drastically changed everyone’s lives and will continue to do so for months ahead. Despite the daily changes and uncertainties, these five practices can help you navigate this season with confidence while fostering a stable, resilient and joyful family life.
#1. Read to your kids and read with your kids—no matter their age.
Reading with your children is a valuable way to spend quality time together, and a key ingredient for a joyful family life. Not only does reading together provide academic benefits — improved comprehension, writing, and vocabulary — it also gives children of all ages a chance to ask questions, develop empathy, and draw connections to real life.
Reading together also makes an easy on-ramp for talking about the day. A scene in Peter Rabbit, Watership Down, or Voyage of the Dawn Treader may be similar to something that happened recently. Now you have a starting point for deeper conversation. For older children, book discussions and poetry readings create opportunities for you to teach them how reality points to God’s redemptive story and to help them see their life as part of it.
#2. Get excited about what excites your children
Children are delighted when other people are interested in what interests them. Exploring their interests together will not only encourage your child’s curiosity, but will also help your family feel more joyful during unsettling times.
Recognize what your child is excited about and engage in that activity with them. Help them look for the lizard they saw darting outside the window, work together on their latest lego project, or go hiking together and discuss what you observe in nature.
Encourage older children to get involved in younger siblings’ hobbies and vice versa. These practices will not only help strengthen their relationship, they will also nurture your child’s curiosity, which goes a long way in helping them develop a love of learning.
#3. Engage in regular, intentional conversation
Intentional conversation is a simple yet valuable practice that strengthens your family’s sense of connection while teaching critical thinking skills.
The value of meaningful, intentional discussions cannot be overstated. From such conversations, your child will learn to value others’ opinions and thoughts, develop empathy, actively listen, and share their own thoughts in an appropriate manner.
These skills will prove invaluable to them as students. Whether they are engaging with new educational material, navigating conversations with teachers or classmates, or explaining their point of view, skills developed from intentional conversations with you will help them embrace these moments with confidence.
#4. Create rhythms that foster a sense of predictability
Rituals and routines are perhaps the most essential part of creating a secure family environment. Bring your family together and create a daily schedule. Discuss the essentials like meal times and chores. Acknowledge the need for alone time and schedule it into the day. And don’t forget to make time for periods of rest, silence, and fun.
Giving your family a regular rhythm to the day and week can significantly reduce anxiety by creating a sense of structure and predictability, which leads to confidence and calm for both parents and children. These skills will also help your child learn useful time management skills, which will prove helpful throughout life.
#5. Embrace Community—don’t retreat
During times of uncertainty, it’s natural to want to retreat from your community. Maybe we don’t want our friends to see us stressed? Perhaps we’re worried what they’ll think about our decision-making process? What if we’re “doing it wrong?” The list of potential fears goes on. But on their journey, every hero needs helpers. Take a deep breath and think about three people whom you trust to be gracious, prayerful, and truth-telling helpers. Commit to building community with them as you navigate uncertain times.
This is critical not just for you, but also for your family. Children benefit immensely from watching their parents build friendships. They feel safe and connected when they experience others helping them navigate uncertain times and are likely to imitate this positive example with their friends.
Hopefully, these five tips inspire you as your family navigates the weeks and months ahead. Even if they’re full of more challenges, adding these practices to your family routines will bolster your sense of stability that transcends the latest news.