Photo Credit: 
Cheyenne Belew | The Chronicle

Acceptance of the pandemic

We are nine months into the pandemic. Nine months, people. We have probably all gone through the stages now of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Some several times. I seem to have made running through these stages an Olympic sport, but I am currently camping out in acceptance. Stay with me here for a while, if you will. It stinks, I know. But it is what it is. A pandemic. Something no one could have probably anticipated.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

So, given our unique circumstances, what will this winter bring? This one is a tough one for me. Winter is already a difficult season for me and many others who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately called SAD). Things tend to go well around the Christmas bustle. But then, the inevitable arrives. In force, mind you. The festivities are over, the wrapping paper is collected and the gifts are washed or put away neatly. In the stillness of the moment, it descends upon us. After cousins have gone and the remnant of pie aroma fades. There it is. Winter. Bleak and numb. Again.

Preparation is key

These days, most parents are in survival mode. We are content to keep the status quo. No one is fighting. Everyone has clean clothes. There is a decent amount of food in the fridge. Everything is okay. But one cannot be passive with SAD on the horizon. Parents must prepare for the battle that is ahead. The vaccine is not likely to be available until March for the average citizen. We must forge onward, regardless, for our children.

I am gearing up for it, preparing my heart. Because I know without a doubt it will come. Amidst Your shiny gifts and blinking lights, its arrival seems impossible, but it always comes. The winter presents problems of its own, but this is the year of the pandemic. This year is different. In addition to the usual difficulty wintertime brings, (loneliness, hopelessness, apathy) COVID-19 has added an element of fear to the mix.

We must prepare for the fear brought on by the pandemic and the complexities it may cause when mingled with SAD. If SAD affects us, we can be sure it is affecting our children. Pandemic-related fear mixed with the symptoms SAD causes can stop some in their tracks. Your children may not tell you, but they will probably deal with depression or anxiety at some point this winter. We must use this time to build our children up. Make them stronger. Equip them to conquer this. Where do we start? What things can we change?

Accepting limitations

Some things will be out of our control this winter. For me, my quiet days where I can write unbothered are a thing of the past. My children are doing virtual school for the time being. Not under my control. My family will be moving mid-January with three kids, two dogs, two chickens (bobcat got one) and a cat. Not under my control. I cannot visit my family in Texas, whom I haven’t seen in over a year. Again, not under my control. I accept these limitations. But there are some things I can control. What is your beast, the thing which alludes your capture? The thing you cannot control. Well, forget it. Move on. Focus on what you can control. In doing this, you teach your child resiliency. Your family will persevere in times of trouble.

Declare the truth

First, remember that you shape their world. What a parent says has an incredibly deep impact on children. Remind them of the truths in God’s Word. Tell them. Show them. Pray it over them. Assure them everything will be okay. Make it clear, because in the thick of it, our children will probably lose confidence in these truths. Your reassurance and their recollection of the truth will cause them to push through unscathed. Throughout scripture, God tells us to “Fear not.” Remind your children of God’s command to trust, not fear. This verse says it well. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. — Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Strengthen relationships

The next thing to consider is reinforcing your marriage. This is an investment which will pay off in the end. Your marriage holds your family together. You cannot afford to neglect it. Your relationship with your spouse influences your child’s sense of security and belonging. Talk to your spouse and make alone time a priority each day. There is little time to get a word in with little ones about. It can be very frustrating, making us short with one another. Face it. As cute as they are, children can put a strain on any marriage. So, go ahead. Carve out a regular sit-down time with your spouse. It is needed to maintain a good relationship and peace in the home. You can also reduce stress by spending as much time as possible in physical contact with your spouse and children. Time spent cuddling on the sofa watching a movie is one of the best stress-busting things you can do. Even if you have gone round and round that day. Stop. Regroup and hold them. Stroke their hair and your anger will fade away. It makes all the difference in the world. I promise.

Get outdoors

It’s healthy and free. Be sure to give your kids the gift of the outdoors. It is part of God’s provision for us here on earth. Letting them run around without a care is something inexplicably special in childhood. Experts and nature schools call it “unstructured play.” The outdoors just beckons a child to run free, get their heart pounding, and hands dirty. It takes no equipment and costs nothing. If you have access to a place in the country, even better. Let those explorers go have an adventure!

Setting healthy routines

You can control the crankiness level of your family by setting routine bedtimes and wakeups. Without school schedules, children can feel lost. So, give them a little structure and it will go a long way. A regular bedtime for mom and dad is always a good thing. When these times are respected, everyone will be well rested and ready to engage one another with kindness. The last thing you can do to help lower your family’s stress level is cooking healthy meals for them. This one is the hardest for me. Like most people, I go through phases of cooking healthy, peppered with blasts of birthday cake and Sonic. This winter I have decided to make small changes. I will start with making superfood smoothies for my family’s lunch. We are all home for lunch, so it is an easy choice. In the past, I have made them the same smoothie I make for myself, adding a touch more honey, for good measure. It always works!

Closing

Yes. COVID-19 stinks. Quarantine is lonely. Virtual school is not ideal. These things are out of our control. When we accept this and focus instead on preparing our children to conquer fear, we set them up for success. Make time for your spouse and set healthy routines and habits for your children. This is a recipe for success. Go, try it out and see what good things come from it!

Contact Cheyenne Belew at thechronicle@hillcom.net.

RAISING YOUR CHILDREN