Coronanxiety (Part 1)
You walk past someone in the street and overhear a hurried conversation about another supermarket chain running out of eye-wateringly-priced hand-gel. (Whilst manufacturers of the aforementioned perfumed palm purifier, are quite literally “rubbing their hands” (as J. John wittily put it in one of his recent blogs.) Who knew that loo roll and dried milk would become some of the most highly-prized commodities in these uneasy times?
It’s true that 70% of our news cycles currently seem to be corona-related. This week, the youngest child that I work with as a school listener (aged 5) faithfully informed me of her own worries about COVID-19, which she wrote (with correct spelling and use of hyphen) on her sheet. She then said thoughtfully, “After all, I have two people over 70 in my family and both have underlying health issues.” She waited for my reaction, nodding her head in a very adult way. I was slightly stunned at her terminology, posture and knowledge.
Since the 21st January, the children’s charity Childline has said it has delivered more than 300 counselling sessions to children and young people who had concerns about the virus.
It said 145 – nearly half of the total calls – had been made in the last week, between the 9th and 15th of March.
Helping this generation handle the crisis is clearly something we need God’s help with.
How are you doing with it all?
Are you feeling anxious and uncertain? Do you find yourself in a season of isolation as looked-forward-to events cancel, schools begin to shift online, and churches close their physical doors to large gatherings and look to social media to connect?
If so, what can you do to help yourself and your children through this time of uncertainty and apprehension?
Well, below I suggest a number of simple ways to help you be the least anxious person in the social-distanced queue for bread.
Puddles versus Pools.
It is, of course, important that we know the facts and keep up- to-date with current news. But there are at least two ways we can absorb this. We can visit it once or twice a day and splash in it, (like we would in a puddle) familiarise ourselves with it, then leave, or, we can immerse ourselves in it 24/7 – never having it off the screen, spending hours re-posting infographics, blog sites and news feeds to others. Many of us might unconsciously not be reading or absorbing any other news or information – only feeding ourselves a diet of growing fear. I think that this is unwise.
How we handle difficult news affects not only our mental health but the well-being of our children too. They pick up on our language and our mood. So, I suggest that like our good 2D friend Peppa Pig, we become good at prudent puddle paddling, rather than deep-sea diving. Read the news, yes, but don’t feed on the news. Also try and shield constant news from your children. If they want to know what is going on, let them watch Newsround which has regular updates on world events in child-friendly language. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround
I love how helpful Philippians 4:6-7 is for us here:
“Do not be anxious about anything, (including world pandemics) but in every situation, (including world pandemics) by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (I have added the brackets here. As far as I know there is no Corona-specific version of the Bible:)
Thoughtful versus distracted.
In these days, it’s easy to allow our minds to be interrupted and set off course. We can be myopic and blinkered about our work, finances or food situation. We can go to ‘worst case scenario mode’ in our heads very quickly. We are only human! But we need to remain calm. Our children will pick up on our approach and perhaps feel like we are less engaged with them. They also may start to worry that we appear tense or preoccupied. Being ignored or somehow made to feel “less important” always adds to a child’s feeling of dis-ease, doesn’t it? It won’t matter if we don’t see a certain fact on our phones the second it is tweeted. Let’s try and be present with those around us (especially our children) and see the world from their point of view. Its right to ask questions, to be proactive and think ahead, but try and make those fears ones you give to God. Jesus speaks to us on this from Matthew 6:31-34 which says:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
God says he will give us “everything we need” if we focus on the right things, and try and live in a way that pleases Him. ‘Everything we need’ includes our money, ways to handle our work, children, businesses, calendars and commitments.