Drastic restrictions around visiting those in the hospital, nursing homes, and other facilities as well as consulting with a healthcare professional in person have been put in place to help decrease the spread of COVID-19. Many of you long for the simple acts of bringing flowers or a special treat to somebody in the hospital. When our physical ability to be with one another is taken away, it can create some very real experiences: a sense of helplessness and overwhelming guilt. Right now, there are some helpful things you can do and truths you can hold onto when caring for loved ones who are sick.
Many of you have already experienced the drastic care restrictions that have been put in place to help dampen the spread of COVID-19. The simple acts of visiting in the hospital, bringing flowers or a special treat, or being able to consult with the doctors in person have currently been stripped away. Now we yearn for the experience of being overly tired from a terrible night’s stay in those uncomfortable hospital sofas or hungry for “real food” after eating hospital meals for days.
When our physical ability to be with one another is taken away, it can create some very real experiences: a sense of helplessness and overwhelming guilt. In a world of a lot of “can not’s” there are some really helpful things you still “can” do and truths we “can” hold onto when we are caring for those we love who are sick.
- You can remember there is nothing you could have done to prevent the illness of your loved one. In grief, our minds can become trapped and even haunted by “what if” questions such as, “if I would have only left the house 5 minutes earlier, gone to a different store, or disinfected the house one more time…” These questions are so natural to start asking, but can quickly encourage us to assume more responsibility on our own shoulders than we can muster. The more we entertain those questions, the more guilt and shame we start to internalize for what has happened.
I want to tell you two truths. The first truth is of reality, that there is nothing you could have done on this earth to prevent this virus from getting to where it is today. It’s awful that we (you) are experiencing this, but you could not cause this to happen to your loved one. The second truth is Biblical: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Precious one, allow God’s love take away any unneeded, excess guilt you may be feeling and replace that with His sovereignty and His love.
- You can and need to stay connected to your loved ones. Though there is no equal replacement to being with our loved ones in person, thanks be to God for the technology of our time. Hebrews 3:13 reminds us of the necessity of community when it states: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” In our isolation, our fears can get the best of us, can’t they? But by staying in contact with one another, we are reminded of Truth and encouraged to face the day with love over fear.
- You can stay in community and pray. Community and prayer are two major resources we can still tap into! In our current state, the temptation is to isolate ourselves or fear we might overburden one another by sharing what’s going on. Galatians 6:2 says,“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” We are truly being the hands and feet of Jesus when we look upon the needs of one another with compassion and pray specifically, on behalf of one another, for the Lord to come alongside and fulfill those needs. The good news is this act of community isn’t broken by physical separation. There is something incredibly powerful about our love for one another that transcends the physical space and time and brings us into a spiritual, emotional space together. This space cannot be taken away, and it is the space we can receive and give comfort, encouragement, and support to one another. Express those needs to a trusting community for us to rally around one another.
- You can do reparative work on your relationships, even over FaceTime. One of those diamonds in the rough of a crisis is the gift of perspective on what is most important. Our relationships channels can get clogged with bitterness, resentment, and distance quite easily, and often times we have been stuck here in this state for years. But now would be a perfect time to reach back out to those you love, even those who are hard to love, and express the love that you have for them.
Scripture encourages us to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18-19). So many of us have affectionate thoughts towards our loved ones, but we haven’t been in the practice of saying those sentiments out loud to one another. Those words left unsaid is what contributes to the experience of regret. Do your relationships a favor and try to get your relationships as “clean” and filled with love as possible.
- Find ways to serve others. Another encouragement I would give you is to find ways to encourage and support those around you. Paul encouraged us in Galatians 5:13, “serve one another humbly in love,” for through our service, we are living out the freedom that we receive in Christ. Whether you can find a way to encourage the nurse/doctor staff caring for your loved one or serving a neighbor, these acts of service can allow us to feel that we still can be a source of care to others. Giving back is an empowering experience that allows us to feel that we are giving back to others and reciprocating the love and community we are receiving.
Gregory, Christina, PhD. (2020) The five stages of grief: an examination of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model. Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html
Published on Apr 15 @ 1:12 PM CDT
Grief and loss are challenging to process in the best of conditions. This COVID-19 time has complicated and even eliminated our normative rituals that are important to us and help us grieve the loss of those who have died. During this time, we might wonder how we can really celebrate the life of our loved ones who have died. And this one unanswered question can have a ripple effect, leaving us with hundreds of questions with seemingly no answers. We can turn to Scripture as well as grief experts for some guidance on how to process grief.
Grief and loss is a challenge to process through in the best of conditions, but in this COVID-19 time, it has complicated and even eliminated our normative rituals that are important to us and help us grieve the loss of those who have died. And right now the question is how can we really celebrate the life of our loved ones who have died?
That unanswered question can make us feel like we have to answer 100’s of questions all at the same time. To help you navigate you through this journey, I wanted to offer you some thoughts from Scripture as well as from grief experts Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler.
- Start Now, Don’t Wait: Being in quarantine offers additional challenges to the grieving process, but it is important for you to find a personal way to celebrate the life of your loved one in the here and now. David Kessler writes: "There's something important about grieving when grief first hits. People who don't have these rituals seem to have more trouble grieving" (LaMotte, 2020). Scripture also invites us to draw near to God with our sorrow, not postponing the feelings but rather embracing them. And when we don’t know what to say, Scripture reminds us, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). Grief is very difficult to put into words, but one practice people have told me has been helpful for them is creating a loss box. Fill this box with items, memorabilia, letters, or photos that represent treasured memories with your loved one. You can even do this practice with your family members and kids in your home. These items can help us connect to the loved one, in the here and now, as you work to find a meaningful way to celebrate their life and grieve their loss.
- Include All You Can in The Celebration: Though we may not be able to host a funeral or memorial right now, with whatever ceremony you create right now, try to include all the people possible. There is something transformative about being together. Scripture describes this when it says: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). When we gather all together, whether online or in person, we not only experience love from one another but we supernaturally feel the fullness of the love of Christ. With technology, you can host via Zoom or creating multiple digital groups to come attend the celebration at staggered times.
- Tell and Share Stories with the Key People: Storytelling has long been a tradition in families that deepens our connection between one another and allows our influence to pass across the generations. David, the Psalmist, wrote, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11), for it is through remembrance that we are rejuvenated with truths from our memories that reconnect us back to God and to one another. In this space our internal experience transforms to gratitude as we recognize the lifelong gifts that person gave us. With those key loved ones, find a way to share stories, memories, and your own grief experience. You can make an open forum (such as a Facebook group) where you can all share stories and photos of your loved one who has died. It is also helpful on a community level as well because it allows us to share in memories of our loved one through the eyes of someone else.
- Write Letters to the Deceased: Scripture is filled with collections of letters that Paul wrote to encourage, course-correct, and empower believers across the world. In grief, the practice of letter writing can be a vehicle to encourage us and restore conversations that we wish we could have repaired. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross suggests: "Write a letter every day, before you go to bed. Talk to the loved one and just say, 'This is what I wish I could have said to you.' By doing that, you are finishing some of the business that you weren't able to do" (LaMotte, 2020).
- Cope with Your Guilt: This unique season of grief is going to be complicated by the fact that our loved one was isolated, and we may fear they felt unsupported by us. But we can have hope that though we were not physically able to be in the same room with one another, we were able to remain emotionally and spiritually there for them and with them. Just like our relationship with Jesus, though we physically can’t see Him, He promises us in Matthew 28:20, “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So we can rest in knowing God went before us and our love continued to surround our loved ones where our physical bodies could not go yet yearned to be.
- Talk to Your Community: Often times death can bring some of the unresolved pieces to the surface. Sometimes it can bring with it spiritual doubt, questions about our own purpose or resurface unresolved hardships we’ve experienced. Scripture encourages us to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). It takes humility to be vulnerable, especially in a time where closed doors encourage us to be reclusive. But when we allow one another to express our fears, thoughts, and concerns, we create an opportunity for authentic community to transpire and help lift us up in our time of need.
- Join a Support Group: Staying connected to our families and friends is incredibly valuable, but since we are very linked to our families emotions, there are times when we feel we need our own space to process this away from everyone else. Support groups can be that space you are seeking and help you find others who are sharing in this experience. As a church, we are offering support groups for that very purpose.
Winston’s Wish (2020). How to use a memory box with bereaved children. Retrieved from https://www.winstonswish.org/how-to-use-a-memory-box-with-bereaved-children-and-young-people/.
LaMotte, Sandee (2020) Grief and fear after a Covid-19 death: Managing a double trauma. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/04/01/health/grief-fear-coronavirus-wellness/index.html.
Published on Apr 15 @ 1:10 PM CDT
During this time of quarantine brought on by COVID-19, you’re likely spending more time with your kid(s) than usual. With that, you’ve probably noticed that they have a lot of feelings… and with that observation, you may be having some feelings of your own! And while understanding and processing your feelings might not always be comfortable or even come naturally, God designed you to have feelings so that you can better connect with others and Him. By tapping into some tips and tools, you can help your kid(s) more easily understand and manage their feelings.
With all the time that we have been spending with our kids lately, it’s likely that you have noticed them having some feelings…and with that observation, you may be getting some feelings of your own! Understanding and knowing our feelings can seem rather difficult to do at times, and sometimes we may not be sure how to decipher them. Sometimes we may even wonder if it’s even Biblical to give our emotions attention.
Before we go into some practical steps on how to help our children process and understand their feelings, I want to encourage you that God has wired all of us as emotional beings, and He doesn’t ask us to hide from them! He actually created and designed us with feelings and emotions IN ORDER TO connect us further together. In fact, the Psalmist David, known as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), is a wonderful example of someone who expressed a lot of emotions! But he was evidently so in tune with God’s heart and felt freedom to be himself with God as God shapes and directs him. This is who I want to be as a parent—safe for my kids to share, in tune with what’s on their hearts, and have an open communication in which they desire to learn and grow.
From a psychological standpoint, feelings are a part of our senses that help us understand the world around us and learn more about what is going on for us in our own minds and hearts. These feelings are like energy that move in and through us, ebbing and flowing, and changing as we experience our day. Our brain even shifts gears from being in protection (having a flight/flight response in the amygdala) to being thoughtful (having a calm response in the prefrontal cortex) based off our perception and our feelings (Siegel, 2012).
Often times feelings are a challenge to understand, much less manage, and I’d like to provide you some tips to helping your kids, and perhaps yourself, really tap into this powerful resource.
- BREATHE! This may be the best tool in our tool boxes, but perhaps one of our most under-utilized resources. Job describes the power of breath this way: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breathof the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). So no matter where you are or what is going on around you, God has given us this resource that is a quiet, constant frequency of calm. This is a vital energy source of calm and allows our body to push PAUSE before we react. Pausing can help shift the gears in our brain from protection to a thoughtful, calm place. When feelings feel big and out of control, invite yourself and your child to start the discovery of their feelings with a full breath of fresh calm.
- Help Name The Feelings: When we are able to identify what is going on inside of us, it removes the scary mystery of the experience, and allows us to shift gears with full eyes of curiosity verses narrow eyes of fear and judgement. “There is no fear in love. But perfectlove drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18) When our hearts are scared of something bad happening, we close off in fear. And some feelings feel…bad. They feel uncomfortable, confusing, overwhelming, and who wants to feel that way? But when we invite God’s loving gaze in our introspection, it transforms our feelings from being hidden and confused inside us to a new perspective that is surrounded by the light of God’s love and compassion. To start, go online, grab a feelings chart of your choice, and print it out to use to help your kids start to identify and voice these emotions.
- Discover the Feeling’s Voice: Once we figure out which type of feeling we are experiencing, get even more curious and figure out what that feeling is trying to say. David asks God to help him do this very thing when he says, “Searchme, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). It’s incredible the kinds of unhelpful, untruthful things we can be thinking about, and those thoughts can produce some pretty powerful and even crippling feelings along with it. But God invites us to think of “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think of such things” (Ephesians 4:8).
I read a brilliant kids article that labeled this fear the “Worry Monster” (252 Team, 2019). You just simply ask the child what the worry monster is saying to them, and through this externalization of the feelings, we start to have real, deep, and meaningful conversations with our kids about what’s going on in their hearts. And here we have an incredible opportunity as parents to provide comfort, encouragement, or to help reshape our child’s perspective. We’ve now transformed a scary feelings moment into a powerful moment of connection and learning.
- Hunt for Feeling Clues: Children are slowly developing the fine skills needed to verbalize their feelings into words (Cherry, 2020), and this is a skill many of us still are working through into our adulthood. To help them, and us, along, we can teach them context cues of our non-verbals, which is our tone, facial expression, body language, posture. These are all clues to what is going on inside of us, in our hearts and minds. If you feel you can remain calm, try asking your children in the middle of their emotional response questions like, “I am noticing your tone is loud right now. Do you feel that?” “I am noticing that you are jumping up and down.”
- Remember this is all practice. When our emotional world is out of control, it is very difficult for us to learn or grow new skills in the moment. David trusted God to teach him with patience and kindness, and God promised David, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 23:8). Often times their inner world and our inner world is so full of anxiety that it is difficult for us to calm down enough in this moment to have a productive learning time. So take a break…pray…and calm down! Then when things are calm get back to practicing, trying to find playful ways to help them discover their feelings and stretch their breathing skills through exercises. See resources below for more ideas!
252 Team (2019, Nov 19) OKP 022: Helping kids navigate anxiety – naming the worry monster. Retrieved from https://orangeblogs.org/252basics/okp-022-helping-kids-navigate-anxiety-naming-the-worry-monster/?fbclid=IwAR0qH4CbfmyU_JqQ4Xzg3_y2W9HkAQW1K5sf02j4FKK1kClRn3OCvXxHvw8
Cherry, K. (2020). The 4 stages of cognitive development: Background and key concepts of Piaget's theory. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/piagets-stages-of-cognitive-development-2795457
Seigel, D., PhD. (2012). Dr Daniel Siegel presenting a Hand Model of the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm9CIJ74Oxw
- For breathing skills, apps, and self-regulation tips, check out https://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/seven-self-regulating-apps-for-kids-that-teach-mindfulness
- For feelings charts and practices, check out fhttps://www.funwithmama.com/feelings-and-emotions-for-kids/
- Another great resource to help parents, kids and teens work through feelings and identify challenge areas is Kids Helpline. https://kidshelpline.com
- For more on Child Development: https://www.verywellmind.com/piagets-stages-of-cognitive-development-2795457
Published on Apr 14 @ 9:59 AM CDT
During this time of quarantine brought on by the coronavirus, it’s important to try to keep your family on somewhat of a schedule. This will be especially helpful for online schooling done from home, which is new to a lot of families. The more you can maintain a routine, the better your family is likely to respond during this unprecedented time.
Try to keep your family on somewhat of a schedule. This will be especially helpful for online schooling done from home. Having a written out schedule helps keep expectations in check for everyone and can decrease conflict. I would even suggest having your kids help you write up the schedule too! More input = more buy in. Don’t forget to allow time for mental breaks to decompress, just like they would have at school during lunch/recess/passing periods.
Find a fun way to make up for cancelled events! A lot of highly anticipated events have been cancelled, so try to substitute these with fun and out of the ordinary activities around the house or in the community. Ask your kids for ideas and don’t be afraid to get creative with this, especially as more businesses begin to close. Here are a few examples to kick start your brainstorm: learn a new card game, break out the old jigsaw puzzles, plant flowers, build things with scrap wood in the garage, rearrange the furniture in their bedrooms, paint something and hang it on the wall, go for a walk around your neighborhood or even drive to a new one and do some exploring! Again, get creative with this and ask your kids for their input.
Ask your kids how they’re feeling about everything… have they heard things about the virus from their friends? Have they seen things on social media that they didn’t understand or that didn’t make sense? Are they putting on a calm face but secretly freaking out underneath? Or perhaps they are actually freaking out! Rather than telling them what you want them to hear, start the conversation by figuring out where their thoughts are at and proceed from there. Kindly engage with any misinformation they may have heard and meet their fear with comforting truths.
If your kids are fearful let them know that things are a little scary for you too! It’s okay to be human, and it communicates to our kids that it’s okay to feel emotions and to express them in a healthy way. Address their fear and then encourage them with a positive reminder of truth. For example: “I know you’re scared about things, Mom is a little scared too. But one way to help keep us healthy is by washing our hands so that’s why I’ve been asking you to do so.” There’s a healthy middle ground between dumping your fears on your kids, and expressing your emotions to them in a way that models for them what it looks like to be human. Aim for this middle ground and if at first you don’t succeed remain calm and try again!
Take care of yourself so that you can be present. This may be the most important because kids pick up on your stress and anxiety sometimes before you even notice it. Making sure that you’re okay first typically means that you’ll be better equipped to help your kids manage their own emotions. Remember the airplane instructions to put your own mask on before assisting those around you… that’s exactly what you’re doing here. Carve out some time in your day to do what you need to do: call your friends, text your support system, FaceTime your loved once, etc. And don’t forget that a lot of counselors are able to offer a virtual platform for therapy and can help make sure that you’re doing alright. Utilize the electronic resources at your fingertips to get what you need, and then put your devices aside to be present with your kids. Your full presence and engagement is going to help your kids to be resilient through this season, and shape them to tackle the next obstacle that comes their way.
Published on Apr 9 @ 12:25 PM CDT
As we face Corona-related quarantines and school closings and social distancing, many parents are embarking on a journey they never wanted to take: homeschooling. Here are two resources on homeschooling to help you!
As we face Corona-related quarantines and school closings and social distancing, many parents are embarking on a journey they never wanted to take: homeschooling. Here are two helpful resources on homeschooling. The first is an article from Hill Country member Heather Creekmore, and the second is a video with Sarah Walters, one of our couselors.
Forced to Homeschool? Here’s How to Homeschool in Quarantine and Love it!
By: Heather Creekmore
As families self-quarantine and thousands of traditional schools have closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, many parents are embarking on a journey they never wanted to take: homeschooling.
The thought of homeschooling may overwhelm you, especially if you’re also trying to work from home. But let me offer some encouragement. It can be done. The truth is that you may even enjoy it.
This spring I’ll finish my seventh year of homeschooling four children, now ages 8 to 13. I also work 20-plus hours a week from home writing, podcasting and doing marketing consulting.
Homeschooling has given me the flexibility to write two books and has given my children the opportunity to pursue their interests, learn in a flexible environment, and acquire practical skills ranging from time management to cooking!
Here are some of the most helpful things I've learned.
Homeschool doesn’t have to look anything like regular school. Don't try to make your children sit still all day or work for long stretches without breaks.
If you feel frustration rising in both you and your children, take a break. Send them outside to run laps or ride their bikes, while you grab another cup of coffee and get something done until they're ready to work again.
Remember that you're not the teacher of a class of 35. You're the parent-teacher. Parent-teachers have special privileges. Use what you know about your children to make school work for you.
Work on your time
If you have a job that's depending on you to work from home, remember that unless your child is taking live online classes, homeschooling doesn't have to match the timeframe of public school. You’ll likely get everything done a lot faster.
At school, a lot of time is spent transitioning between classes, taking "brain breaks," or waiting for other kids to finish the assignment given to the class. You may have a Type A firstborn who will sit and get all the work done in 90 minutes in the morning. Or you may have a middle child who'd rather do a little work, play Legos for 30 minutes, and come back and do a little more.
Just like adults, your child may be extremely productive and work ahead some days. Others, it may be difficult to get through one subject without frustration. You have the flexibility to adjust on a daily basis, so embrace the freedom.
Unless your children are following along with an online class, take advantage of the opportunity to let them gently learn on the schedule that works best for them.
Limit screen time
I've found that homeschool goes best if limits on screens are tight during our school week. Even a few hours of video games in the afternoon or evening can make the next day harder than it has to be.
Though your children will complain and express fears of dying of boredom (and though you’ll fear never getting anything done because of their ridiculous insistence), my best advice is to set up a system where video games aren’t a part of the daily equation.
Your home will remain more peaceful if your children are encouraged to do other screen-free things during the day. You may be amazed at what they come up with after the shock and awe of no video games dissipates.
Offer an hour of (timed) video games after dinner for good attitudes, if you need an incentive. But trust me, life is easier during the week without them.
Learn about and with your children
Life is busy and it was difficult for me to pay too much attention to everything my children were learning when they were in public school. But with them at home, I've had an incredible opportunity to learn beside them and about them.
Now I know what subjects they are most interested in and best at. I know what topics interest them so much that we need to find other resources to supplement what they're learning.
YouTube isn't all DIY plumbing and make-up tutorials. You'd be amazed at the helpful and kid-friendly videos you'll find on everything from wars to learning division.
For older children, try Khan Academy for classes in just about every subject. Amazon Prime and Netflix can be a treasure trove of documentaries on everything from geography to science. Plus, many online learning programs are offering free memberships during the coronavirus quarantine. Watch together and supplement what both of you are learning.
Keep first things first
We working parents may struggle with trying to keep a remotely located boss happy amidst running our child’s school day. My best advice is to start your day with prayer and then set your own priorities and schedule around what you know will work well for both you and your children.
My typical schedule is to work with my children from around 8:30 to 11 a.m. This is plenty of time for my third and fourth graders to complete all of their work. If my middle-school children need help later in the day we schedule it, making an appointment for them to meet with me.
As I record podcasts, meet writing deadlines and do other work, my children have learned to work on their own or play quietly (without screens). Children can be taught to give you some space and be respectful of your time as well. But this lesson is learned easier if you're first willing to designate time that is just for them.
This may be my "Enneagram 7" coming out, but the truth is: I really love homeschooling. I enjoy hanging out with my kids each day. We have fun. We take bike rides to the park or to Dunkin’ Donuts.
They spend time teaching themselves to draw or creating obstacle courses in our backyard. This quarantine may be your chance to just have fun together as a family. A lot of learning can happen when playing Monopoly or building a Lego model of something they learned about.
Talk to your children. They have things to say and want you to stop and listen. Ask them questions. Encourage them to try new things like drawing from a tutorial or banging on the keys of the dusty piano in the hall (gently, and not when mom is on a conference call).
Teach them out to clean, how to do laundry, what the difference between Windex and counter cleaner is and why they should never use the latter on your bathroom mirror. Play in the yard. Write a letter to an older person who can’t leave home until the coronavirus subsides.
This time is yours. This virus may be cramping your regular style, but why not make something absolutely beautiful out of it?
*Heather's article was picked up and published by a local news source. You can see the source here.
Encouragement on Homeschooling
Check out this encouragement and support from Sarah Walter, LPC, on homeschooling!
Published on Apr 6 @ 2:07 PM CDT