Parenting in a Pandemic
Three pivotal ways to help our children throughout this upheaval. They need us now more than ever.
Sports coaches speak about the devastating effects of the corona pandemic on American youth, using words like "tragedy" and "historic crisis". Kids have become so used to spending time online that running out in a field has become unappealing. Children, family and friends who used to join together at games, rooting as one for their players and teams, have been cut off from one another. “What we’re talking about is a loss of community. The ramifications could be felt for generations. Just like after the depression.”
If this is the reality of kids without their sports, I shudder to think about what the children are going through with all the ups and downs of ‘corona living’. Schools open and then shut. Synagogues closed. Trying to keep it together on Zoom or phone calls as this new pandemic classroom is being figured out. Losing the personal connection, the eye-to-eye contact with a teacher, friend or grandparent. Parents worried and stressed out from financial uncertainties.
What can we do to help our children and help ourselves?
Let us look at the 3 ABCs as a path to keep us steady in instable times. No, we do not have control on much that is happening in our lives. But if we can keep our reactions in check and walk with strength we can empower ourselves and our children throughout this upheaval.
When we wake up in the morning and the stress begins, our attitude can make all the difference. Our children pick up on our words and our body language. If all they hear from us is "This is crazy", "I can’t take this anymore", "The world is falling apart", then what positivity can we expect from them?
To be a parent means that we do not allow ourselves to crumble. We keep on walking even if we stumble and fall.
Every piece of Jewish wisdom we've learned, all the lessons and articles we’ve read about mental strength and resilience were a practice run for right now. This is our moment to lead, to guide and to inspire. This may be the greatest test of our generation. We cannot afford to lose it and let the next generation down.
To be a parent means that we do not allow ourselves to crumble. We keep on walking even if we stumble and fall. We pick ourselves up because that’s what a parent does. And if you come from a dysfunctional home where your parents let you down, that does not mean you are weak. God told Abraham and Sarah “Go from your land, your birthplace, your father’s home.” You have the power to write your own story. Leave the dysfunction and the deficiencies behind. Live tenaciously. Become a force of blessing in this world.
And if you are thinking, I just don’t have the strength. I am tired, then remember this beautiful piece of Jewish wisdom. The Hebrew word for "test" is "nisayon". Contained in this Hebrew word is the word "nes" which means both a banner and a miracle. When you go through this challenge of a lifetime and you feel as if you are barely holding on, but you keep on going because your life depends on it and your children’s lives depend on it, then you have created the most magnificent banner. This banner that proclaims your life force is forever your miracle. No one can deny it or take it away from you.
This is where your attitude comes in. Each day check your face in the mirror. What do you see? Because that’s what your children see. Hear yourself. Listen to your tone. Watch your body language. Rid yourself of complaining, of fearful doomsday conversations, of panicked words. Don’t check the news all day. Be sure to do some physical activity. Replace negative words like “I can’t do this” with positivity. “It may be hard right now but we can do this.” Your physical and emotional presence shapes your home. Your attitude is catchy; maybe more than corona itself.
The Jewish faith has kept us alive as we’ve wandered throughout the four corners of the world. We have been subject to every form of persecution, rounded up in cattle cars, shoved into ovens, told we will be thrown into the sea – and yet here we are. We are a living miracle. For thousands of years our city of Jerusalem has waited for us to return. The holy Kotel, the Western Wall, is bathed with our tears, still standing, crying out for our nation to come home.
We will make it through this modern-day 'Egypt' of ours, just as our forefathers and mothers did. But we must hold onto our faith just as they did. Trust and faith in God means that no matter what, I believe that I am watched over, cared for and loved by God above. I may not always understand all that is happening but that does not mean that there is not a Divine Plan.
Every time we light our Shabbos candles, recite Kiddush, make a blessing, recite the Shema, we proclaim our belief in God. Showing children that we believe, transmitting faith especially in times of challenge, becomes the most incredible spiritual wealth one can give. This is our life legacy. Belief sustains us, revives us and gives us the oxygen needed to make it through these difficult days. Hold on tight.
Our children need to feel safe and secure. They are experiencing all kinds of emotions. Sometimes they don’t even know what they are feeling. Is it fear? Sadness? Anger? Worry? Frustration?
Our children need to feel heard. When they are unable to express themselves, don’t shut them down. Allow them to speak to you, even if you are feeling short on patience or time. Be kind. Create sacred family time like dinner. No phones, no emails, no checking social media. Just you and your kids.
Sometimes all a child needs is a good word, a smile, a hug. Now is the time.
As we bring the A,B,C’s into our lives, may be fill our homes with blessing, good health and joy.