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Helping Kids Make Sense of It All

by Arlene Pellicane

You have probably experienced years of plenty and years of not–so–much. You understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” But how can we explain this concept to children? Adults struggle to make sense of this pandemic season, so you can imagine how confusing life may seem to a child right now. Unpleasant new routines include wearing masks, online school, keeping a distance from friends, canceled sports, musical performances, and vacations.

Here are a few ways to help your child or grandchild make sense of it all from Philippians 4:

Model rejoicing in God no matter what.

Even during times of illness, financial trouble, or relational stress, the apostle Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (verse 4) Have you been displaying an attitude of joy during this time? You certainly don’t have to smile about getting sick or losing a job. This is about rejoicing in the goodness of God in spite of your circumstances. The example you leave for your child outweighs the words you preach. When they see you rejoice, they will learn to do the same—and that is a beautiful lesson that grounds your child in faith no matter what is happening.

Turn off addictive and negative technology.

Some kids may be “rejoicing” that the pandemic has given them hours and hours of extra gaming and screen time. But most video games, social media, YouTube videos, and streaming services quickly disciple your child in the ways of the world rather than the ways of God. Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely. Turn off the technology that doesn’t fall into these categories. Don’t expect new limits to be popular. Be willing to stand firm with consistent guidelines for the emotional, physical, and spiritual health of your child.

Bake cookies together with a twist.

Baking something delicious in the kitchen isn’t only a fun activity; it’s a memorable way to teach a lesson. What if you forgot to add butter or eggs or flour to the recipe? Every ingredient is necessary for a complete cookie. Explain that both good times and bad times are part of the ingredients of life. The apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned both to be full and to be hungry” (verse 12). In the end, God uses all our experiences to make something sweet—just like a chocolate chip cookie. If you want to illustrate the point, you can bake some cookies according to the recipe and other cookies with some key ingredients missing. The “incomplete” cookies will certainly not taste as good!

Support positive friendships.

The apostle Paul didn’t live in isolation. The Philippian church sent him aid (verse 15); he was encouraged by Epaphroditus’ visit (verse 18); he delivered greetings from the brethren (verse 21), especially from those from Caesar’s household (verse 22). He had close friends! Your child doesn’t need more followers on social media or buddies who are bad influences. Your child needs positive friendships in real life. Perhaps you can arrange a play date in the park or your backyard. A voice or video call is always better than just texting. If your child has a good friend that you like, support that friendship by finding new, creative ways to connect if there are limitations because of the pandemic. Some friends have become pen pals, writing letters to one another with a list of questions like “What’s your favorite movie?” or “What’s something I don’t know about you?” Talking regularly with a friend on the phone or in person makes a big difference. Kids thrive by playing together, not by holding a tablet all day. It will be important after the pandemic to reteach your child that it’s good to shake someone’s hand, give high fives and hugs, and meet in groups again. Six feet away is not a permanent or desirable way of living.

Every season of life has something to teach us. You can be a loving guide in your child’s life, showing them that God is sovereign and good through it all.

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Turning Points devotional magazine.

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