Stress. How do you describe it? How do you explain to your kids that what they are feeling is stress?
In all the chaos of our current culture, I know I am feeling stress. What I haven’t figured out is how to explain to my kids what that means. They have lost a lot of their regular routine and can’t fathom what is happening around them. They are stuck in a small house, together, for weeks with no end in sight.
I have homeschooled for the past 11 years, so having them home isn’t new. But we are usually extremely social. We hang out with friends, go shopping, tour the zoo and museums, and so many other things. Being at home like this is not our homeschool normal.
Two weeks ago my husband started feeling bad. In his research, he decided it would be better if he isolated himself from us. Later, an ER doctor told us, although they wouldn’t test him because he lacked the dire respiratory symptoms, he most likely had the corona virus.
We had been blessed, in the week prior, to be able to use his parent’s travel trailer in our driveway as a home office, so he has been living out there for almost 14 days (as of April 6th). In that time, our septic system backed up, our allergies have been through the roof, causing panic because of the similar symptoms to Covid-19, and my husband got stung by a wasp. I really don’t know if that is where the list ends, I can’t even remember what day of the week it is or how long we have been quarantined.
As I sat down this Monday morning to write down my kids assignments for the week, I noticed something strange. My 8 year old’s assignment book from last week was covered in scribbles. I read a plea for his dad to get better (he is on the mend, but not 100% yet), other words written in capital letters, and a lot of deep, dark lines as if he was releasing tension as he dragged the pen across the page. I was taken aback. This is not my sweet little boy. This is the stress of our situation coming out the only way he knew how to express it.
So, now what? I don’t have any answers that will make it all go away. I don’t have a list of how-to’s that will make everything okay again. I just have 3 boys inside my house, feeling the grief, the loss, the sadness, the fear, and not knowing what to do with it. And I am sitting with them, in a very similar state at times, waiting for whatever is coming.
But on the other side of this, my boys and I have watched movies, laughed, and loved one another deeply in the last 2 weeks. We have read together. We have played games. My favorite moment was when I watched them helping one another rather than showing their usual frustration when the other doesn’t do something their way. My oldest has been making cookies, my middle has been teaching his little brother to play basketball, and my youngest has been comforting each of us with hugs and silly chatter.
While my husband has been in isolation, our church and friends have stepped up and brought food, groceries, games, and sent so many texts that I have had trouble keeping up with them all. I have never felt so loved and so taken care of in my life.
Stress comes with daily life, no matter what is going on. Out in the world or hidden away at home, stress is a factor. You can find any number of helpful remedies wherever you look— deep breathing, yoga, mediation, etc., and I use these methods quite often. What I have found is: if I use these methods while learning to name what is causing my stress, I am better equipped to let it go. But that doesn’t change the original situation that caused the stress. It is still there waiting for me to focus in it again.
Thankfully, I have a deep faith in God’s Sovereignty and His Great Love for us. It is more consuming than the stress, than the worry, than anything life has or will throw at me. Sunday morning my middle son woke me up around 2 am. He had an excruciating headache. I gave him some acetaminophen and sent him back to bed. I then laid in the dark for quite a while calling out to God for peace, for assurance, for health. I don’t remember going back to sleep. I know without that prayer, I would’ve been awake for the rest of the night, fretting over him. Thankfully, by the next afternoon, he was up and feeling great again.
From all this, I believe the majority of my stress comes from the unknowns in my day. But because I know God, I can always hand him everything I am carrying and let Him take care of it. The only stipulation I put on this is, I need to be prepared that how He takes care of it may not be how I would take care of it. He knows the ‘Big Picture’ and I do not. So I would much rather Him take care of the things that put stress in my life.
So, what do I tell my kids about stress? I tell them God is so much bigger than every bit of what is happening here. While the doctors and nurses and lab techs and researchers and so many others have taken on our current situation, and work to save our physical lives, we pray, we encourage, we help, we love, in order to help save spiritual lives, the eternal lives that God loves and takes care of even if people don’t see it. Then we take a deep breath and start praying.
Lord, I come to you humbly asking for comfort in this stressful time. I ask you to bring your peace and understanding to those suffering, whether from this sickness or from a job loss. Be with our leaders as they make decisions that have to be made. Lord, most of all, I ask that you open hearts to hear Your Word over the chaos, over the voice of the deceiver that seems to rampant in our world today. Help us all to treat others with the Love You show us rather than the outcome of our fear and frustrations. Help those trying to fight this virus find a cure soon, if it is Your will. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash