Helping Parents Be Resilient In COVID-19 Times
By Stephanie Miller, M.A. • Programs Field Representative | Foster Care Ombudsman Program • Oklahoma Department of Human ServicesTeam • interlínc Alumni
2020 has been quite the dumpster fire, don’t you think? Every new event just adds more fuel to the ever-growing fire. I am going to date myself here, but I think Billy Joel should add more verses to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” There is probably enough material from 2020 alone to do a complete re-write, but I digress.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us, “…there is nothing new under the sun.” For those of us living in 2020 and all things COVID-19, this feels pretty “new”—at least that’s what every email from every CEO of every single place that I have ever shopped or bought something from told me in March. Every email stressed that this time is “unprecedented.” By the first of April, I think we all got the point.
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At the time of this writing, it is nearing the end of August, and we are five months into what is likely our new normal. For most parents, the 2020 version of normal has become exhausting. Pre-COVID, school and work usually provided a temporary break from parenting duties. Parenting during a pandemic feels more intense and more time-consuming.
While the term “burnout” usually refers to careers and job-related issues, I think it’s safe to say that burnout concerning parenting during the pandemic is just as real. Being a parent is difficult enough in the best of times. Add the stress of job loss, economic downturn, and general uncertainty, you likely have many parents of students in your churches who are living with a lot of adversity and also some guilt.
Messing up and making mistakes is part of the job as a parent, but the stakes seem even higher these days. You may find yourself spending as much time ministering to and encouraging parents to keep moving forward as you spend with your students.
Resiliency has become a trending topic in the mental and behavioral health field over the last decade. Psychology Today describes it this way: “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” I like this statement from Courtney Ackerman. “Resilience isn’t about floating through life on a breeze, or skating by all of life’s many challenges unscathed; rather, it’s about experiencing all of the negative, difficult, and distressing events that life throws at you and staying on task, optimistic, and high-functioning. Developing resilience requires emotional distress. If we never ran into disappointment in the first place, we would never learn how to deal with it.”
As I read that statement, my mind went to John 16:33, “…I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” I love how science and research find ways to try and catch up with what God’s Word has told us for centuries.
Most people, myself included, think of resilience as a personality trait – one of those God-given characteristics that some seem to have in more abundance than others. Yet, research has shown that all of us have shown resilience at some point in life and also that it can be learned and developed—even during a pandemic.
In my opinion, just being a Christ-follower in a secular, pleasure-focused society is a daily exercise in resilience.
How can you encourage your parents to develop their resilience in this COVID-19 world? Here are a few practical ways psychiatrist Dr. Carine Nzodom has found that can grow resilience:
- Allow yourself to feel a wide range of emotions.
- Identify support systems and let them be there for you.
- Be mindful of your wellness and self-care.
- Get some rest or try to get an adequate amount of sleep.
- Try to maintain a routine.
- Write about your experience and share it with others.
Seems pretty basic, does it not? While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope it gives you a practical framework to build upon in light of God’s Word as you minister to students and their parents. For believers, the church is the perfect conduit for many of these avenues of growth, even though the way we “do church” looks different right now.
I have many times thought about how drained and exhausted Jesus must have felt when He was doing His earthly ministry. He was God AND human, after all. Hounded by Pharisees, listening and caring for the sick and the lame, and even loving and guiding the disciples as they fought over who gets to sit at His right hand. He survived a 40-day fast, resisted temptation from the devil, and then conquered death itself! He is the ultimate example of resilience, and we are His children. What a mighty God we serve!