We’ve now had a couple of weeks to try to get our heads around this emerging situation, yet things change on a daily basis. There is a huge amount of uncertainty which is very unsettling. It feels like we are on shifting sand. Here in the UK, in the past week we’ve had schools closing indefinitely, many job losses, closure of all but essential shops, a ban on all get togethers including churches and family meet ups. And the constant anxiety and fear of a new virus.
I know as an adult I’ve experienced shock, disbelief, fear, anxiety and a sense of loss. I don’t feed off social media fear-mongering and limit how much I listen to the news. But for our teens who may be exposed to these much more, it is little wonder if they are struggling.
I think it’s important to acknowledge the level of loss many of them have experienced within a very short space of time; school and university closure, not being able to see friends or sit exams they have been working towards (though for some this may be a relief!), not playing sports, loss of jobs, to name but a few.
Into this mix is uncertainty. Each day is uncertain, as is their immediate future. The teen years are a time for transition from dependence on parents to greater independence. For some, this season may seem like a backward step and loss of independence.
However, I also think we can do our utmost to redeem this time; to make something good out of something bad. Life is full of challenges, and some of our teens may have faced more than their fair share already. However, this is an opportunity for us to walk with them and help them to develop responses and habits which will stand them in good stead in the future.
If we have a Christian faith, then our first stop is prayer and God’s word. If our teens don’t have a quiet time (time to read the Bible and pray) in the morning, this might be a good time to start that habit. Opening the Bible before we switch on our phones or the news gives us a solid foundation from which to begin the day. God’s word doesn’t change and is the ultimate reality. I start each day now by listening to some Psalms on the Bible app, even before I have my quiet time.
With weeks ahead without much structure we are in the process of setting some routines and rhythms in place. Rhythm Dude is missing all his sport and has been concerned that he’ll lose his level of fitness. I’ve been so impressed that the first thing he does, after breakfast and a quiet time, is to do the workout exercises he’s been given by academy and then go for a run. This was entirely his own idea and has had a good knock on effect on the rest of us.
It would be all too easy for screens to gradually eek away this gift of time. We are having conversations around this, and will hopefully come up with both individual and family plans of how we’d like to spend this season. We have a beautiful opportunity of creating our own rhythm which gives space for quiet, for reflection, for creativity, for exercise, for fresh air (if this is possible), for learning new skills, for gaining new knowledge, for talking, for finding beauty in the mundane. This may sound idealistic and we will have many messy moments each day, but I’d suggest it gives us something to aim for.
We are a society which is very achievement and target driven. I wonder if this might be an opportunity to focus more on things which can’t be measured or graded; character qualities such as kindness, common sense, the ability to find peace in the midst of a storm, self discipline, patience, the ability to bear with others and forgive. So often in our fast paced lives we can brush aside heart and character issues, but with so much time together, we will probably have to work through some of them. Our church had Colossians 3:12-17 as our passage to mull over a couple of weeks ago. Our minister who wrote the Lent devotions can’t have had any idea how applicable this would be!
It’s also an opportunity to look outward; to immediate older relatives and neighbours, to the impact on our nation and our world. Tearfund have some excellent resources for this.
So, having said all that, our teens do need to have some activities to fill their days and offer an alternative to their screens. These are a few ideas I’ve heard or read about.
– write a list of all the things you’d like to learn about and choose one to focus on.
-spend time being creative; develop all those art, textile, music and writing skills
-write a journal of this time…either in words or video. It could be a very interesting historic document!
– choose a book to read, either individually or as a family read aloud. “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom are both about times of extended isolation.
– find ways to help others in the community; Rhythm Dude is going to phone his eighty year old super cool drum teacher every Tuesday, when he would normally be having a lesson.
-maybe choose a long series to watch as a family; we’ve started on “Lord of the Rings”. Think it will last us a while!
– take the opportunity to learn or improve some practical skills needed for when they do leave home one day; cooking, sorting laundry, cleaning, menu planning etc
– this could be a good time to set up a new family tradition, and important to keep our existing ones going.
– have a bake off afternoon. Could be especially challenging if ingredients are limited.
– get those board/card games out and have a screen free evening with some favourite snacks.
– listen to a podcast together. We like Ask away podcast
– set a regular time for a zoom or similar meet up with friends.
The Bible doesn’t say we can expect to be free from trials…rather that God will be with us throughout. This will probably be an extremely testing time for many; financially, with sickness, coping with all the normal life issues in a time of isolation. However, God sent Jesus right into this world, to be a part of our suffering. And I pray that, by His grace, we might be able to look back on this as one of the bitter sweet seasons in our lives, where we have trusted in Him alone and known Him to be our Protector, our strong shield, our Provider, our Defender. I pray that as we journey through this time with our teens that their roots in Jesus would go ever deeper, preparing them for them for what He would have them do next.