As parents and caregivers, we have needed to be quick on our feet when it comes to adapting to the many changes the spread of COVID-19 has had in our community. Many of us have become overnight homeschool teachers, while still juggling younger children, finding caregivers, or working from home. Below are a few resources to help reduce stress and keep your family thriving. I pray, you can use these as a jumping off point to find what works best for you and your family.
Youth and Family Coordinator
1. Hold Onto God’s Peace Each Day
Let Christ’s Forgiveness Reign
This side of heaven, and with increased stressors, we are going to sin against each other. Siblings will bicker, and we, as parents will have bad days. But even on the bad days, you can always take comfort in the forgiveness Christ gives: you are forgiven, redeemed, and a loved child of God. And we get to model that forgiveness with those nearest and dearest to us.
Remain in God’s Word
No matter what each day brings, God is in control and has you and your family in the palm of his hands. The best way to keep this ever present in our minds is to stay connected to Him. St Paul is offering more ways than ever to make this happen. We are live streaming worship. Pastor Thompson is releasing daily video meditations, and virtual bible study is available Sunday Mornings (9am) and Thursday evenings (7pm). Subscribe to our You Tube channel
and stay connected. You can also check St Paul’s “Devotion and Study Resources”
for additional devotional options. Concordia Publishing House
is offering free video-based online bible studies. For a limited time, they have also made their family devotional, Family Time
, free for download
. Family Time
offers short daily devotions to read with the whole family. With great illustrations for all ages, excellent talking points, and easy-to-follow closing prayers, it is a great first-time family devotional. For podcast options, Time of Grace with Pastor Mike Novotny
offers both 5 & 30-minute podcast devotions, and 1517.org
offers a wide variety of Christian podcasts from 5-minute biographies in church history to family conversation on a variety of theological topics.
Encourage your Kids in God’s Word
St. Paul Sunday School is coming to you! On our website each week you will find a Toddler Nursery Circle, simplified lessons (Kinder-Grade 8) along with helpful links and resources. Click here
to be added to our mailing list or to give us feedback.
This is also an awesome opportunity to start daily/evening devotions with your kids. Check out the family devotional listed above. There are also fantastic, age-specific resources out there to get you and your kids into God's Word every day. Here are a few of our favorites: The Jesus Storybook Bible
by Sally Lloyd-Jones is a fantastic choice for toddlers. Kids fall in love with the writing and illustrations. The book covers all of Salvation Hisotry, and, most importantly, everything points to Jesus as our Saviour from sins. There are also DVD and audiobook versions available. For Ages 5-8, The Story Bible
is an easy to read introduction to the language and writing style of the bibile, and its margins provide parents with reivew quesitons and prayers. Ages 9+ is a perfect time to have your child start reading the bible out-loud to you. Pick a section you are both interested in learning about together. Have your child read out-loud for 5-10 minutes, answering questions as they arise. When finished, you can model the qustions that will serve them in their life-long devotional walk: What is God teaching us? Where is the law? Where is the gospel? What promise does God give? What can I give thanks for? You can supplement your bible readings with learning more about the life and times in bible history. The Complete Bible Disovery Guide
is a Bible handbook where you and your kids can dive into the people, history, culture, and traditions of both the Old and New Testament times. With excellent illustrations, simple explanations, and great maps, this is fun for all ages. This can also be paired with Bible Background
by Dr. Glen Thompson. A pastor, theologian, and professor of antiquities, Dr. Thompson brings history to life, writing in simple language that will be enjoyable for even elementary aged children. Right now, you can also freely download Concordia Publishing House's "My Devotions
." Written for ages 8-12, these are great devotions to mentor tweens in an independent devotional life.
Another way to encourage your children in the Word is by starting each day with a prayer and/or a bible reading. Memorization comes easily to most children. If you read aloud with them each day, in a week or so, you will be amazed how much the whole family knows by heart. Here is the prayer we are currently reading each day:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me,
Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me, Christ in quiet and Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
(St Patrick, 389-461)
As a family, we also say the same prayer together every morning. We ask each person what they want to pray for, and then we pray to the Lord, closing with the following: “Lord in all things, you promise that you will never leave us or forsake us and you are working out all things for good, so that we can have feelings of peace in the day ahead. Let that peace overflow into actions of…(whatever you are praying for that day). In Jesus' name we pray. Amen." This has become so ingrained in our kids, that they often remind us to pray!
2. Create a Basic Routine
Routine helps us build structure and calm into the day and is imperative for children’s mental health. Astronaut Chris Hadfield
offers a unique perspective on this idea, sharing his "astronaut's guide to self isolation." Every family is different with the routine that works best for their needs. But here are some key ideas to incorporate into your schedule:
Getting outside for some fresh air and a walk, even if it is a short one, will boost the whole family.
Movement and music are other wonderful ways to help reduce stress and re-set kids. GoNoodle.com
offers great movement and music videos. Some of our favorites include Zumba Kids, “Melting,” and “Let’s Unwind.” But sometimes, you just want to listen to your own mixes. Moving, dancing, and stretching to songs you and your kids love is another great option. Here are some of our current favorites: Getty Kids Hymnal: In Christ Alone, Another in the Fire: Hillsong United, Three Little Birds: Bob Marley
With more time at home, new annoyances are going to rear their ugly head. In our own home, normal messiness around the house has turned into gargantuan messiness everywhere. Ahh! But, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can partner with your family to brainstorm workable solutions. (e.g., we discussed this problem at lunch and are now trying 5-minute clean-ups before lunch and dinner). In our home, our children may be tired of hearing us tell them that we are a family of problem solvers, but, I know, someday, they will thank us for it:) And if the first attempt doesn't work, tomorrow is a new day!
Depending upon what resources your kid's school has sent home with them, you may be looking for additonal academic supports. Here are a few sites with quality, educational material for the newly homeschooling parent: Themeasuredmom.com
creates educational resouces for parents and teachers and is putting up work specifically grade-by-grade for what to do with your child at home. Khan Academy
offers video lessons, daily live streams, and free teaching resources.
Do you have a pile of books you have hoped to read with the kids but never quite seem to get to? This is the time! We are also enjoying the blessings technology gives us of video chatting with grandparents and loved ones, near and far, who are reading and drawing with the kids. There are also lots of great audio options available right now. Audible
is offering FREE streaming of audiobooks as long as the closures last. Adventures in Odyssey
is offering a free-4 week trial of their Adventure Club. Besides streaming from the library, You Tube hosts a pleothra of audiobooks. Here are just a few we like: Read to Me Dad
is filled with lots of great picture books, Winnie the Pooh, Henry Huggins, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings
. There are also a variety of free Reading Websites for Kids.
It can be a challenge to keep our minds still, focused on one day at at time. A great way to encourage this type of thinking is diving into a new educational pursuit or project. Learning something new forces our minds to concentrate on the here and now (and not get stuck in the what-ifs that tend to pop into our heads). If you have a project that has been collecting dust on a shelf somewhere, this is the time to get it out! Many websites are also offering free courses online. There seem to be more options popping up daily. Here are just a few:
TESOL International Association has compiled a comprehensive table of free educational resources
. There are free trial kid's cooking classes through Kitchen Stewardship
and a free 5-lesson art sampler through Masterpiece Society.
Or you can start with simpler art lessons through artprojectsforkids.org.
You can follow more of these at Learningmama on Facebook
or Ottawa Kids.
Routines are unique to every family, but in case you are looking for a jumping off point, here’s a sample. You can also find sample schedules for all ages at Khan Academy
• Wake-up/Breakfast/Family Prayer
• Kids Free Play/Adults exercise and listen to a devotional podcast
• School Time (9-11am)
• Outdoor Time
• Quiet Time (1 hour)
• Family Time (this might be a hike or games or drawing together. Whatever we feel like)
• Free Play
• Reading out-loud with the Kids/Devotions
• Adult Time
3. Guard your Home as an Emotional Safe Space
With talk on COVID-19 all around, it is easy to let it dominate conversation. However, this can feed anxiety in both kids and adults, alike. If your children have fears about what is going on, it is important to talk through these (See CDC
on managing stress and anxiety with kids). But it is also important to not let it dominate your family. Limit media exposure. If you find yourself talking about it often, agree on a time during the day when you are going to bring up this topic (e.g., 5-10 minutes at dinner), and then let it rest. Adults, consider talking about additional concerns in confidence away from young children.
4. Keep Little Hands Busy
Young children are busy! And oftentimes, if we have been cooped up in the house for too long, they are busy with all the wrong things. You know, marker all over the bathroom, scissors to their hair, dumping out all the plants in the house (my list could go on and on!). Here are a few tried and tested activites that hold little ones attention, for sometimes hours at a time (or maybe that 30 minutes just felt like hours).
This activity really does engage my children for hours at a time. Find a large bowl or rectangular container that will fit in the freezer. Fill half way with water and add lots of little items to it (pennies, little dinosaurs, plastic jewels, etc.). Let it freeze. Add a second layer of the same thing. Let it freeze. Pop the mold out into a container. Give the kids some warm water, a little salt, and some old spoons. Let them chip away at it to their hearts content.
Ivory Soap Foam
Look up directions online for "exploding ivory soap" in the microwave. When you do this experiement, you will get a massive cloud of soap. Let the soap cool for 1-2 minutes, and then place it into a bowl. Crumble it with your hands and add two cups of boiling water. Whisk it. Let is sit, whisk it again, and do this periodically (3-4 times) in a two hour period. You will get a gelatinous goo that looks like marshmallow fluff. This will keep indefinitely in a yogurt-sized container. When you want to use it, add 1 tbsp of it to water and whisk. You will get this delightful froth that can be played with for hours (on a tray, into cookie shapes, with food coloring, with sprinkles, giltter, mini pom-poms and ribbon curls, in cups as pretend milkshakes...)
Epsom Salt and Food-colouring Baths
For our young kids, baths are full afternoon events, especially in winter! There are so many activities out there for bathtime, but this is our favorite, since Epsom salts are great for kids to soak in, and they love mixing them. I let the kids put Epsom salts into a few different sized containers, fill them with just a few drops of food coloring, and then let them pour and mix until they are prunes!