High River United Church of High River, Alberta
        

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14
May

How Do I Feel Safe Again - for Kids & Adults

Posted by on in Adventures in Faith & Family
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For ten weeks now, we’ve been instructed to shelter at home and physically distance from anyone not in our home bubble.  Our minds are filled with the images of the worst of the pandemic in other countries that showed us why we must heed the daily warnings of our own health officials.  We’ve taken the warnings to heart.  Home is safe.  Out there in the world is the virus.  Wash hands.  Don’t touch your face. Keep six feet (2 metes) distance from others. After ten weeks, these precautions are now starting to be ingrained in our lives.

 

As we shelter at home, unless we had to go to work, we long for the time when we can go out freely in the world again.  We dream of the day when we are no longer house-bound or secluded in our own little bubble.  We desire the freedom of movement and interaction we took for granted.

 

But then the day comes – suddenly we are being told that we can go out more.  Still physically distancing, handwashing and not touching our face – but now it is deemed the time to open more stores and businesses – and for us, with pre-cautions, to enter.

 

I don’t know about you – but I’ve found my reaction strange.  Suddenly, as much as I longed for the beginning of restrictions being lifted – it now doesn’t feel right.  My bubble at home is safe.  I can trust what is there and how we handle the precautions in our household.  But to step more outside of that bubble, as much as I’ve hoped for that day – now I’m not sure.

 

It is a natural feeling.  We have to build up trust once again – trust in each other, trust in our world, trust in ourselves.   Just like after the flood, when we had to learn to trust living by a river again and make peace with that river, we now have to learn to trust that we can safely go out into the world, in small steps, and begin to do some of the activities from which we’ve been restricted in the past ten weeks.  I’m grateful that here, where we live, it is a gradual and cautious re-opening, allowing time for all of us to adjust to new ways of interacting and carrying out transactions. 

 

It's like learning a new dance.  Do I step to the right or to the left if I meet someone in the aisle of the grocery store?  Do I turn my back?  Do I wear a mask?  How do I smile a greeting with my eyes if a mask covers the smile of my mouth?  Like any new dance, it won’t be smooth at first, but we will learn the steps as we create them together.

 

And what about our children, when they start going out into the world, especially the young ones who don’t really understand what this is all about – how do we keep them safe?

 

First of all, I don’t want to have a generation of children who are afraid of touch.  Human beings need to be touched and held and hugged.  While we have to be wise about our touch right now, our children mustn’t associate loving and respectful touch with fear and alarm.

 

Second, each family must make their own decisions about how to approach this gradual re-opening.  You know your needs and vulnerabilities (physically, mentally & emotionally).  Turn to good sources – the provincial and federal governments and health officials – and make your decisions.  Avoid all the numerous social media feeds that provide so much speculation and conspiracy.  Deal with scientific fact right now – and decide for your family. Don’t be rushed by others.  Trust your own instincts for what you can handle at the moment.

 

So how do we move forward without creating greater alarm for ourselves and our children? 

 

1. As followers of Jesus, we repeat often the greatest commandment, “Love God with all your heart and mind and soul, and love your neighbour as your self.”  That’s a great place to start in contemplating re-entry into the world.  Love our neighbour as your self.  When we wash our hands, do physical distancing and wear a mask, we are caring for others as well as ourselves.  Love, not alarm, is the way forward.

 

2. When helping your children understand what they need to do going out into the world, don’t start from a place of alarm.  Start with loving our neighbour and loving ourselves.  That’s why we are doing this – to show love – so that we all can be safe from this virus.  Keep it quite matter of fact and loving.  If, as the parent, you are feeling alarmed, share that with another adult, not with your children.  Bring your children alongside the practices they need to follow with a sense of love, not alarm.

 

3. It is so natural for children to run to hug another person, especially a friend or grandparent.  Pre-schoolers aren’t going to remember that they weren’t supposed to do that.  The desire to touch someone they care about is going to be the only thing in their mind (remember pre-schoolers can only hold one thought in their mind at once.)  So, if they forget and run and hug a friend or grandparent, don’t go into alarm or anger.  Make it a game and keep it light as you remind them gently and then take them to wash their hands, if you feel it necessary.  Your anger or fear aren’t going to help them remember – it will only make them more frustrated or fearful.

 

4. Keep the practices simple and understandable.  It is hard, even for an adult, to judge six feet or two metres distance. Most of us judge too little.  It is even harder for a child, especially a pre-schooler.  The image of two hockey sticks is being used in Canada. In the Netherlands, they are saying the length of an adult bike is the distance to maintain. Find an image that works for your family, and practice it with your children by making it into a game, such as “Mother May I.”   Practice washing your hands to a song: “If you’re happy and you know it, wash your hands” (sung through twice) or “Row, row, row, your boat” or “Frere Jacques.”

 

5. Watch your children to catch glimpses of how they are feeling when they begin to re-emerge from the bubble they’ve been in.  You might notice more grumpiness or lashing out or “whatevers” or fears (of various kinds.)  Kids don’t always show their emotions directly. Make room for the emotion – give it a safe place to be expressed.  Use your knowledge of the child to find out, if they can express it, what is bothering them.  If they can’t name it (which is often the case, even for teens), just give room to the emotion – that’s what is most important. Put the pieces together so that you can create a situation that feels safer for them.  Don’t push them into facing their fears.  Let them rest in you – that’s how alarm comes down.  Give them a day off, if needed and possible.  Honour their emotions.

 

Human beings are wonderfully adaptive and creative creatures. That’s how God created us. Throughout history, and even in our own life-times, we have, individually and as a society, adapted to so many changes and happenings.  At the times when humans are most restricted and most challenged, we have come up with possibilities that are amazing.  (Watch the movie “Apollo 13” if you need a reminder.)  It is natural to feel alarm in the midst of this pandemic, but we can bring our faith and hope in God, and our trust in human ingenuity alongside this alarm.  We will learn ways to live with this virus until vaccines and anti-viral medicines (the product of human ingenuity) are developed to support us. 

 

My greatest wish is that our children and teens don’t come out of this with a fear of the world and a fear of touching other people.  I pray that they will learn how resilient they can be, which isn’t something we can force upon them, but something we can invite as we make room for their fears, tears, and other emotions, and as we act as their confident, caring adults (even as we have our own fears and tears, shared only with other adults). 

 

God has created us to bounce back, to have resilience in life.  Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, abundant life!”  That is still true, even in the midst of the pandemic.  As we take our baby-steps back out into the world, may we do so keeping in mind the greatest commandment of all, “Love God with all your heart and mind and soul, and love your neighbour as your self.”   Love, not alarm, will help us re-emerge from our isolation.

May 14, 2020           ©Susan Lukey 2020

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