Written by Dr. Joannie DeBrito, Family Support Specialist
We often hear people say that the last few years have been unlike any other, especially in reference to the Covid pandemic.
That’s probably true for those under 20 years of age. But if you’re like me, you can recall many times in your life when our country has struggled through difficult years.
These statements of “doom and gloom” have only served to zap hope and optimism out of many of our children and grandchildren. The predictable questions about the end of the world are floating around in just about every media outlet and in plenty of Christian circles.
With so many cell phones out there to record each moment of loss and human tragedy, what used to be the private hurts of individuals have become public, making us feel as if we’re part of each and every crisis.
As grandparents, we have something very valuable to offer our families: perspective and optimism.
Since we don’t know what is coming in the next year, we need to be cautious about being overly positive or promising that everything will get better and the problems will be over.
However, we can be helpful by doing the following:
- Talk honestly about other difficult times in our history without giving lots of depressing details. Concentrate instead on how we were able to cope as a country, how you and your family coped, and what you learned in the process of making it through.
- Give your children and grandchildren the opportunity to voice their concerns. Listen and express compassion. As you listen, take note of their fears and at a later time, offer some information to alleviate those fears and encourage optimism.
- Help your children and grandchildren recognize that exposure to too much information tends to increase anxiety, so encourage limits on how much news and other information they are consuming.
- Break the year into manageable chunks such as weeks, months, or quarters, depending on the age of your grandchildren. Talk with them about what they can do to make the best of those chunks of time. Help them find time-limited projects they can get involved in to distract them from any bad news. For example, you could help them get started on a series of books such as The Chronicles of Narnia, focus on practicing for a sports season, or work on a short-term art project. When the future is uncertain and somewhat out of our control, it helps to have something within our control that we can plan, work on, and accomplish. As grandchildren complete special projects, celebrate with them!
- Let them see you trusting in the Lord for His help and support and submitting your prayers to God. It’s helpful for grandchildren to learn to use prayer as a way to let go of their anxieties. Doing so helps them feel some control over an uncontrollable situation. Share with them stories of amazing answers to prayers!
- Plan some fun experiences to do with your children and grandchildren so they have something to look forward to.
- Share encouraging Bible verses and read the stories that offer hope for an abundant Christian life. This isn’t a good time to focus on the negative themes in the Bible such as plagues, human transgressions, and the wrath of God. There will be plenty of time for that later. Emphasize the love, grace, and peace of Jesus as our Friend and Savior.
May you and your family face the new year with the hope that is found in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit!