“Will G-d punish me?” My son asked after admitting he had lied to me earlier that day.
The question caught me off guard, because, while my son does have a strong moral compass and feels ashamed when he makes a mistake, never before had he pondered G-d’s involvement in his own life.
I am all for intense philosophical and theological debates on the existence of a higher power, and what, if any, role said power plays in the shaping of human existence.
However, when these questions come from your own child, no amount of scholarly texts or Biblical excerpts will ease their fears.
Before I could approach my son’s question, I needed to take account of our current reality and it’s impact on my children and indeed all children around the world.
We are in the midst of what maybe the most frightening experience thus far for many of our children. Certainly, this is the case for mine.
And, even if we as adults do our best to keep COVID-19=related news to ourselves, our childre are smart. They can sense our fear and worry. They see us donning masks to run errands. They conduct their studies via video meetings. They wave to their friends from across the street.
They know life is far from normal.
Take ten minutes to peruse online parenting groups, and you fill find countless cries for help, frustrated commenters and moms and dads at their wits end over their kids’ behavior.
Children who were “good” sleepers are now up all night. Potty-trained toddlers are refusing to use the toilet. Easygoing kids are now moody all day.
These sort of “180s” are common during periods of major growth or change for any child, but we are seeing it on a larger scale.
Our children are scared, and their fear manifests in many ways.
If, like me, you aren’t a psychologist, social worker or therapist, you might struggle with how to address the underlying fears causing your child to act out, worry over everything, or question the role of G-d in their lives.
Fortunately, their are plenty of resources available to help us best address the anxiety our kids are facing at this time.
One of the best places to start is with the guidance or child psychology department at your local elementary, middle or high school. Many counselors are making themselves available to parents to answer questions and offer advice on how to help our kids cope with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Internet can also be a great tool, if you don’t get bogged down on opinion-based, and sensationalized posts and comments, and focus on reliable, research-backed sources that deal specifically with childhood issues.
PJ Library, a foundation that provides free books and other content to Jewish families, has gathered together a comprehensive list of resources from across the Internet to help parents navigate complicated childhood questions. Note, that while PJ Library may be geared toward Jewish families, these resources are not faith-based can be utilized by anyone.
No matter where you turn for help, you will find most experts agree giving our kids a feeling of security is the best thing we can do in these times.
Security can mean something different for each child.
For some kids, feeling safe could mean sleeping in the same room as their parents (even if they are “too old” to do so.)
For others, it could mean reading the same book every night.
For others, still, it could mean having an open and honest discussion about what is happening in the world, and involving them in family safety plans such as how to wash hands properly, why we are wearing masks, and designating a “family shopper.”
Even when you do all you can to make your child feel safe, their fears may persist. I can’t tell you how many times, I and other family members have attempted to put my oldest at ease, and, despite our best efforts, he still worries about what is happening around him.
In those moments, we need to remind ourselves, that all of us, including our children are trying to make sense of an uncertain time.
As for the “G-d” question, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give my child a good answer, as nobody can really answer that question. But, I can keep reminding him how much he is loved, and that while the Universe isn’t always fair about who suffers, the G-d I believe in is about forgiveness and second chances.
As it happens, our family is about that as well.
Disclaimer: As a PJ Library influencer, I am compensated for promoting this program. All opinions expressed are my own.