How do you respond to children who are feeling anxious and scared about the pandemic? It might be your own children, those under your care or family members. My response to the children in my care has been to reassure them. For it is normal to respond in fear towards frightening news. However, we need to remember that God is in control and he still cares about us even in this difficult time. I believe it is important that we train children to cope in difficult times. We must help children to trust God; to know who to turn to in times of trouble.
Children today are considering fearful thoughts such as: What is going to happen to us now? Is there a way of preventing this virus from spreading? What if I get infected? What about my friends? Are my family safe? Does God care? But whatever the questions, most children are scared. The reality is that any frightening news affects the young in ways similar to the old. Children are acutely aware of what is happening around them. This can be overwhelming.
Its normal to respond in fear to frightening news. But we need to remember that God is in control.
In Psalm 46, King David reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This verse gives us great confidence that God is always with us as his people. Therefore in times of difficulty we can trust Him. Psalm 23 gives us confidence in knowing that God cares about his people in all circumstances. It is such a great blessing that through our faith in Jesus, we can talk to God in prayer. As Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) Let me suggest three ways we can help children in the midst of difficulties:
1. Remind Children to Cast their Anxieties on God
“Anxiety” encompasses words such as: fear, nervousness, panicking, afraid, scared, ukwesaba, ukwethuka, letshoho, kutya, kuvhunduka, kufunganya. It is an emotion often resulting from the unknown: changing pressures, uncomfortable circumstances and unexpected developments. There is an old song we sing that says, ‘Cast your burdens unto Jesus, for he cares for you’. This phrase echoes 1 Peter 5:7, which reads, “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Children can present their worries to God. They can trust God, their heavenly Father who cares for them.
God listens and pays attention to their prayers and will answer them in his timing
Moreover, in Philippians 4:6-7, Paul exhorts believers, “Do not to be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer…present your requests to God. And the peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Children can talk to God about anything, including their anxieties. And God listens and pays attention to their prayers and will answer them in his timing. Encourage children to bring their all worries and anxieties to God in prayer, however minor or simple.
2. Remind Children to Trust in God’s Sovereignty (Even in Sufferings)
Children need to be reminded that God is in charge of everything happening in our world. Also, God did not promise us that only good things will happen. Bad things happen too because we live in a broken and sinful world. The absolute truth is this: in good times and bad times, God is in control. 1 Peter 1:6 reminds us that as God’s children we will suffer grief in all kinds of trials, including sicknesses. But our response to these things will show that our faith is genuine. This truth should drive the children to depend on God who knows everything.
Help children to trust that God is with them even in the midst of difficulties, and one day all suffering will end when Christ returns
God’s Word also gives us hope when Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us“ (Romans 8:18). Help children to trust that God is with them even in the midst of difficulties, and one day all suffering will end when Christ returns.
3. Encourage Children to Pray for Others
We must teach children to also pray for others in times of difficulty. Praying for others will help children not to be inward focused. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:1, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people.” Therefore, children can also pray for everyone in the world.
You can help children to pray the following prayers:
- Gratitude to God as our Creator, thanking him for everything he created, including friends and family.
- Thank God for sending Jesus Christ his only Son to die for our sins so that we and those we love can be in a relationship with him.
- Pray that God may give peace to those who are feeling anxious.
- Children can pray and ask God to heal those who are sick.
- Prayer for the doctors and nurses that God may help and protect them as they take care of those who are sick. Also pray that God may provide the necessary resources for other countries in this time of need.
- Children can pray for God’s people who are teaching God’s Word that God may help them by his Spirit to teach it faithfully.
- They can pray for government leaders, for wisdom as they lead the country through the pandemic.
Some Practical Tips to Help Children Trust God
Make prayer time productive with the children of different ages in your home. This can also create a rhythm and a routine for daily devotions with your children. Write down each prayer on a piece of paper and divide them across 7 days:
For those who do not have resources to write, they can follow the list above using tins containing stones to indicate which prayer the child has chosen:
Give each child a chance to choose a number. He or she can do it with eyes closed or open. Each child can keep aside the number that has been chosen, and that would be the prayer for that day. Repeat the same cycle the following week. Read a portion of Scripture with them before you pray together. Consider adding more prayers, encouraging the children to share other things to pray for. You can even add a song such as ‘What a friend we have in Jesus,’ by Joseph Scriven:
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer
This song can be a great motivation to encourage children to pray and trust God. Explain it to your children and sing it together in your own language. Make use of your vernacular to help kids understand what you are teaching them.
Children can talk to God in prayer. We need to train them and show them how to do it. Prayer is a great way for us to show our dependency on God. We need to assure our children that God hears and answers them when they pray. Children can trust God even in times of difficulty because God is in control even over COVID-19. When we help children in this way, they will grow in their love for Jesus and for other people. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).