Last week, my three-year-old grand-daughter was turned away at the nursery school gate because someone had tested positive for coronavirus. The situation was explained carefully and kindly to her, and she said, ‘OK.’ But on the way home she commented dolefully to my son, ‘Daddy, I like school.’ She was missing learning and meeting friends, chatting, laughing, playing and growing.
Change should be refreshing and invigorating, but when it’s not out of choice, or when it happens so often and without our agreement, it can become annoying, exhausting and discouraging. In our current world of loss, unemployment and uncertainty, the pandemic can be especially hard for children for whom routine brings security and understanding. The heroine, Ruth, in my youth fiction novel Hide and Secret, has to cope with a change of friends, country, home, church and school, and has to adapt to the unwritten cultural behaviours that always accompany new settings. These changes were not Ruth’s choice. Her mother, Lynn, loses her job and tries her best to explain to Ruth, not only when they have to relocate, but later, when she will need to keep a secret that will test her at every level. For Ruth, like our kids today, difficult change and uncertainty is being forced upon her.
How did Jesus help His friends to prepare for and manage change? He used reassurance and explanation. Do not let your hearts be troubled. In my Father’s house are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place for you. Change was on the horizon for Him and the disciples, but in John chapters 14 and 15, Jesus explained in detail how they could remain resilient and weather the oncoming storms. As a parent, at every stage I tried to explain to my children what would happen and why. But even when change took us all by surprise, they could be sure of His love and presence and the support of the family.
In these restricted times, we all feel out of control – because we are! But God isn’t. So we need to help children to feel secure and to give back to them a modicum of control where we can. In my experience, broad questions like, ‘What would you like to do today?’ or ‘What would you like for lunch?’ do the opposite. When the world feels out of control, as it does now, such broad choices seemed to be overwhelming! But giving children a limited choice within manageable parameters restores to them a sense of control: ‘ham sandwich or cheese?’; ‘Uno or snakes and ladders?’; ‘beach walk or woodland walk?’ This half-term, amidst all the questions about exams and even when they might go back to school, simple questions can help our kids persevere.
Yesterday my son reported another comment from his daughter. She said, ‘I think that when the corona virus is gone, Granny and Granddad can come for a cup of tea.’ We live in Edinburgh. They are in London. It will be an extra special cup!