I’ve appreciated the letters and emails with updates and encouragement that I’ve seen other school leaders sending regularly. Here is a quote from a superintendent in one of our local districts: “FDR did a brilliant job of conveying a confidence, an easiness, and a determination that though we are going through dark times, we are going to get through this—we are going to come out victorious.”
Christians have a hope to not just avoid death, but to “survive” death ultimately victorious. In our roles as educators, what are we conveying to our board, faculty, patrons, students, church, and broader community?
I’ve written some letters so far and I encourage other school leaders to do the same for your families living in stressful times. I’m sensing the stress levels rise on various fronts as the closure has set in longer and indefinitely. The families in our communities might seem to have it all together, but we need encouragement too, now as much as ever, or more than ever, in these unprecedented times. It is a traumatic time for children. We need to admit this and give strategies for parents to cope.
To inspire you, I offer three themes I shared in my recent school newsletter:
It’s been different for all of us. Some have just gotten into the groove after adjusting the first two weeks, and others found the first two weeks easier, and now it’s harder to maintain energy. The longer the closure lasts, the more strained our emotions will become. I’d like to share three valuable themes to keep in mind during these stressful times.
Laughter, or good humor
If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think. – Clarence Darrow
Some think of jokes when they hear humor. “I could tell you a coronavirus joke, but I’d have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.” Jokes often play on words or differing expectations, but they are only one level of laughter. True joy comes from a transformed heart, and a transformed heart is practiced at enjoying the little moments in life. Find and capitalize on these little joyful moments as a way to relieve stress.
This song is meaningful to our family: “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have these moments today.”
Our one year-old twins bring us much joy and laughter. Picture them both wandering around the house holding sleepers over their heads for fun and bumping into things. One was fine looking at the laundry on the line until she recognized her dress hanging there and wanted it now. Sometimes they just lie down and roll around! Try it!
Play is important in both reducing stress and the development of children. Just as children feel safe in the presence of a strong adult, they feel safe when absorbed in play, or when they are creatively engaging themselves in such a way that they are lost in play and lose track of time. (We’re not talking about screen time here.) This could be developed deeper, but for now I’ll quote my father:
“It’s more important than ever for our children to play in these times…. Encourage your children to play all kinds of play–role play, sing, run, walk, build, imagine, board games, make-up games, play that goes BOO… And be present for your children.” -Jonas Sauder
Our emotional development and our spiritual identity are strongly linked to the bonding and worshiping times with family. Now as never before in our collective living memory will we perhaps have more of what we may have always wished for: more family time! Be careful what you wish for!
Staycations have been popularized recently I hear. Live it up! Try playing “Suspend,” charades, or act out Bible stories. And finally, sing, sing, and sing! “Speak to one another in songs” (Eph 5:19).
One thing I didn’t anticipate was how much more work this closure would create, though different from the normal load. So blessings on each of you as you serve your school and community. Keep it up, never give up, and go “Further up and further in!”
CONTRIBUTOR: Jeremy Sauder