As I ponder the last year, I don’t have to look very far to notice the impact the pandemic has had. For the first time in my lifetime we are facing a crisis that no one can escape. Granted, the impact has not hit everyone equally, and I count myself as one of the ‘lucky ones’ even though some days it all feels very overwhelming.
We cannot however turn a blind eye to the impact this has on our more vulnerable members of society. As a mother, I share the nation’s growing concern for the health and well-being of our children and young people. Every child and young person has had their world turned upside down and shaken and we don’t know what the long-term impact of that will be.
With my three children we have had GCSEs cancelled, puberty in lockdown, missing out on Year 6 leaver’s parties, navigating online learning when you’re dyslexic and the practical interactive parts of learning are far more important for you. I understand the everyday battle against an increasing apathy for learning, exercise, and life in general that I see taking a toll on my kids.
A friend shared with me a concern for her four-year-old daughter. A year ago, she had been a very sociable ‘happy go lucky’ little girl. In the space of a year, she has lost a grandmother, moved to a new house, had a new baby brother and is desperately struggling with not seeing her friends. For her, it all came to a head with a creative activity suggestion from nursery. Parents should put small toys/animals in a muffin tin and then Sellotape over them. The task was to use their cutting skills to free the toys. Well, before the mum could explain the task, the little girl had gone into complete meltdown. Her mum gently got down next to her and asked her to explain why she was so upset. In response, she screamed, ‘YOU CAN’T PUT ANIMALS IN LOCKDOWN!’.
She was screaming what we have all been feeling and perhaps the activity was even a gift in enabling her to express to her mum what was going on inside. But how many of our nation’s children are screaming on the inside and don’t know how to process what they are feeling, the confusion, the grief, the pain and the fear? None of our children are untouched.
It is concerning, it is overwhelming and yet I believe we have a hope that can bring a light in the darkness. It is time to mobilise the Church to be a beacon in these dark times. As we explore God’s heart for children and see how Jesus welcomes them with open arms, we can be confident that their mental health and wellbeing is highly important to Him. Scripture is full of tools to help us navigate anxiety, fear, or difficult circumstances but what are they and how can we equip our kids with these tools? One of the tools we use at Peaced Together is thankfulness and enabling children to look for ‘treasure’ even during difficult circumstances.
The creative arts open a way to help equip our children in a safe and fun environment giving them space to process their worries and difficulties they face. Over the last year the crisis of the pandemic has had huge implications for our children. For those already in difficult circumstances this has been exacerbated and for others, their secure world has been shaken. It is important for us now to allow children time to process, a safe place to talk and build connection and fun into their lives again to help them move forward with hope and resilience.
In my talk at the New Wine Leadership Conference next month, I will explore some ways we can begin to do this. So, as we look forward, we take hold of God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’; and we pray this over our children. They are our future; they matter to Jesus and we must play our part in bringing them to him and partnering with him to see hope and healing.
Heidi Singleton is the National Coordinator for Peaced Together. Their courses use the creative arts to explore themes and improve mental health and wellbeing and more recently a course for children.
Heidi is speaking at our upcoming Leadership Conference, Beyond the Storm, as well as recording a talk for our digital platform New Wine Online, to which you get exclusive access when you book your ticket.