Still Being Present
Still being present
Every spring we celebrate that God came to earth as Jesus. Even when Christ’s physical presence ended, His presence remained. He left us the Holy Spirit. The truth is He came and He stayed. He is still present. We, too, can remain present while serving families from a distance.
Families who care for children from hard places will need our support more than ever as they face unprecedented challenges during these unpredictable times. We have a unique opportunity to serve our families and children through virtual options. We can still be present even though we can’t physically be there. Let’s remember one of the main reasons families stop fostering is because of the isolation they feel during “normal times.” Now they’re experiencing quarantines, stay-at-home orders, and most supports have been stripped away.
In this most uncertain and ever-changing time, fear and anxiety abound and we need to be compassionate and empathetic, especially with the people most affected by it. We need to allow them to express their fears without feeling guilt or shame. When working with children from hard places, we say that feelings aren’t bad, good or wrong. They just are. It’s how we respond and act out on those feelings that matter.
The command “Fear not!” is found in the Bible 365 times, one for each day of the year. If we were perfect Christians with perfect faith, we would have no fear. But there’s a reason we are continually reminded to fear not and to cast our fears and anxieties on God. Our faith is not yet perfect. Let’s admit it - we all experience fear and anxiety, and then often feel guilty or inadequate as believers because of our feelings.
The parents we serve find themselves caring for their precious children 24/7 and have the burden of increased isolation and home-schooling added to their plates. The additional stress everyone in the household is experiencing could trigger fear in children from hard places, resulting in escalated behaviors. Now more than ever, families need our love and support! They need to be able to easily find us via text or a phone call. We need to repeatedly let them know that we empathize with how hard their unique situation is. They need to hear this message,
“We’re not going to leave you alone.”
We have myriad suggestions on how to connect with and encourage the families we serve and the children in their care here. Choose from these ideas to help your families feel loved and seen. Each family will have unique requests and needs so try to be flexible and empathetic in responding. Listen for and anticipate unmet needs – they may feel hesitant to ask for anything.
So once you have jumped in to serve virtually, how can you further help families or parents who are experiencing even higher levels of fear, anxiety and isolation? It is important for us to know that fear, anxiety and stress can cause anyone to retreat and isolate themselves. We can respond with gentleness and guide them out of isolation into connection and in choosing activities that will thwart anxiety and fear. These techniques are even helpful for families who aren’t parenting children from hard places.
No one likes to be told what to do. Most of us actually know what to do, but we can’t make ourselves do it. So you can act as a cheerleader and coach, encouraging positive behavior and asking the right questions. Just like we do with our children, we compliment the desired behavior and actions they’ve taken. Then, if they are struggling in certain areas, we ask questions about whether they’ve tried this or that. For example, “Are you able to go for a walk or sit outside and enjoy nature?” “What kind of bedtime routine do you have right now?” “Have you tried Zoom to connect? Let’s give it a try.”
Below are some of those areas where people can change their behavior to lessen anxiety and increase and improve their receptivity and moods:
- Technology/Screen Time: setting limits and not using an hour before bedtime
- Exercise/being in nature: changes our focus outside of ourselves and movement decreases stress hormones
- A new activity or project: focus makes us use our thinking part of the brain, again moving us out of our more emotional brain, novelty relieves boredom
- Scripture: starting our day by a few minutes in the Word or meditating (before we pick up technology)
- Community: making sure to have a connection via video-chat or a call with a friend or group once a day
- Emotions: sharing what you’re really feeling, noticing how your body is responding to stress
What a gift it is to encourage and be virtually present for the families and parents we know and love! Allowing them to express their fear and anxiety without judgment will mean the world to them. When one of them is struggling, be sure to come back around later in the day or the next day to check in. Your encouraging texts and calls may make all the difference to someone who is feeling isolated and alone.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”