Will Fear or Faith Wash Over Our Children?

My children came home Wednesday night to a mom on alert. I marched each to the bathroom to reteach basic hand washing. Thursday morning the Minnesota Health Department confirmed a case of H1N1 (swine flu) in Minnesota less than two hours from our central Minnesota home. Today I’m dispensing individual bottles of hand sanitizer to each of them with basic hygiene instructions.

What I can’t dispense as readily is the right balance between caution and panic. The increase of information about health concerns causes my youngest to fear what the outbreak will mean for her. On the other hand, my teenager took my counsel with a little too much confidence that she’ll be protected. Ideally, I want them each to land somewhere in the middle.

With this new health crises coming alongside an economic crises, I’ve discovered one of my biggest challenges in parenting this generation—helping my kids navigate the unknowns with wisdom. While I’m not 100% sure of myself 100% of the time, I’m confident that two tactics I’m already using will protect them against the emotional confusion of living in our modern culture.

Deprogramming at Dinner Time. We eat dinner together every night and talk through the incidents and information of the day, weighing what’s true and false and giving perspective and guidance to the out-of the-house programming they received.

On a regular basis they comes home with information they’ve seen on Channel One. This week the topics of this kid’s news channel surrounded the swine flu outbreak. My son cautioned me that we need to be careful about eating ham. I’m not sure they actually said that on Channel One, although I’ve heard other outrageous reports like encouraging teenagers to buy prom dresses with less material because they are cheaper. But whether this was a real report, a misunderstood playground conversation or just an interpretation, I corrected it by saying, “This flu is not caused by eating pork products. It is not a food-borne illness.”

This is just an example of the corrective conversations that take place around our table. They are as simple as washing our hands, but over time they are as protective as a vaccination.

Tuning Them to the Source of Wisdom. Even more than physical protection, I want to give my kids something they can carry with them to protect them against fear, a real emotional and spiritual concern they face. Faith is the opposite of fear, and they need their own faith, not just mine, to cope with their concerns and confusion. But where do they get it? We start our dinner conversations with a few minutes of scripture study and a family prayer, but I hope that in addition to that family-centered faith, I’ve taught this spiritual pattern for personal protection:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. James 1:5-6

Nothing strengthens my faith in times of crises more than that individual relationship.  And more than anything, that’s what I want to wash over my children.

I’m pondering this talk from a leader in our church: Do Not Fear, by Boyd K. Packer. And I want to know how you help your children or yourself find balance and overcome fear? What practical things do you do or say?

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