“Back to school” doesn’t mean back to normal

Photo courtesy of Hassan Vakil/Unsplash

Grand Rapids (MNN) - Ongoing uncertainty is taking a toll on the mental health of children and families.

By Katey Hearth (Mission Network News)

Back-to-school week begins in-person today for some children in the United States, while others continue in a virtual classroom. Most schools have a plan for this year’s fall season, but no one knows what COVID-19 variants and new infections will bring.

Grand Rapids-based Set Free Ministries Executive Director Dean Vander Mey says it can be difficult for families to navigate constant change. The ongoing uncertainty is taking a toll on the mental health of children and families.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, depending on what school district you’re in and whether it’s a private school or public school; even I didn’t know what was going to happen with some of our grandchildren,” Vander Mey says.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty, which makes for potential anxiety. The Bible has a lot to say about such things.”

Set Free helps kids and their parents fight fear and build faith using the strategies outlined in Scripture. Learn more about freedom ministry and Set Free’s approach here.

“We’ve had a lot of children come in, and we listen [to their struggles]. We say, ‘you’re not alone; we understand the fear. Let’s do this together,’” Vander Mey says.

The “togetherness” theme recently hit close to home for Vander Mey when his daughter fell ill.

“She couldn’t even care for her children. [Her] sister said, ‘I’ll pick up your kids, you need to rest’ and the whole family got involved in assisting her while she was recovering from COVID,” he describes.

“We saw the Body of Christ work [together] beautifully, and she finally did recover after a few weeks.”

Find your place in the story

Caring for one another and trusting God to meet our needs are two critical practices that followers of Christ can start using today.

“As believers, we have to help each other and encourage one another to keep our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, and not on the dread of COVID,” Vander Mey says.

“But [we also need to ask] Lord, what opportunities do we have to shine bright in a dark land? How can we take the lemons that we’ve been given and make it into lemonade?”

Romans 12:21 is a good place to start. “There are a lot of things going on in the world right now that are very evil. If that becomes our focus, we will quickly be discouraged. Let’s not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” Vander Mey suggests.

“Hebrews 10:24 [says], ‘Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.’ Let’s do that.”

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