“Isolation, physical distancing, the closure of schools and workplaces are challenges that affect us, and it is natural to feel stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness at this time” – Hans Kluge, director of the European branch of the WHO.
Hans Kluge is correct. The long-term restriction of people from interacting with others or from simply taking a walk negatively affects their mental health. Add to that the fear of contracting a new & potentially deadly virus, and you’ve got a formula for serious negative mental health issues.
Even though too young to process all of the information about the current coronavirus pandemic, the mental health of children can still be negatively affected. Although not usually as obvious, children are also feeling it. What can be done?
What can we do to help the kiddos?
“WALK” WITH THEM EVERY DAY
Let them know that you will walk through this with them for however long it lasts.
Maintain a routine
Routines help both children and adults. Although difficult in our ever-changing coronavirus circumstances, do your best. God gave those beautiful children to you, so you are “the man/woman” for the job!
“This means eating meals at regular times, sleeping, waking and exercising at set times, and maintaining social (socially distant) contact. Unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping.” – Dr. Deborah Serani, Psy.D.
Be creative when you choose routines for exercise. You know your family & children best.
Make Time to Play
Children need to play. It’s good for them physically, emotionally, spiritually & psychologically.
Choose games that are age appropriate as well as games that are fun for everyone who is in isolation with you. There are plenty of choices.
AVOID computer games!!! Too much screen time isn’t good for a child’s development.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31
“Do unto others” is the Golden Rule. There are many people in need at this time in history. If your children are old enough maybe you willl want to teach them how to sew buttons or another easy task. In this they will learn basic life skills. As a suggestion, you also might want to teach them how to use that life skill to sew buttons onto headbands or straps so nurses and other healthcare workers can attach their face masks. There are many needy people. Look around your community and observe what is needed and whether you & your family can meet any of those needs.
DISCLAIMER: Be careful!!! The age at which a child can safely use a needle depends on both the age & the maturity of the child. You know them best. They are yours.
Coronavirus-specific resources for children
I waited a bit to post these sites because early on in this pandemic these specific resourcs had not yet been developed.
These resources include videos. Look at them before sharing them with your children. Use them liberally. Use them to stimulate your own creativity. These are not the only resources available. You will find many by doing a Google search.
You & your beloved children are in my prayers.
In His Hands,
Fran Pultro, Ed.M., CPSP, ICISF
“Pastor Fran” has been the Staff Chaplain at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children since 2002. He is the Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel on the King’s Highway, a chaplain with the Philadelphia Police Department and an ICISF Approved Instructor.
Hans Kluge quote: https://euobserver.com/coronavirus/147903
Father holding child, iStock Photos
Unsplash: A father and son hold hands
Students Kids Clipart
Make Time to Play UK
Palm Sunday as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 19:28-44 [ESV]
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'”
So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,”Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
As he was drawing near– already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying,”Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying,”Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Fear & Coronavirus
Today, Palm Sunday 2020, we are self-quarantined as most of the world does it’s best to avoid contracting COVID-19 during the Coronavirus pandemic. There hasn’t been a world-wide disease this frightening since the Spanish Flu of 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic lasted about 2 years. We still don’t know how long the Coronavirus pandemic will last. It has certainly focused most peoples’ attention on the important things of life.The start of Holy Week 2020 is covered with the shadow of fear for most people. They are worried that someone in their families – or even themselves – will contract COVID19 and die.
Most of us are familiar with the big events that would happen during that week leading up to Jesus’ arrest (in the Garden of Gethsamane), the Passion (His torture), Jesus’ Crucifixion & Resurrection.
But were you aware that these things were prophesied in the Old Testament?
I believe this is relevant to consider because of what we are experiencing in our lives today. Why? Because many people see what’s going on in the world around us and talking about the things prophesied in the Bible about the end of the time.
“Is what we are experiencing signs of the end of the world?”
This is a question on the lips of many. But today’s message is NOT about whether or not the events of today – the extremely high number & frequency of earthquakes, the pandemic, hordes of locusts, etc – indicate that we are facing the end of the world.
The goal of today’s message is to give you hope no matter how near the end of the world might be.
In the midst of this fear we have great hope! Jesus is still alive and His promise to those who choose to believe in Him are still in effect. And Jesus always keeps His promises!
The original Palm Sunday
I’d like to point out a few things in the account of that first Palm Sunday as recorded in Luke’s Gospel which you read at the beginning of this article.
In verses 37-40, the Pharisees – some of the hypocritical religious leaders in Jerusalem – told Jesus that He should rebuke His disciples. This was because Jesus’ disciples – all of them, not just the 12 Apostles – were singing that Jesus was the Messiah who was prophesied to come to Israel. The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus’ answer is great! He said:
“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Don’t you wish that for just 30 seconds every single one of Jesus’ disciples had decided to be silent? It would have been awesome to see the Pharisees’ reactions on hearing the stones cry out the same thing that the disciples had been singing!
Bible Prophecies of Palm Sunday
Oh, you don’t believe that would have happened? Why not? Jesus is God and God cannot lie. I hope you believe that. I say this because it’s important for those of us who are Christians to believe the words spoken by God. He has said many things to mankind. He has made sure that we have a written record of the things He wants us to know of what He said.
Some of what He has recorded for us in the Bible are prophecies. Prophecy always seems to intrigue people. Some disregard it. Some accept it. Others – most people in western culture – just don’t know & want to see proof.
I encourage you to follow along in your Bibles. You will find the books listed in the table of contents. The first number refers to the chapter. The numbers after the colon refer to the verses.
For instance the book of Zechariah, chapter 9, verse 9 is written like this: Zechariah 9:9
There are several Bible prophecies about Palm Sunday. Today I will only share two of them. The first is from Zechariah. It speaks specifically about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and the reason for His coming.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is called the Triumphal Entry.
Zechariah 9:9, is the most obviously stated prophecy about Palm Sunday.
This prophecy was given about 500 years before Jesus’ birth!
We know this from the historical events recorded in Zechariah.
Now I’d like to share with you one of the most amazing prophecies recorded in Scripture about Jesus entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Remember Daniel, who was thrown into a den of lions and survived?
He also wrote a prophecy about Palm Sunday.
Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.
The entire prophecy is included in Daniel 9:24-27. It spans many years. This part of the prophecy – verse 25 – specifically has to do with the prophesied Messiah’s coming into Jerusalem.
The prophecy refers to a “command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”
At that time, Jerusalem, had been destroyed. The Jewish people had been taken captive by the Babylonians. Daniel was in Babylon when he received this prophecy from the angel, Gabriel.
The command referred to is very specific. For this prophecy to be accurate the command must concern the city of Jerusalem specifically.
Next the prophecy refers to “Messiah the Prince.”
The phrase “Messiah the Prince” is a translation of the Hebrew words, Meshiach Nagid. So this prince is also a king.
Lastly for our study today, the word “weeks” in this passage is the Hebrew word shabuwa which means “week of years.”
1 shabuwa = 7 years, just like 1 decade = 10 years. Same concept.
With this knowledge we see that this part of Daniel’s prophecy refers to a period of 69 weeks of years.
7 (years) x 69 (weeks of years) = 483 years.
In Daniel’s time a year consisted of 360 days, not 365 1/4 days like our year.
We use a solar calendar. Daniel was in Babylon. They used a lunar calendar.
Using this knowledge we calculate by multiplying 360 days x 483 years.
The answer is 173,880 days. Keep this number in your mind for later.
Back to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday!
Jesus presents Himself as Messiah
During Jesus’ ministry there were several occasions written in the Gospel of John, where we are told that Jesus’ “hour had not yet come.” [John 2:4; John 7: 6, 8; John 8:20]
Then, one day – Palm Sunday – He deliberately arranged things so that He would enter Jerusalem just as the prophecy of Zechariah foretold the Messiah would come.
In case you might be thinking that Jesus did NOT present Himself as king, re-read the words of the people who were cheering when Jesus arrived on the donkey; re-read the words of the hypocritical Pharisees. They felt that the people were blaspheming in proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah the King. But Jesus endorsed it!
But if Jesus is the Messiah – which He is – and if Daniel’s prophecy is accurate – which it is – then Jesus must have entered Jerusalem as the Messiah exactly 173,880 days from the date that a commandment was given to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
The question is, did this happen?
There were several commands given in history which permitted the Jews to rebuild their Temple. The Temple had been in Jerusalem, so we must be careful to determine which command is referred to here in Daniel 9:25. The command that concerns this prophecy must specifically order the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem.
The commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was given by the historical figure, Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 B.C. The emphasis in the verse on “the street” and “the wall” at then end of Daniel 9:25, was to avoid confusion with other earlier mandates confined to rebuilding the Temple.
Remember the date March 14, 445 B.C.
The Scotland Yard / Christian Police Connection
Sir Robert Anderson, was the second Assistant Crime Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1888 to 1901. This was Scotland Yard. He was also an intelligence officer, theologian and writer. Anderson was a devout Christian.
The Criminal Investigation Department was then just starting the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders. Anderson thought these crimes were grossly over-sensationalized. The press hasn’t changed!
Anderson put his police detective skills to use in researching this very prophecy we are reading today. It was his investigative nature that led to the math we looked at above. You can get a copy of the book he wrote about it called The Coming Prince.
By considering the number of days per year used in the Babylonian Calendar, then adding 173,880 days to the date of March 14, 445 B.C., and accounting for leap years, Anderson’s calculations bring us to April 6, 32 A.D.
Is that date significant? Yes. It’s the day of the original Palm Sunday.
Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled to the exact day!
In this we see that we can trust God’s word on events before they come to pass. Therefore we can trust God’s word on things that have already transpired.
God’s word tells us that 7 days after Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus then rose from the dead. Next Sunday we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
That is where our hope lies – that Jesus truly rose from the dead.
Whether the things going on around us in the world today are indicators that the end of the world is nearing or not (I believe it is), isn’t as important as where we will go once our last day on this earth arrives.
God’s word is clear about how to be sure that your soul gets to heaven.
Romans 10:9 “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If you aren’t sure exactly what that means please contact me at:
In His Hands,
Pastor Fran Pultro
Pediatric Stress and the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Pastor Fran Pultro, Ed.M.
“…the least of these…” – Matthew 25:40
This phrase refers to those considered least in size, least in importance, least in the estimation of men. My focus today is on children.
The media – social, mainstream & fringe – are flooded with information about coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
Some of the information is accurate. Some is inaccurate as this virus is new and still being studied. Some is simply false or fabricated. The overwhelming amount of information about this virus makes it extremely difficult for even adults to sort through and navigate.
The seemingly contradictory nature of some COVID-19 information given by trusted authorities causes fear & confusion.
That the entire body of this information is available to children is something about which we adults should be concerned.
Do you remember how children were traumatized by the repeated rebroadcast by news media of airplanes flying into the WTC in the wake of 9/11?
Our beloved kiddos weren’t considered in the race for ratings.
I see the same thing happening today with the news about coronavirus.
Please don’t misunderstand. The advent of world-wide, real-time mass communication is a great tool in helping spread news that can teach people how to better behave in order to effectively keep the spread of coronavirus lower than if we didn’t know about it at all.
But that same world-wide, real-time mass communication is something with which the children of this generation are very familiar. They have access to it – and likely know better how to use it – than those of us in my (Boomer) generation.
Therein lies the problem.
The information we are receiving on a 24/7 basis is not contained to the media. We speak about it at home, in school and in our social circles – limited though they might be as a result of safe social distancing.
Children are also talking about this.
Children are smart. But they are still children. They see the world very differently than adults. Keep this in mind when determining how to handle this pandemic with your family, especially with your children.
The way you speak about and behave in the face of this pandemic plays a big part in helping keep the anxiety of your children at a safe level. Their emotional stability is crucial in this stressful circumstance.
Children need age-appropriate information, not the “whole ball of wax.”
They also need the information to be factual.
I know from conversations with my young patients that they are hearing rumors, opinions and “what -ifs” from other children, parents, family members and the media all of which are raising their levels of anxiety. And they are worried.
It’s important that we dispel rumors and false information. But know this – some information that is false in the minds of children is based in fact.
Who is an “elderly” person? They are an at-risk group for serious complications if they contract COVID-19. The age group being mentioned by reliable medical sources is usually “65 and over.”
But who is an “elderly person” to a child? Their parents? Their grandparents?
Many parents are in their 20’s. Many grandparents are in their 40’s.
Children worry that the adults in their lives are in danger of dying.
Children need this clarified. They need to know that elderly people are at greater risk. But this doesn’t mean those elderly people will necessarily die. If the elderly people in their lives are 65 & over let them know that proper precautions are being taken to protect those elderly people.
Just be careful to provide information that is age-appropriate; information that children of their age group are able to assimilate and comprehend so their still developing psyches are not emotionally over-loaded. This can elevate anxiety and cause emotional distress.
But don’t keep from discussing COVID-19 with children. If they perceive that coronavirus is an off-limits topic it can raise their anxiety levels when they hear your whispered discussions about it.
If your children are now home as the result of school closures I recommend that you limit their access to TV news & internet media. This includes limiting their use of smart phones. If you cannot control the type and/or amount of information they receive you aren’t protecting them to the best of your abilities.
At certain ages children do not have the maturity to distinguish between news reporting and commentary. Their young and imaginative minds are able to conjure up ideas based on misinformation that are far more disastrous than the reality.
You are the expert on your children!
Are your children extroverts or introverts? Do they tend to externalize their emotions in play, sports, music or other active ways? Do they tend to internalize their feelings? You know best.
Watch them closely for changes in their behaviors or moods. Just the extra attention you pay to them will help ease their concerns as they are reassured of your love for them.
And what about you? How are you handling the oceans of COVID-19 news?
Are you appropriately concerned and taking prudent measures to provide safety for your family? Are you panic-stricken and frozen not knowing what to do?
Just as the airlines tell us to put the oxygen masks on ourselves before tending to our children in the seats beside us – something counter-intuitive to our internal parental protective instincts – it’s important that you learn factual information about COVID-19, so you can effectively care for your family, including your children.
Your children are watching how you handle this crisis. It is a crisis. Reassure them by your behavior and in your choice of words. “Do as I say and not as I do” is always a poor way to teach children. “Practice what you preach” is always better.
If you are overwhelmed, reach out to someone in your sphere of friends for reassurance and counsel. Discussing things with other trusted adult friends is of great value in helping lower your own stress/anxiety levels.
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14
Children – “the least of these” about whom I write today – rely on you completely. As parents we are in that frighteningly responsible position. Let’s handle it like adults and with an others-centered loving approach to all we say and do.
If the schools are closed your creativity will be greatly challenged and exercised during this time with your children. Many out-of-the-house activities and gathering places are closed; sporting events, recreation centers, movie theaters, malls, et al. The list is ever-growing.
Your time is not your own. But it can be blessed with your beloved children present!
Teach them the basics of proper hygiene for the umpteenth time.
Especially young kids who tend to touch and lick things they ought not!
As guidelines and recommendations from the CDC are released, build on the basics your children already know. It’s a learning experience for all of us. You are now their teacher. Learn the curriculum.
Make a game of teaching safe social distancing. Create a safe way of greeting others that is peculiar to your family. Be imaginative. Ask your children to help develop that greeting. They are creative little beings!
Overall, remember that the COVID-19 pandemic will one day end. Yes, it might flare up again. Yes, someone you know might die as a result of COVID-19.
But we are not without hope.
As a pastor and chaplain, whose calling is to remind people that there is more to life than the physical world, I am duty-bound to point out the spiritual.
I am a Christian. As a Christian, I believe in the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of my heart-felt belief in Christ, I take great comfort in the promises of God as found in the Bible.
Yet this essay is not meant to evangelize.
COVID-19 is affecting people all over the world regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.
The information I share with you today is not mine alone. It can be found in many places in the internet.
I share that I am a Christian simply to point you to look to something – or Someone – other than the resources of this world in order to find the peace of heart and mind that you desire in the midst of this or any crisis.
Fran Pultro, Ed.M., CPSP, ICISF
“Pastor Fran” has been the Staff Chaplain at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, since 2002. He is the Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel on the King’s Highway, a chaplain with the Philadelphia Police Department and an ICISF Approved Instructor.
Photo Credit: Ashawire
Luther was ordained literally “over his dead body” – just as that bishop had prophesied!
A mother is crying, wracked with sobs, grieving as she cuddles her dying daughter.
No one can help. Not even the baby’s father. She has come to that place where she is alone with the Divine – only her grief between them.
During the course of my career as a pediatric hospital chaplain, I have been honored to be present many times when that Holy Place appears. I’m not the only one. Often there are others in the room. But most do not understand.
Why do I say this? Their words and actions betray them. When others on the team prod the chaplain to “say something” (words of comfort) or “do something” (pray, anoint, baptize, etc), I wonder – do they see it? No. Do they sense it? Maybe. Probably. But they don’t know what it is or what to make of it. Neither did I the first time.
This time it happened again. That Holy Place – the intersection of human grief and the Divine – had arrived in the room like a portal into another dimension.
It doesn’t always happen. But when it does the Divine touches a grief-stricken heart.
Others are not always present when this holy meeting takes place. Sometimes it occurs in an ambulance, in the back seat of a police car, at a crime scene, in a bedroom, on the street or maybe even in a cab…anywhere a heart is grieving.
But sometimes others are present. In the ICU…or the NICU…or the ED.
Though her daughter had special needs and this mom knew that she would one day die as a result of these special needs, mom was not prepared for it to happen today.
Sure, all of the spiritual prep had been done. But can anything ever prepare a parent for this?
“I want to be with her,” cries the child’s mom.
This is not an indication of suicidal ideation. It’s the expression of a grieving heart.
In using these words we learn that mom knows what has not yet been affirmed by the medical team. Her child has died.
There is nothing more to say even though the eyes of all the other team members are looking to you, the chaplain, to step in and say or do something to help.
They silently mouth their thoughts or gesture about what they think you might do:
Hands folded in a prayerful clasp along with a nod of the head in a direction that leads from you to the crying mother while their lips move saying “pray with her.”
Mouths forming the words “baptism” with a shrug or a questioning tilt of the head as they “ask” if that is something you, the chaplain should offer at that moment.
I wonder if they ever read my notes in the chart?
But I know the hearts of this staff. These gestures are simply the expression of their helplessness in not knowing what to do, but wanting to do something to assuage the grieving mother’s pain.
Yet this is not a time for words. There are no words that will help. This is not a time for rituals. There are no rituals that will help other than raising the dead. What can anyone say or do that could possibly ease the pain of her grief? This mommy’s beloved daughter has just died.
This is when “doing the work” of a chaplain is replaced by “being” a chaplain – being that which some are “called” to be. The time for clinical work is past. The time for “being” is here. To me, in this circumstance the ministry of presence is nowhere else more obviously needed.
When the Holy Place arrives most people sense it. They have an idea that something is up but don’t understand what “it” is. Many of the team paid only lip-service to spiritual things throughout the entire time of serving this family. But when the moment turns on the spiritual pivot of the presence of the Divine, their understanding of what is or isn’t spiritual care is unmasked as powerless.
Strong words? Yes. But true.
Don’t misunderstand. Everyone is powerless in this circumstance. Even the chaplain.
Understanding what’s going on does not empower anyone in that particular moment. This isn’t the place for medicine, or counseling or religion. This is the place of relationship.
Mom is in THAT place – the place where the Divine has entered the circumstance and has touched her grieving heart. The Divine is both present & gentle.
I learn much about the ministry of presence in these moments.
This is a Holy Place. Holy ground. And it is for mom alone. Anyone else would be an intruder. To step into that place, no matter how well-meaning, would be a violation of that which is holy.
The particular family’s religion is Christianity. They understand what their holy book, the Bible, says about physical death.
“we are willing to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” [2Cor 5:8]
But spiritual truth does not assuage grief. Even with the peace found within those truths, that Holy Place where the Divine has just arrived is deep in mom’s heart. It is too deep a place for cognition to reach. It does not rise to a more visible level. It is where her grief is rooted – that place where a mother’s unchangeable & unconditional love resides. It is the foundation of this woman – and grief has overwhelmed that space.
Until now. The Divine has arrived.
As Christians this family believes that death is the ultimate healing. But everything in this present circumstance, in their bodies – yea, in the whole world – screams just the opposite.
In this world we often see physical death but rarely see spiritual life. This dichotomy underscores this grieving mom’s struggle as she does her best to “walk by faith and not by sight” [2Cor 5:7].
What will she do?
Not everyone who enters this Holy Place reacts in the same way.
Not everyone accepts the invitation extended by the Divine when He arrives.
When face-to-Face in that place, some – most – surrender to the truth their hearts already know. They know because the Divine has already been at work preparing them for this moment.
But others continue to fight against it, allowing the unmitigated intensity of their raw emotions to suppress and try to ignore what the Divine has already spoken to their hearts.
Yet He does not leave alone even those who try to ignore Him in the abyss of their grief. He shows up to walk with them through the darkness. But they do not reach out to the only One Who can touch a grief-stricken heart. They choose rather to hold onto that which the Divine has already said shall not be.
Though help is freely offered, they have chosen not to accept.
And so the moment passes. The door closes on that Holy Place.
One reaction is not more “right” than the other.
Yet the ability of one heart to receive heavenly peace is far greater than the other.
Then the inevitable happens – the child has been pronounced dead. Regardless of whether or not the grieving parent was receptive at the moment when the Divine touched his/her heart, every one is for a moment the same.
– overwhelming grief
– body wracked with uncontrollable sobs
– expressions of love and regret
All of these & more…and all are “normal” because grief has no format.
Hours later I weep silently in my office. It has been a long, long week.