Our world is currently experiencing an unprecedented time. The uncertainty and unknowns are causing anxiousness and fear in everyone.

[Read more here on how to manage fear during a pandemic.]

In the midst of all the questions, it’s incredibly important to focus on our physical health and our mental health. Our thoughts often trap us in worry, anxiety, doubt and fear. Finding optimism and joy will keep you energized, loving, supportive, and capable of making the best decisions for your family as we walk the days ahead.

Joy versus happiness

We all know what it is to be happy. Happiness is focused on self and worldly pleasure. We are happy when things are going well externally. It is what’s happening to us and not in us. It’s easy, during these times, to put a smile on our faces and enjoy what life has to offer.

But what about those times when everything isn’t going right? That is when we need to find joy.

Joy is a chosen attitude throughout life’s journey and can be found no matter the external circumstances.

Practical steps to finding joy

Especially in scary moments it is important for parents to set the tone and atmosphere for the house. As Candace Payne (affectionately and popularly known as Chewbaca mom), says: “Joy is an antidote for your home. . . .  We are called to live out victorious, joyful lives every day.”

To set a joyful tone for our family, we must shift our perspective and our focus. There are times when we have to change our focus away from social media and the news to our children. Put down our phones and intently focus on what they are doing, what they are saying, and how they are acting. They sense our moods and emotions more than we realize. If we aren’t paying attention, we can easily miss what is happening within our children.

Here are some practical ways to find and spread joy in your family:

1. Practice gratitude

Days look a lot different than they did just a few week ago. That doesn’t mean we can’t reflect on the things we loved about those previous days while also being thankful for the things we love about the time we are in now.

Being able to go to the grocery store without fear is something most people will realize was (and will be) a blessing. We are now stopping all the noise long enough to appreciate the birds singing and breeze blowing. All things we would easily miss if we didn’t take the time to focus on gratitude.

Encourage your children to participate. Whether you write down what you are thankful for or if you share it with each other around the dinner table, make sure you take the time to focus on the small things and the big things.

2. Acknowledge who you are

Every person and every family is unique, and so we should identify that. What are some of the things that make your family unique? Identify some of your strengths and maybe even some positive quirks. Come up with a few points that convey what you believe to be true about you and how that relates to who God says you are.

Keep the kids involved in listing those things and develop a family motto or mission statement together. Once you agree as a family, put it on the fridge or frame it, and work on memorizing it. Make it fun!

3. Balance fun and work

Kids are out of school, parents are working from home, public places are closed, and everyone was thrown into a sudden change to find a new normal within their four walls. Creative schedules to keep your children learning and staying busy began circling the internet immediately.

Even though most kids thrive on schedule, don’t be too hard on yourself to get it all right. Find what works best for your family and your child(ren), and be generous with grace. If they end up watching more television or on their iPads than the latest research study recommends, it will be okay.

Of course, education is still important, but we all need some space to enjoy life. So, err on the side of fun in this season. Play more. Laugh more. Holding on to joy and laughter as a family is what will bring us all through this challenging time.

These are uncharted waters not just for you and your family, but for the entire world. Take care of yourself mentally and physically by finding the joy in everyday life. One day (hopefully soon) we will make it through this. There will be even more joy on the other side.