Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Facing Your Children: In These Times of Adversity

...our goals must be:

build and nourish responsible, self-sufficient youth...

BELIEVE ME, IN THIS TIME OF economic and world strife – it seems plausible to want to bury your head in the sand. With the uncertainly of jobs, money and even housing futures, we all are a little tenser than usual. However, there is always a glimmer of hope when our children are involved. Though the world is ever changing, as leaders and parents – our goals must be the same: build and nourish responsible and self sufficient youth. 

I often tell people that when I was a child growing up, even though we were poor people, I never knew we were poor. My grandparents had not only the resolve but the commitment to make my life better. As adults, we must not get so caught up in our own worries that we find ourselves placing fear and doubt into the lives of our children. 

I’m not saying to be unrealistic, because these are trying times, but we have faced them before and truth be told – we will probably face them again!! One of my favorite quotes by a great educator -Mary McLeod Bethune says: “We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.” 

Yes I know we are facing hard times, Yes I know that things may seem bleak now, but it is our determination to face the many uncertainties that lie ahead that shall prove to be our shield. My grandparents never planted the seeds in my head that we were poor people. Perhaps that “reality” would have squelched my hopes for my own life and successes. 

As parents and community leaders – we have to continue planting the seeds of hope and dreams that can eventually take root and allow our future generations to believe and grow in the limitless possibilities of the future. I know it is a lot easier said than done sometimes. Nevertheless, with a little extra enthusiasm and a whole lot of faith – we can face these difficult times and continue facing our children. Children look to us for guidance, wisdom and most of all the security that things will work themselves out – somehow!! 

Developmental Theorist George H. Mead said that “People see themselves FIRST through the eyes of others.” That means that it is our vision, our beliefs, our hopes that are first planted in youth. When we encourage them to see the sun and not the rain, the smile and not the frown, the love and not the hate – we give them the remarkable enthusiasm that encourages them to grow up and be positive people. Yes, I know that there are cloudy days, miserable faces and hate-filled humans – but I spend most of my days trying not to focus on them or their negative energy. Miraculously for 44 years I have been able to do just that – successfully I might add!! 

Therefore, with a little effort you can do the same thing not only in your lives but in the lives of your children: Try these few tips and hopefully your days will improve until we can FINALLY see the light at the end of the tunnel (and I believe that there is one there….)

  1. Manage what your body says: A lot of times we don’t see how tense our bodies are and the messages that they deliver. Crossed arms, wrinkled eyebrows and tapping fingers give way to a tense disposition and worry. Good body language can serve as a powerful method of reinforcing positive behavior. Children often imitate what they see. As simple as it sounds when you smile – they smile. When you’re wound up – they’re wound up. Don’t be stingy with your body language. Good eye contact, words of praise, a hand clap or a high five says – “We can do this!!” 
  2. Parents give yourselves a time-out: Everyone needs to step back and take a break every now and then – even parents. Don’t feel like you are shunning your responsibilities if you take time out for yourself. It is hard to function sometimes under pressure. If you don’t take the time that you need to re-group, you may find yourself in a worse position later. 5-10 minutes can do wonders for your mental energy. If you are lucky enough to take a day off and you have wonderful support that can take on your responsibilities for a day – ENJOY IT!! There is nothing like “You-Time”.
  3. Books, Books, Everywhere: Take advantage of information that you can share with your children that will ease tension and anxiety. Books are always great outlets. When I was a little girl, I always wanted to travel but we were too poor to go anywhere. However, books took me to places I have never imagined possible. Sit down with your children and get away from it all for 10-15 minutes and go somewhere you both enjoy – books have that amazing power.
  4. Family Discussion Groups: I wish it was as simple as waving a wand and all of our worries would disappear, but “NOT GONNA HAPPEN”!! So the next best thing is to talk about it. Take a day each week and have a family discussion. Talk about what is bugging you and how you can deal with it. Family time is also a great time to discuss world issues and how they affect your household. This is not only great for the children but parents too. Not only does this give you quality time together, but it opens up the gate for more communication in the event concerns come up later and the children really NEED someone to talk to – you become the first choice because you value listening!!

The current climate of the world can be scary, but in the middle of all of the chaos – you still have a family to raise and you still have futures ahead. Learn from your children and teach them how to forge ahead even in adversity. This behavior and attitude will create a wonderful network between you, your child and the real world. You see it isn’t the influx of jobs, increased pay or abundant housing that will make your children or even your family successful – it is the attitude, the determination and the ability to face even the impossible that will create the shield you need to live a wonderful life!! Happy Journeys……

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