Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” ~ Janine di Giovanni
On this Easter weekend 2017, I have been reflecting on our current world and what our children are faced with both now and in the future. Perhaps the previous generation contemplated the very same out of growing concern. At first glance, the world of today appears vastly different than the one I grew up in, or is it?
Born in the early 1970’s, I am considered to be in the ‘Generation X’ societal category. In my day, “go outside to play” was a common phrase voiced by parents – as was the responsibility of letting yourself in the house after school with a key found in either the mailbox or under the front door mat. This is why we were also know as the “latchkey” generation as often both parents were working and divorce rates were starting to soar. Did this mean the world was safer and we were more free to roam the streets? I am not so sure about that – I believe that part of it is information bias as now we know every little thing that happens. When I was growing up, you had to either read the newspaper or watch the evening news to know about the status of our world.
My two teenaged children are both within the ‘Millennial’ or ‘Generation Y’ societal category. The most obvious difference beyond popularized use of acronyms, such as lol (laugh out loud) and nvm (never mind), is the advancement in technology. They are more connected to the outside world than we could have ever imagined, which is both fortunate and concerning at the same time. Nowadays, kids face being filmed or photographed without their knowledge, but they can also experience the world in a whole new exciting way through digital media.
This past week, an incident at a local Catholic school recently that found its way on many newspapers including The Globe and Mail, where a young woman giving a pro-life presentation to a grade 10 class was videotaped without her knowing. Although I have some concerns about our ability to publicize people without their permission, I feel that someone deliberately trying to influence our youth has to be held accountable. I was left speechless after watching the video and reading the articles. It is disheartening to think that with all of the progress our generation feels it has made with respect to equality and women’s rights, this sort of propaganda is taking place just around the corner.
Having said this, we have made progress in so many ways that we can’t focus on isolated incidents here and there. Women continue to take on more leadership roles in the workplace and are advocating for equal pay with men in all professions. We have come somewhat full circle on the working family unit where both women and men are deciding on which one will stay at home when the kids are young. The family unit has also evolved into various versions other than the traditional one with the legalization of same sex marriages in many parts of the world.
So, where am I really going with all of this…
Back to my initial reflection on the world our children are faced with both now and in the future. IMHO (keeping up with my millennial children), the truth is that some of the fears our children will be faced with are real and valid, such as lack of employment despite an education, but some of the opportunities to live a life you truly want and to connect with the entire world, are greater then ever. Millenials have figured out that the key to happiness is not money and material things, but instead, meaning in what they do. Finding a ‘good’ stable job and settling down isn’t necessarily going to happen anymore nor is it the expectation. So the world they are faced with is the one they create.
How can we help our children navigate some of their fears about the future?
1) Time together – Everyone is TOO busy! We need to put down our devices (me included), reduce over-scheduling and spend time together. The most effective way is to schedule in consistent family time such as family meals and family activities such as family game night. Trust me, our children are never too old for these bonding activities.
2) Release the pressures – The pressure to succeed, win, be the best, have the best grades, etc. can take its toll on kids, especially adolescents who are trying to figure out their future – see The New York Times article It Takes a Suburb: A Town Struggles to Ease Student Stress.
I love the post by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, I Like The Film Alike, A Lot, where she reflects on parenting and the message behind the heartwarming short animation Alike. I encourage you to take the few minutes to watch it and just feel it – we may all take away a little something different.
For Dr. Swanson, aka Seattle Mama Doc, she says – “Thing is, sometimes we just miss the moment with our children. Sometimes we really are too demanding, too rigid, perhaps too purposeful. At least I know I am and can be. When I realize I’ve been blunted or on-task in ways that separate me from my children’s mindfulness or creativity or I’ve stunted my children in any way, it can feel a tiny bit like despair. Like a big, juicy #momfail.”
For me, it is about savouring the simple moments in life with our children and seeing the beauty in what is important to them. What does Alike say to you?