Practical Parenting: Oh No – The Sky is Falling!!!

How are we to stay positive for our children in such of a barrage of negative messages we are subjected to daily?

Today I watched my children staring at their personal devices. One was watching Stampy play his some-odd hundredth episode of Let’s Play Minecraft and the other was also watching Stampy play Splatoon Two. Each child has their own taste; and who wouldn’t want to have a varied interest from one’s older or younger brother. While I do not understand at face value the meaning behind watching other people play a game versus playing it yourself, one thing began to stand out for me as I listened to the two equally engaging storylines: both focused on positive aspects of life from the art of story telling of hero’s and heroine’s who make the storyline take place. Were my children, in all their simplistic beauty, on to something that my more complexly trained, social scientist mind could not grasp. I believe they were.

Every morning, I go to the gym. It’s healthy. I get the endorphins flowing, and my mind clears, as I run the elliptical and pummel through the weights. However, I can’t help but be distracted while I am their by the 20 screens that buy for my attention; yes, literally 20 screens that buy for my attention while I am supposed to be focused on my physical and mental health. In a prior article, entitled Turn Off, Tune Out, and Drop In: Media, Politics, and the Social Spin Cycle as Symptom & Dream I explored how it seems that our brains are programmed on a daily basis through traditional and social media’s reliance on catastrophizing. An insight arose for me when writing this article, and I committed myself to not stare at the 20 screens that buy for my attention. However, being ADHD, I also at times cannot help but notice that my focus moves from the reading material I that bring to expand my mind to the brainless commentary  offered by the 20 different channels, most of them newscasts that permeate the gym.

If you listen to the journalists, every day “the sky is falling.” They provide commentary on how law and social order are somehow, not lawful or orderly enough. They promote traditional as old, social chaos as right, and seem to center their beleifs not on objectivity, but subjective oppinion as a basis to educate both adults and children on what is right as a means to raise the next generation. What was once considered right, is now flipped upon itself, and values are quickly being changed at a whim without consideration of the deeply engrained structures they represent; and all of this is being “programmed” within us in the name of progress.

This brings me to the moral of today’s story: how do we help our children process the information they are subjected to while passing on our own moral code and ethics? How do we pass on the values, which, despite what the media attempts to inform you of as being wrong, ultimately stands as the foundation for your children’s future success? This article is about practical parenting, not political commentary. But as I watched Stampy play his “lovely” games, it struck me. You are over thinking it. You have to engage your children where they are at. You have to engage them by what they they watch, play, and read.

As a child therapist, I often engage in play as a means to help children sort through their emotions. Children are simple. They engage their emotional states through play. They love to color, play board games, will even engage in a video game, and yes, the love to even watch other players play the video games they love. They do this to engage with storylines they find interesting. These actions form the foundation of their moral reasoning.

In a time not so distant, we told our children stories. Fairytales formed the foundation from which children learned of adults who had evil intentions, formed the basis general safety habbits, and exposed their mind to hero’s and heroine’s who despite adversity, somehow overcame most of the hardships they faced to live “happily ever after.” These were not only stories of legend used to expose children to everyday occurrences and ways to overcome adversity; these stories acted as a cornerstone from which children could interact freely through their burgeoning imagination with adult life to come. By telling stories, children were allowed to interact more freely with their parent’s values, learning, and passing them on through the context of lived interaction. In the act of telling stories, mothers and fathers sat down to pass on the very story lines that were important to them as a child. In doing this engaged their children in a way that not only provided direct access to their familial and cultural lineage, but also formed the foundation for the continued success of their psychological development. Now, the story tellers all seem to be online, and there appears to be general levels of disconnect, as many of the messages children are exposed to may not reflect the traditional values you find dear. In fact, your child may be watching a storyteller tale a tell tale that is age appropriate, but it’s intent is overshadowed by commercialism buying for valuable adspace that is not necessarily age appropriate. PARENTS, MONITOR WHAT YOUR CHILD SEE’S ON SOCIAL MEDIA (INCLUDING YOUTUBE).

If your child is exposed to electronic devises, chances are they are exposed to idea that “the sky is falling.” They may even have this ideal deeply engrained without ever having been exposed to the storyline of the once neurotic “Chicken Little.” How can they not be in this day and age of bad, worst yet, and worst ever news we are constantly exposed too by network and social media. As a social scientist, I understand the drastic effects that constant exposure to these kind of messages have on a child’s growing psyche. They set the foundation for future anxiety and depression by forcing messages of unconscious hopelessness and helplessness. If something is wrong at every corner they are exposed, where is the hope for the future that children must have as a foundation for healthy self-esteem. Where are the heros they are to idolize as a means to find the courage and strength to overcome life’s obsticles. What are we to do, if our children, or even worse, we have adapted a “sky is falling” attitude.

  1. Go Outside: There is something so beautiful and wonderfully connecting when you simply get away from the electronics and go outside with your children. Your children are programmed to play. It helps them to get their seemingly endless supply of energy out, gives them natural, not artificial experiences, and is even good for you for general stress reliever.A large family is walking his beagle in a park by the lake. Mom enjoys the hair of her daughter, and her father and son train the dog
  2. Listen to Music: values are passed on through the music we listen too. Please make sure it is age appropriate. Because like I said, values ARE passed on by the music we listen too. Children begin to form their identity and values of life based upon the messages they receive, both overtly and discreetly. If you are listening to music that curses or puts specific genders or races down, this will be the meta-messages your child will assume as normal behavior. If you disagree, watch how quickly a child assimilates the language of someone they idolize. You might as well channel this energy towards someone worth idealizing who assumes a similar value set as you or your family.
  3. Read or Listen to an Audio Book: stories have a profound influence on your child. Discuss the moral of each story, and the learned parts that you find of value. This will allow you direct access to understand their emerging values. It will also help you to pass on your own values to their emerging psyche. Last Night, I had to explain to my four-year old son the ending scene of the book “The Alchemist.” He was confused when the book said the protagonist realized that the soul of the world was intimately connected to the soul of God, which in turn was a reflection of his own soul. I told him, we are all connected with God, and by having a piece of him with us, we have the ability to make “nice” choices. I know! It was not a work of theological fact, but it prompted him to think about how he can make good choices in life.
  4. Engage in a Craft: Formalized Education is a relatively new phenomenon. In prior years, skills were passed on from parent to child in a manner that helped them to survive and thrive in a skill set that was of value. This is not the case these days, where children must stay in a work type setting for nearly 8 hours a day called school. However, just because the social order has changed, does not mean that human biology or psychology has caught up. Children yearn to learn from mom and dad. Teach them a skill you love, you will soon see your child flourish, and possibly even surpass you within the skill set you taught. And what is even better, you have taught a lifelong skill that one day your child may value som much it becomes part of their work ethic.

You only have one chance at raising your child. Take a Moment to Make a Moment. Please, tell me your experiences with Practical Parenting.

Dr. Tom

 

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