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Thomas Maples

As a child, I remember watching the nightly news with my grandfather. I can remember the ticking time watch of 60 minutes counting down, as the news anchors would discuss factual events of the day, leaving the commentary for the viewers to work through on their own accord. Back then, it seemed like we were left to our own intellect or imagination to make sense of the world around us. We were not force fed the information as being pure fact, even though it smells deeply of subjective opinion. At least that is what I remember as I look back fondly on the events of my childhood’s past. Perhaps, with clouded memories of childhood consciousness, or possibly not?

These days, I feel that I cannot even turn on a newscast without explaining to my children the finer nuances of hate messages that bombard us daily. Subjectivity is the new norm, outright lies that are displayed hourly by our major broadcasting stations, and this now is packaged as objective Journalism? Who would of thought! When did it turn to this? In days not so long past, I remember newscasts reported objective facts, not subjective opinions. Now, it is as if everyone’s opinions needs to take precedence, or even worse, are amplified to a degree of biblical proportions as they are portrayed as objective truths what they truly are: prejudistic subjectivities that base themselves solely on the concept of division versus healing the divisions present.

This morning, I ran out of coffee cups, and grabbed one of my wife’s. It was decorated with beautiful dolls throughout the world. On the inside, it read: “It’s a World of Laughter a World of Tears. It’s a World of Hope and a World of Fears.” The outside simply read, “It’s a Small World After All.”

russina dolls

As a child, I could not stand the Disney ride. It was not exciting enough to hold my attention. What? you go on a boat that moves less than 5 mph and see animatronic dolls singing about the joys and sorrows of life. How boring is that! At the time, I could not see what my mother saw to be so intriguing about the ride. It was her favorite; and unfortunately, I had to sacrifice all I could to muster up (10 minutes of patience) to listen to that asinine song. However, quite a few decades later, for some reason, I always go back to that ride of wonder. What was even worse, I would frequently find myself humming the song long after I left the ride.

Now as a parent, I subject my own children to that same horrific experience. Yes, they even complain as much, if not more than I did about going on the ride.

Why do I do this? As a social scientist, I know that the message it teaches is one of paramount psychological importance. The lessons taught on that ride are not only meant for children, but also for adults. It is us adults that so often forget the simple message of forgive of forgiveness. I do not hear children promote messages of hate or division. It seems to me that we as adults are the ones who are guilty of subjecting our children to the polarize differences all so common in our society. Are we simply forgetting to see past the subjective nature of our polarized consciousness, and engaging in storylines and or mannerisms that fail to take into account our human condition. Civilities seem to be blindly forgotten, or even worse, consciously censored in today’s toxic media environment. In a way, it seems as if our children’s capacity to forgive, align, and heal the relationships most important in their life have somehow become more grown-up than their parents incapacities to conduct life in a humanistic manner that heals the most prominent divisions present. This is not a right or left thing, a red or blue battle, or even a political division between donkeys and elephants, instead, this is a story of practical parenting and ways we can help our children overcome and heal from the divisive nature so present in today’s traditional and social media outlets.

Over the past two years, I have seen the use of divisive and polarizing constructs increase exponentially as news and social media forums attempt to make sense of a world they failed to predict. The lack of certainty seems to be a breeding ground for mass hysteria if not social psychosis. Values have left the building, and are nowhere to be seen in our traditional and social media environments. All parties seem guilty of hate. No party is more just than the other in spreading these divisive messages to children who may be innocently exposed to the unnerving messages contained in our media forums. Last I looked, there was no rating system for the news, and definitely not a rating system for social media content. This is mirrored in our society and even our value based political institutions. Now days, all there seems to be is a monologues of unilateral opinions that do not take into account both sides of an equation, which therefore negates our inherent capacity to grow by healing the divisions present. What are we to do as parents who strive to teach their children right from wrong, good from bad, and what is virtuous versus what is evil.

No matter what network conglomerate is broadcasting the news, there seems to be one sided opinions that are highly subjective with little to no merit present. These avenues teach division through amplification of stories that promote disrespect, social upheaval, and lessons that are not necessarily in our children’s best interest to learn. It seems to me  that the only objective news comes from the BBC (https://www.bbc.com/news) and/or other foreign news networks that can unilaterally remove themselves from a politics of division so common within our current political climate. What are we as practical parents to do to raise children in this politically and socially polarized time where what is right now seems to be wrong, what is good is now deemed to be bad, and what was once viewed as the norm can be deemed abnormal if it does not appease only a small few? Do we pray, and leave things to circumstances? Or do we take action, and raise a generation of children that will grow beyond the polarized world we are leaving them and stand up for the values they will inherit from us, their parents.

First, it is up to us to heal the divisions present within ourselves before we can help our children overcome the divisions we instill upon them. Let me clarify, division is part of our natural psychological development. Psychological growth, like physiological growth, is dependent on the paradox that exists between division and mending. Physiologically, our cells split in order to form new cells, mend themselves.  This process happens throughout our lives, and constitutes our growing and aging process. Our psyche grows in a similar manner. By splitting between polarized constructs and mending the division present within itself, our psyche grows into a capacity to realize itself in the moment. From this perspective, one side is not right nor wrong. It simply evolves as it finds new truths to fit the moment. While the division process may cause a degree discomfort, by working through the polarized constructs present, the psyche grows to assume both perspectives as a means to form educated and informed opinions about the nature of one’s reality. Whether we assume one scenario versus another is ultimately a matter of choice and personal freedom; however, by understanding both perspectives, the psyche is allowed to grow in a more comprehensive and cohesive manner. There is no right and no wrong within this philosophy, only growth towards one’s subjective truth. However, it is also imperative not to believe that one’s subjective truth is by any means another’s subjective truth; nor should we expect our subjective truth to become another’s objective reality.

Don’t Drink the Cool Aid!!! It can be dangerous to your health!

Childhood is a divisive time, and therefore it is easily permeable and malleable. As parents, it is up to us to help our children learn how to learn. During early childhood development, they assume the lessons they are taught as absolutes. This is the time your value system must be passed on. Without instilling values early on, your child will begin to instill their own values to fill the void present. Children need direction. They need a moral compass to guide them. Religion can help if you have not formed your own value based system. Even sitting down and writing out your values can help you to determine direction to give them.

Secondly, it is up to us as parents to monitor what our children are exposed to. I can tell you from personal experience that YouTube, Google, your favorite search engine, and the even the ESRB and/or MPAA Rating Boards do not care about what your children are exposed too. They are there to make money, even though they somehow provide a false sense of security through giving parental control mechanisms and offering us opinions about what is or is not appropriate for children to be exposed to. One example happened the other day. My son was watching a childhood YouTube Video about gaming when he was exposed to an advertisement of what appeared to be a new independent horror show that set up mock, real situation murder scenarios. My son was terrified, and I was pissed off to say the least. While the game he was watching seemed appropriate and there was no cursing between the father and son who made the video, he was subsequently exposed to severe violent scenarios from the advertisement that accompanied the video. Parents: It is your JOB to monitor what your child is exposed to and when they are exposed to things you do not agree with, use it as a lesson. Your child will not forget, and with practice, they will begin to emulate your values.

Third, decrease the amount of exposure your child has to electronics of all kinds. Take them out, have them read and / or listen to a book, go to a park, play, just Turn Off, Tune Out, and Drop In. Take them fishing (fishing.org), they will interact with mother nature, will learn a new skill, and may even learn that all so important value we all strive to achieve, Patience. We have a wide world to explore. Many times, we can even find adventure in our own city. It doesn’t take much to simply turn the devise off and forget about our closest 400 friends who live overseas and we have never met in order to take them to a meet and greet with the neighbors kids next door. Even better yet, maybe you can get a neighborhood ball game to help them get exercise at the same time they are allowed to meet with and get to know people in their community.

As a social scientist and a psychotherapist that has worked with children for nearly 20 years, I have seen that a majority of the concerns parents have for their children center on whether they are raising them in a manner that assures optimal psychological health and development. I am here to tell you, if you truly care, and you are putting the effort into the job you have chosen to take on when you decided to have a child, he or she will develop in a healthy manner. However, during our tenure as parents, it is our responsibility, and not the State’s, the television, or a social media outlet to raise our children. It is our job to keep them occupied and to teach them. Our values form the basis of our family, which in turn forms the basis of social institutions (church, media, state, entertainment, etc.), which in turn forms the collective aspects of our humanity. Far too often, I see a push to have this trend inverted, with ideals that are promoted as collective being force fed to us as values from social institutions that wish us to instill their message into our children. This will simply not work.

What social scientists and psychologists understand is that each individual is a highly complex and individualized organism. We have opinions, values, personal experiences, unconscious and conscious memories, feelings, and individual ways we filter information. While this makes us complex, in reality there is simplicity in understanding as a child does the miraculous nature of our inner and outer world. We are all connected in a world of laughter and a world of tears, a world of hope and a world of fears. Once we realize that it is a small world, and we are all the same, at a minimum HUMAN, we can overcome division and simply accept each other as is. It’s a Small World After All. Want to be Friends?

the child looks out the window into the night sky

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