Doc Smo here. Happy holidays! Each year I put aside the talks about bedwetting, allergies, pneumonia, and good nutrition for your children to focus on a topic that I think is equally important for your family. Not a medical topic but a parenting topic. This year I want to give you some practical advise about shaping your children’s character and their outlook toward others. A big task but an important one. So, here comes my 2017 holiday message. I hope you enjoy it.
I think we all can agree the world seems to be getting into more and more of a mess. Global warming, global political conspiracies, global terrorism, and global threats of nuclear war? We haven’t gone postal, we seem to have collectively gone global? Today’s threats aren’t just local, but planetary. And one thing I am sure of is that your children are paying attention to all this chaos and wondering what is happening? They can’t avoid all the negativity with all this hate circulating around them on 24 hour cable news, on social media, on their ever present mobile devices, and even at school in the form of bullying, social clicks, and gangs. It’s easy for children to fall into the abyss of hopelessness. Not only are your children worrying about these horrific events that they are hearing and seeing with video of everything instantly available but they are undoubtedly wondering who will protect them and what is their escape from all this chaos? Is there any wonder why are in the midst of an opioid crisis?
You are probably thinking, “This a heavy topic for a holiday post Doc Smo.” I know but I have some ideas I want to share with you about how you can help your children counteract the negativity they are witnessing and even begin moving toward more understanding and tolerance. So, don’t you dare stop listening to this important episode of Portable Practical Pediatrics. It just may be the most important 10 minutes you spend this year.
How do we counter these destructive forces on our children? Use your influence.
Idea #1 – Start Local
I don’t think I need to convince you that world events are very troubling but how do we counter all these negative forces. I’ll tell you what I think, we must start locally. Think about it, in modern society, in contemporary America like a lot of places in the world, we are very quick to construct barriers between us and those that are different from us. We choose schools and neighborhoods to live in to get near people like ourselves and exclude others. We live increasingly in gated communities with people who mostly look just like ourselves. We choose to socialize with people that we have a lot in common with rather than seeking to meet people who come from different backgrounds. It’s all so safe and predictable. It’s comfortable… but polarizing. Our instincts that are undoubtedly ancient and tribal, tell us to live this way but following these instincts has gotten us into the rut of polarization, demonization of people we don’t know much about, and living our lives in fear of others. Tribal existence was once the key to our ancestor’s survival but today I believe it could be at the root of our destruction. I think accepting and learning to appreciate people who are different is our only way forward; and that works starts locally, with you and your children, in your schools, in your neighborhood, and your communities at large.
Idea #2 – Parents need to set a good example for their children
We’ve talked about the need for parents to set a good example for their children before but I feel now, more than ever, parents need to use their powerful influence by putting aside cynicism and negativity and living a life that is positive and inclusive. Your children need to be shown that small acts of kindness, volunteering on the behalf of other, openness to people who come from different cultures and backgrounds can be fulfilling and downright refreshing. I believe that parents often underestimate how powerful their influence is on their children and tool #1 of that influence is not what you say to your children but rather the behavior you demonstrate for them!
Idea #3 – Individually we have limited influence but collectively we are powerful
Individually we have limited influence but when we put our voices and actions together collectively, we are powerful. As Henry Ford once so eloquently put it, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford. And he should know, having designed, invented, and revolutionized the modern manufacturing process. The same is true within the spheres of our lives; by working together we can achieve wonderful things. All it takes is a strong commitment to a cause, hard work, and a refusal to be dissuaded by setbacks. Parents, who commit themselves, especially if they can act collectively for causes greater than themselves, can enrich their children’s lives immensely. The cause can be the Boy Scouts, the local PTA, an organization to feed the hungry, a religious charity, or anything that seeks to serve others. I can’t say it enough…your children are watching and learning. Don’t pass up the opportunity to instill in your children the desire and joy of serving others and if you can do this collectively, along with others, all the better. And what better time to start than the holidays!
My holiday wish for you and your family
So here is my 2017 holiday wish for you and your family. Get out of your comfort zone and meet and serve people your instincts tell you to avoid whether your resistance is based on race, or socioeconomic background, or religion, or country of origin, or language spoken, or sexual orientation or whatever. Here are a few ways to get that process started that all involve local actions on your part.
First, actions to take with your children:
-Limit the negativity your children experience by limiting screen time and of course, whenever possible, turn off the TV.
-When disturbing info is presented to your children, help them understand it. Talk, listen, and don’t hesitate to give them your perspective on these disturbing events.
-Don’t forget to remind your children that you will protect them with all your power.
-Try taking your children to a church, mosque, or synagogue you and they have never been before.
-If you can afford it, try and travel in order for you and your children to experience other cultures.
-Talk to your children about their fears and hopes for the future.
Next, actions that you can take:
-Volunteer your time to help those that need assistance. Tutoring at your children’s school is a good place to start but there are tons of other opportunities to donate your time and efforts.
-Socialize with someone unexpected whether that is a coworker or a more incidental acquaintance,
-Get in the habit of being charitable with your money and your time.
-Greet people on the street with respect, especially if they have been marginalized. It’s easy to turn away and look past people in trouble but try not to do that.
Your children are watching
Why should you go to the effort to do these things you may be asking? Because your children are watching, that’s why. I believe that thousands of years of tribal existence has made being open to strangers and people who are different, very difficult for us to do. But learning to do so is imperative because your children are watching, learning, and they are likely to eventually imitate your behavior when they are adults. If we could collectively change our worldview and concentrate on what we have in common with others rather than our differences, maybe we can stop the spiral of polarization we are now seeing. At the end of the day, the human experience is all the same. We are all looking for acceptance, respect, love, and security. The world desperately needs us to stop segregating ourselves based on our differences and move toward a bigger sense of we. Your tent has plenty of room for members from other tribes. And here is one thing I want you to keep in mind, “It’s hard to be fearful of people that you know.”
Thanks for spending this time with me. If you enjoy Portable Practical Pediatrics, take a moment to leave a review on iTunes or my Facebook page, DocSmo.com. By doing so, you are helping others find my show. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, also known as Doc Smo, hoping that this holiday season your family adopts an attitude, designed to include. Until Next time.