“Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”
I recently saw this quote in Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Coddling of the American Mind (1). He didn’t know the author and I couldn’t find one on Google, so we’ll dedicate this one to anonymous.
As my boys are back at college, I have to ask myself this question: Have I prepared them well for the road they currently find themselves on?
Much has changed for our kids these past six months; their world has been turned on its head. If you’d ask a high schooler or college student what they have had to deal with these past months here are some of the things they might tell you:
- No Prom
- No Graduation
- No Graduation Party
- No Summer Internship
- No Summer Job
- No trip to Europe
- Not being able to hang out with friends
- Not being able to work out
- No Football
- No Frat or Sorority parties
- No In-person classes
If I’d be in their shoes, I’d be an emotional wreck.
As the Pandemic continues, our kids will find themselves under more and more stress, disappointment and anger. How will they deal with it? Alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn? It scares me to even think of this.
Two years ago, for Christmas, I gave each of my kids a journal and I encouraged them to write down three things they were thankful for every day. The exercise might take 60 seconds and be as mundane: running water, electricity, food in the fridge, clothing, parents who love me. But they could also record big blessings such as overcoming an injury, getting a scholarship to their number one university pick or winning a football state championship. I also suggested they open the bible every now-and-then and reflect on what they had read.
I’m not sure they have been journaling these past two years, but if ever there were a time to do so, it would be now. Yes, the times are difficult, and, in some way, everyone is suffering. But no matter what’s going on in their world, I’m sure there are still many, many things that they can be thankful for. I know I am:
I look out the window and see the beautiful green trees and bright flowers that surround my house. We just had a shower and I know nature appreciates that! I glance down at the floor and see my four-legged friend, Max, who brings me so much joy.
I’m also thankful for all of the ways I can communicate with my kids: phone, text, e-mail, letters and Facetime. And every now and then we’ll surprise them and order fresh-baked cookies from Insomnia, a cookie franchise that can be found in every college town. Within ten minutes of placing the order their doorbell rings and they know they have parents who are thinking of them. Staying in relationship with our kids is the most important thing we can do during the Covid-19 challenge. Getting them to talk and share with us what they are experiencing and how they are dealing with issues, is so very important.
The road our kids are currently walking on is difficult and we should do everything possible to encourage them to stay the course and not give up. Most kids, including mine, have grown up here in the United States getting every need met, every wish fulfilled. Covid-19 has changed all of that overnight. The pandemic now dictates what they can and can’t do and, in most cases, parents are taken out of the equation.
My hope is that our kids will get through these challenging times unscarred, more mature, stronger and wiser because they’ve had to deal with adversity. According to Jonathan Haidt, what we should all want is for our kids to be not just resilient but to develop a strength or skill he calls anti-fragile. I understand this to mean that if you are challenged or have to deal with stress, chances are you will become stronger through the experience. If you work out and push yourself, your muscles and bones become stronger. If you lie in bed for a month, your muscles atrophy. (2)
Hopefully, 12 months from now our kids will be able to look back at the Spring, Summer and Fall of 2020 and say, yes, it was a very difficult time for me, but I grew so much because of the challenges I had to face.
- Jonathan Haidt & Greg Lukianoff: The Coddling of the American Mind, How Good Intentions And Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure, 2018 p. 23
- Jonathan Haidt: pgs. 22-23