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I’ve been thinking a lot about what these next weeks and months are going to do to my kids; how it’s going to shape their psyche, their habits, their souls. We have pretty young kids here, ages six, five (as of today!), almost three, and a baby. The younger kids will hopefully have no memory of what this time is like, but what about the older two?
We spent this afternoon with their favorite children’s book author, Mo Willems. He is doing an artist-in-residence with the Kennedy Center, and in response to the events of this past week, they have launched a daily drawing and chat session for kids home from school:
What he said at the beginning of the video struck me. “It is Monday, March 16th… I’m here in my studio, in Massachusettes, in my home… I know a lot of you guys are. I wasn’t planning on being here. And you probably didn’t plan on being here either. But now that we’re here, let’s hang out together for a little while. Let’s create some things… Let’s find a way to be isolated and together at the same time.”
Parents are right at the very start of wrapping our heads around this pandemic and the economic realities for our families. Every day, the news is changing at lightning speed. But we need to explain to our kids what’s happening, even if we don’t fully understand it ourselves. We need to develop a way of discussing current events that won’t scare our kids.
A frustrating part about parenting in 2020 prior to Coronavirus has been the willingness of parents to expose their children to everything scary, everything adult. We basically have spent the last decade telling our kids that the world is ending thanks to climate change. It was irresponsible, and the emotional damage is done. What now must these same kids think, watching this pandemic and its tsunami effect plow through everyday life as we know it? There’s no more school, no more classes, no more parents at work, no more playgrounds. It’s all changed on them completely, and overnight. We as a society have done our children a great disservice, putting the burdens of the world on their shoulders; too much and too soon. And we have an opportunity to protect them from what’s happening now; we have an obligation to.
Moving forward, we need to seriously consider how we’re going to discuss this crisis with our kids as a society and as individual families; how to explain it on a macro-level (what’s happening around the world) and on a micro-level (when they’re going back to school. We can’t lie to them, but we also can’t tell them “Listen, kids, it feels positively apocalyptic right now.”
On the last two days of video sessions, Willems hit the right note for kids of my kids’ age bracket. And he got me thinking about how we’re going to explain what’s happening to our own kids, it depends on how long it goes on. Because they’re homeschooled and we’re coming off of a break from all of our regular classes, daily life doesn’t feel that much different, outside of dad working from home. I’m not sure that has to change; if we have to explain what’s going on. My instinct is no, but we’ll see how many questions they have.