It is sometimes tough to imagine that our tech-savvy media children still need adults–parents, teachers and other caring people to look after them. It may be hard to believe that we have something to offer when they are so far ahead of us technologically but we do. We have life lessons that they have not yet experienced. So yes. They still need to listen to what we have to say.
Okay. So what do we know that our kids don’t? Let’s review. Certainly one of the most important lessons that we have learned is that life is hard. Some kids have to learn this in their childhoods if they are growing up in dire poverty or a war zone or if a parent is disabled in some way or absent altogether. Children are fortunate who have not yet learned this lesson. But whether they have or they haven’t we, as adults, can share with them some coping skills that they may not yet have discovered. We can, for instance, show them that it is usually best to face our trials head on. Any means of escape—alcohol, gambling, porn or intensive media use will not solve life’s problems.
Closely related to that “life is hard” lesson is that it is also unpredictable. Can children learn that lesson from a computer game? Nope. Don’t think so. Games can be random but not infinitely so.
As adults we know that life itself can be downright chaotic—job losses, relationship breakups, unexpected illnesses, wars and rumors of wars. But we can teach our children, particularly our young adult children who may be “failing to launch,” that we can handle the challenges that life throws at us. We may escape from time to time into the impersonal world of computers but then we must return to life.
Life is about courage and that is what we need to teach our children—not just with words but with our example and our unfailing support. One of my favorite poems comes to mind:
Do You Fear the Wind?By Hamlin Garland
Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage against them.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane:
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You ’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you’ll walk like a man!I would add, most emphatically, you’ll walk like a woman!
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.