"We have everything we need."
This affirmation can be both grounding and serve as a reminder that we have all of the ingredients we need to thrive. In a current culture, where supersizing is the norm, it can be important to quell the craving for excess and focus on the knowledge that we have enough. This is a critical anchor in Black culture especially for parents during times of crisis. Societal influences may suggest that we need more of everything—toys, educational apps, apparel, activities. We do not. We have everything we need. This is a foundational premise for the sustenance we provide ourselves and our children especially during times of crisis.
With that said…
Parenting during two pandemics is real…all day, every day. On their own, racism and COVID-19 present unique challenges. In combination the impact can be overwhelming, as there is no recipe for introducing discussions about racial injustice to our children while at the same time trying to figure out how to keep them physically safe. Yet like the ancestors who survived the trans-Atlantic slave trade by speaking words of liberation through Negro spirituals and drums, and made greens out of weeds, we must somehow find a way.
As we consider Black folks and the souls of our children, there are unique factors at hand. This unique reality may be par for the course, but it does not make the fact that Black and Brown youth are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19-related hospitalizations (CDC, 2020), and are at risk for the biggest educational backsliding due to gaps in access to technology (CNBC, 2020) more digestible.
It is then further complicated by the unfortunate, but historically consistent, reality that these youth are coming of age in a society that does not value their lives. At the same time, many Black parents are trying to find a balance between being informed regarding issues of racial injustice and being traumatized by it. These realities are overt for Black parents. The impact is also real for children who, depending on their age, may not remember the details of this season but can nonetheless sense and feel the energy surrounding them. Perhaps more importantly, they will forever be psychologically impacted, for better or worse, by the consequences of it.
How can families move forward with an understanding of the risk? A key element, one that may too often go addressed, is parental wellness.
Parental Wellness Is the Base of a Successful Recipe
As we consider the challenges of 2020 and beyond, let us be reminded that we are “weathered not worn” (shout out to the Atlanta-based company of the same name). This means that the core of who we are is present and stable. Parents and children simply, as stated by Queen Ramonda (the mother of T’Challa in the movie Black Panther) must “Remember who you are.”
Parents and caregivers admittedly do not have control over much of what is going on outside of their homes. However, there is plenty going on inside the home that is within the parental sphere of influence. It is important to recognize and optimize these realities because parental wellness has consistently been linked to child wellness and outcomes (Campo, Fontanella, & Bridges, 2020; Edith, Brody, and Gregory, 2017).
Take a minute and do a wellness check. Ask yourself these questions:
1. When was the last time I let my family, especially children, know that I am going to take 5 minutes to quietly (or loudly, if that is your thing!) focus on my wellness? How can I do this more often?
2. What is a simple thing that can bring joy to my soul without excessive financial or time-related resources? When was the last time I connected with this thing?
3. When was the last time I told someone (including myself) something truly affirming? For example, “I am actually doing this thing! I am getting up each day and placing one foot in front of the other. I am having victories each day!”
4. What blessings and victories, big or small, can I count from today?
5. What are the lessons from today? Do I want to try to apply any of those lessons tomorrow?
6. How is my body telling me what I need? Am I ignoring or it respecting it?
7. In what ways am I beginning to say "no" to the things that don’t feed my soul and "yes" to the things that do? If I haven't been, where can I start?
8. How have I set my life up to have external support for processing the pandemics and how they are plaguing our communities?
In 2020 a practice of gentle, accessible self-care is also beautiful medicine and even better for prevention. However, if the self-care you have tried isn’t working, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist. Strategies for accessing a therapist are shared here.
It is normal and okay to feel uncertain in uncertain times. Parents, be reminded that you are enough and you have what you need. That does not mean that we should not evolve. That doesn’t mean that resources cannot be expanded. Instead, a “both/and” exists. We can be enough and we can nurture our growth. The upcoming blog entries focus on enhancing the recipe for family success with strategies for supporting children and maximizing untapped resources in family networks.
***As we focus on our health, let us consider the resources available to promote wellness in our communities. Many of these resources are focused on individual, family or local community efforts. However, it is important to understand that national efforts regarding changes to policies, evaluation of school protocols, and to access to healthcare are critical to address, in the effort to obtained long-term systemic change. ***
Grange, C., Sturdivant, A., and Harris, C. (2020, October, 24). A Recipe for Our Children’s Psychological Health, Part 1: Black Parent Wellness in the Era of COVID19. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-souls-black-folks/202010/re….
Campo, J.V., Fontanella, C.A., & Bridge J.A. (2020). Intergenerational Associations of Parental Mental Illness and Child Health. JAMA Pediatrics, 174(8) :e201755. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1755
Chen, E., Brody, G.H., & Miller, G.E. (2017). Childhood close family relationships and health. American Psychologist, 72(6), 555–566. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000067