Our kids have plenty to teach us — if we’re willing to learn
“And teach your parents well”
–from Crosby, Stills, Nash song “Teach Your Children”
Among the many joys of parenting and teaching are the lessons we can learn from our children and students. So often, they enable us adults to see the world differently and anew if we allow ourselves to be open to the possibilities. Even the pandemic that has altered our world in so many ways for almost a year now gives us the opportunity to learn from our children. A recent New York Times article called “4 Things Parents Learned from Their Kids in 2020” by parenting reporter Christina Caron outlines ways that children helped their parents over the past year.
To begin with, maybe instead of looking for grand gestures, we should remember that “simple gestures can lift people up.” As Caron explains, children enabled their parents to see that the little things can make a huge difference whether it comes in the form of supporting parents during periods of mourning or learning a new musical instrument and sharing a video. A young woman named “Aileen taught her parents that taking the time to brighten someone else’s day can help others focus on the positive and feel less alone.”
The old adage that “honesty is the best policy” seems to have been reaffirmed last year as well. Now, obviously, this must be age appropriate, but as the article shows, children appreciate their parents being up front and levelling with them. One parent “noticed that becoming more honest about her feelings helped normalize those kinds of emotions for her kids…” As children grow older, they wish to be in honest dialogue with their parents. Although our instinct may be to try and hide difficult feelings or topics from our children, we need to remember that our children are watching us and picking up on our feelings.
A third lesson children helped parents understand comes from the old Sly and the Family Stone song “Everyday People,” where they sang, “different strokes for different folks.” Not surprisingly, children have had a wide array of responses to distance learning; we see this variety here at Keystone. Some children cannot wait to return to campus; others enjoy attending from home. I once heard a wise person say that parents do not have second, third, or fourth children; we have a first child the first time, a first child the second time, etc; each child arrives unique and what works beautifully for one child may be an utter failure for the next one. Consequently, we need to listen to each child and help them work from their particular strengths.
A final lesson from Caron’s piece can be seen by observing how Keystone Cobras demonstrate that you should never underestimate a child’s imagination. As parents, we’re in such a hurry to fill our children’s days with activities; maybe one of the blessings of the pandemic has been to teach youngsters to be more creative, more resilient, and find more ways to entertain themselves when they have been homebound. As one parent said, “her kids are happy playing for hours with items they find around the house. One day they colored toilet paper rolls and decorated them with feathers and beads, then used them to assemble an elaborate “parking garage” that spanned the length of their living room. Another day, they drew pictures and hung them in the family’s TV room to create a ‘museum.’ They filled the wall with drawings and asked their parents to buy tickets to see the artwork.” Similarly, in having more time at home together, siblings might have learned how to play with each other and work with one another. Maybe sibling rivalry or periodic bickering decreased as children came to depend on each other since they couldn’t be with their friends.
At the end of the day, we have learned much from a number of sources over the past year. We are fortunate indeed to have some of our best teachers be our children; in the same way they have grown and developed since the pandemic arrived, so have we.