The COVID-19 outbreak, sweeping over the world bringing death, loss of jobs and economic disaster for so many families, is a stark reminder that life presents problems that are far greater than ourselves.
We remember as teenagers how the world revolved around us. Our problems seemed to be the only ones that existed. When we achieved something glorious, the world shared our triumph. The context of our lives was pretty much centered around getting up in the morning, hanging with friends, reveling in the pleasure, fighting the “unfairness” of whatever it was that impacted us negatively, and going to bed at night. We were the stars of the show.
This pandemic has jarred us into reality. That spotlight that we thought followed us everywhere is instead focused on someone else: those health-care workers at all skill levels; scientists and researchers; first responders who defy any spotlight because they are in constant motion. They are risking their lives to help others.
Dad, here's an opportunity to teach your kids about recognizing the greatness in others. When the family is watching the news, ask your children to point out all those who truly deserve a place in the spotlight. They may not be easy to find because they will be the ones not looking for it. Many of them won't even be visible because they will be working frantically behind the scenes, helping to save lives. You can help your kids to develop an appreciation for the unsung heroes.
So, you think YOU have problems
This isn't to ignore or downplay your kids' problems. On a whole other level, they may have to deal with a bully that is causing them great harm. Your daughter may have to apologize for hurting someone's feelings. Your son may have flunked a test because he didn't study. You would never make fun of them for their seemingly trivial concerns. But you might involve them in watching the news reports on the surge of this invisible viral killer. We see the effects of it. We hear the stories: the man who died because they could not get a ventilator for him; the woman quarantined at home with four children—one of them who has the virus—whose husband-doctor who is battling the disease in the hospital. And so many more.
Me, myself and I
Young children and adolescents are self-centered. That comes with the territory of teenhood. But this is a teaching opportunity. Help your kids see real life happening beyond their mirror. How might they help in a safe and effective way? How could they contribute to the greater good? It's not a matter of dismissing their own personal problems. At some point, those will have to be addressed. It is, however, an effective way to re-direct their attention toward something bigger than themselves. By doing that, some of those personal worries that keep them awake at night just might shrink.