Equip kids to face difficult news with weekly family time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

 

The stream of tough topics for parents to explain can feel unending: social unrest, hate crimes, natural disasters … the pandemic. Many children and teens have struggled to process what they see at school, in their neighborhoods, and on the news. The Clarke family confronts this challenge every Thursday evening at their well-worn dinner table.

“We talk about what we’re facing and what we can do to address it,” said Kai, 16, of this weekly family discussion hour.

“It definitely provides a sense of security for me, and for my parents.”

That sense of security was tested when a gas station went up in flames just a block from the Clarkes’ home in Minneapolis during the protests that erupted there in May 2020. Kai’s father, Khari Clarke, recalled confronting the issues head- on. “God has taught us not to prejudge, not to stereotype,” he said at that week’s session. “When we approach a situation with scriptures in mind about impartiality, then

we’re not walking into a situation already predisposed to be angry.”

In an ever-changing and challenging world, experts recommend regular family discussions to help young ones build resilience.

“Good communication is essential for a child’s survival in this world,” said James Wright, a California-based family counselor and conflict resolution mediator. “Why not have a family discussion once a week and talk about what’s going on in your lives?”

The Clarkes are not alone in holding to a set time to have family discussions. For nearly two decades, families of Jehovah’s Witnesses like theirs around the world have been encouraged to make “family worship” an uninterrupted weekly routine.

“For many of our families, their weekly discussions are among the most important hours of the week,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It has brought thousands of our families closer together and helped children feel safe and loved.”

In hurricane-pummeled New Orleans, the Andrades address safety concerns with their two sons during their regular family worship night.

“On one of our family nights, we were able to put our emergency go bags together and practice what we would do if we were to get separated during a natural disaster,” said mom Ashley Andrade, who safely evacuated with her family before Hurricane Ida uprooted trees and downed power lines on their street. Her family strengthened this routine in 2009 when Jehovah’s Witnesses reduced their midweek meetings from two to one, freeing up an evening each week for families to enjoy such time together.

“Meeting in large groups for worship is a Bible command, but the Bible also tells parents to make time to talk with their kids,” said Hendriks. “The change to our weekly meetings helped families to prioritize unhurried Bible discussions tailored to their needs.”

For the Cariagas of Lomita, California, their weekly discussions provided a time to promptly address racism when their three girls saw news reports about hate crimes targeting their Asian community.

“The articles on jw.org about prejudice and the video about anxiety were really helpful,” said mom Lorrie Cariaga, referencing free resources on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where they often turn for practical and scriptural solutions to family concerns. Along with serious topics, the Cariagas mix singing, dramatic performances, and hiking in to their family worship together.

“Family time is like an open space; it’s relaxed, and it’s always fun,” said Sophie, 14.

Family nights forged something special for Kai, too.

“I see my mom and dad not just as parents,” he said. “I see them as friends.

 

Hakim Lattimore, public communications representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses for our community, can be reached by email at hakimlattimore@rcmtool.org.