Family Matters #20: Challenging Times, Challenging Children Part 1

By Lucia Ferrara

This is Part 1. Read Part 2 Here

We have certainly been through some challenging times this year — especially our children. Now that we can begin to hope to see an end to the Covid Pandemic, many are asking what path we should take forward.

Be Strong Families, the educational nonprofit behind the Parent Cafes that the Renewal Center hosts, offers this guidance:  “Whenever we are facing a challenge in our families, we can think to ourselves, ‘These are not problems or challenges, only opportunities. Which protective factors do I need to build in order to get this situation to be a victory?’ ”

Personally, when I reflect on this statement, I think about how many Developmental Assets we have discussed through our Family Matters articles. The Search Institute identifies Developmental Assets as building blocks of healthy development that assist our youth to grow up caring, healthy and responsible.  Some of these assets include resilience in adversity, responsibility, setting boundaries, constructive use of time, empowerment, healing and safety,  to mention a few.

All the articles in the Family Matters series are available here.

What about the challenging times we have faced this past year? The pandemic exposed so many different elements of what life used to look like and what life will look like moving forward. It’s hard to know what to do. Finding answers requires study, thinking and a heavy dose of faith. We all are trying our best to understand what is going on and trusting this to be a challenge that we — individuals, families, the nation and the world—  can rise to meet.

I believe we can meet this challenge — together.

We have the potential to live out the protective factors because we are equally responsible and empowered to do so. Being a parent is being a leader. Leaders help teach others to become leaders and this is what inspires and motivates me to challenge my children to do the same as they grow into responsible adults.

So where do we begin teaching our youth about navigating through challenging times?  According to an article by Leo Newhouse on the Harvard Health Blog, “Our attitudes and actions partially influence our happiness.” Choosing joy is something we all need to do deliberately every single day.

Newhouse mentions how he turned to literature about resilience and the potential to become whole again during and after a pandemic.  As parents and leaders, we too, need to exhibit a joyful and positive attitude so our children will learn from it.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu  and Douglas Carlton Abrams tells us: “The most important quality to have toward your day is gratitude for what you have experienced, even for what was hard and what allowed you to grow.”

I really feel this is such an important concept, something we should follow for ourselves but also to teach our kids during these challenging times.  Every day we choose our attitudes; we can choose to be thankful, joyful and become resilient in a world where we need to build bridges in our own families, communities, and across the world.

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This concludes Part 1 of my article, “Challenging times, Challenging Children.” In my next article, we will focus on how to teach our kids to reconnect and socialize after the isolation of the Covid pandemic.  In the meantime, please reflect on the following with your family and friends.

  1. Consciously be more mindful, practice gratitude and share kindness with others. Teach your kids to do the same and discuss how it made them feel.
  2. Educate the family on techniques to reduce stress and anxiety and practice them together daily.
  3. Eat healthily and exercise. Plan out family meals together and take walks on trails a couple of times of a week.

[Lucia Ferrara is the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions by using the form below or sending an email to Read more about the Parent Café here.]

Image by Manseok Kim from Pixabay

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