I started this piece with the idea in mind that west Indian parents need to know what dynamic they are creating when they say certain things to their children. But as I continued to write and reflect on the statements I’ve seen on Social Media or hear throughout the day I realized these statements come from everywhere and in some cases teens are saying it too. We thought these statements would encourage good behaviour but I’m here to offer you a different perspective based on my observations in various communities and the reality of my circles.
If you really want kids to stay out of “big people business” don’t put the business in front of the kids! But since that was the one lesson you chose to ignore consistently, you have to expect that children will have some perspective on the situation and if someone is being hurt or being abused in any regard anyone with a conscience will make it their business to alleviate the pain. Usually this statement is used when someone younger than those involved have something to say that actually makes sense and I find it hilarious to see the reaction of parents who hate to be in the wrong. One thing I know from working with children is that they can see things pretty clear, they are so sensitive that they pick up on the subtleties of other people’s behaviour and use it before we have any idea they noticed, so despite telling them to mind their own business, the behaviours on display are being absorbed. By telling someone to stay out of the business you put in front of them you send a clear message that under no circumstance (including morally WRONG situations) should they speak up, you remind them that they don’t have any capacity to understand life beyond their age, and you inhibit their ability to use intuitive reasoning to problem solve. My main point is simple, children see gaps in our reasoning when we’re too high strung to notice them, and as much as we hate to admit we’re wrong, or misunderstanding something, if we quickly tell them to stay out of big people’s business we encourage a lack of understanding in them too. This statement does not support our growth. As an alternative you can always see what a kid might say and if it doesn’t resonate, then at least they know they were considered and their voice is still important.
Of course some experiences you may not understand as a child because you simply haven’t had to face the reality of what it takes to get there. But in order to prepare kids for the future you actually need to break down the realities that they are on the verge of facing. Many young adults grow up not understanding finances because we’ve never actually been taught. We came to understand debt as we started post secondary education. We were told to save, but never given reason, we were shown how to spend, but not how to invest and now we understand because we are older. This isn’t to say that all children will understand adult topics right away, but like anything else we learn it takes time to finally get it, and the younger we are introduced to the reality of adulting the better our ability to navigate, cope and heal through difficult situations. As an alternative you could break down the difficult situation into smaller bits to help children/ young people understand, this breaking down might actually help you too in understanding the situations you face, then we all win. By shedding light on the circumstances that make life difficult we help to raise resilient kids. No we are not robbing them of their childhood and telling them to get a job at 7 years old, we are simply saying here is an interesting part of life.
This statement is so messed up to me (but I will try to be cool in the explanation) because it makes the person saying it look like a saint regardless of the way they stand in the way of your free will. It also gives us a quick shot of guilt because kids truly don’t want to question their parents, but sometimes we really have to. There are instances where the statement I’m trying to protect you works, particularly in the case of violence or serious danger, but when it comes to regular life stuff, you can’t protect anyone from their feelings because they need to be felt. Parents I speak to you most because it’s in you to want to protect your child from anything that may potentially hurt, the reality is, without the experiences of hurt we actually don’t learn how to deal with it or our reaction to hurt. We don’t actually grow from avoiding emotions we simply stop. When you shield us from the painful life experiences you are protecting your image of being a good person rather than supporting the ultimate goal of parenting which is to help us grow. And so I urge you, STOP trying to protect us, we will be alright your support is more than enough. Reality is what it is and bubbles are not reality. Alternatively, just continue to support us keep the communication lines clear, we will respect you so much if you recognize that we have to be the ones to make tough decisions because it shows you also respect our autonomy.
Of course there are times when praying and reading works, but there are a lot of instances where we just need to speak to you. We value your insight, we feel you may understand or we simply think you may know more about the experience. When you deflect from having genuine conversations about challenges we face, you can expect that eventually you will be the last person we speak to in the future about other challenges. Even if you don’t know the answers, we still appreciate the opportunity to connect and receive your support. Alternatively, you can also just ask if we want to talk, and then you’ve at least created the space to connect.
While I was writing this piece I had it in mind to remind parents that your kids are always watching not as a way to put pressure but as a way to share that you don’t need to keep secrets from us. Many of us are aware that communication between parents and children was one directional. But now that you are in the position to teach a better way, we also urge you to reflect on what you wish you could have experienced with your own parents so that we can break the cycle of poor communication and destructive parent-child relationships.We actually want to talk to you and speak about all the great and not so great things that happen to us, but that’s nearly impossible the moment you begin to make us feel small or that our perspectives are not respected. History has taught us that we must fear our parents, but fear disables, it does not enable the possibility of creating life giving relationships. So hopefully the next time you are on the verge of making one of the above statements or something similar, try to ask yourself if this would actually support my child’s growth.