By Lillian Henricks, PsyD.
When Covid-19 started we questioned what we can do to stay healthy, trying to focus on what is in our control rather than what is not. Now, amidst unrest and political polarities we can ask ourselves a similar question — what is within my capacity facing these circumstances? How can I respond and in so doing teach my children to do so? Can I indeed respond and not react?
Often our own thoughts are not even in our control. This is why cognitive therapy is so prominent. And although our words and behavior are more under our control, these often depend on our level of understanding and our capacity of will to make choices freely, both of which are vulnerable to weakness. Lest we give up hope, however, seeking to know things more clearly and to choose more freely is a lifelong journey.
What might this process of seeking and choosing look like in these times? We could step back from the rhetoric and focus on our common humanity, modeling this to our children. We can try to refrain from blame or stereotype, even when there are easy targets. We could take into consideration that every person is formed by heritable factors and environmental circumstances, many outside of the individual’s control. With this said, there are reasons why that person experiences and views the world so differently than I do – physical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual reasons, among others.
Can we aim to embrace that person, so utterly different than ourselves, resisting the temptation to vilify them when this is what is preeminent and such vilification sells news? Can we strive to have mercy and compassion, hoping that if these persons are genuinely harming themselves and others that they can be free of this behavior? Can we love and forgive them, remembering that doing so in no way agrees with or permits illicit behavior?
Such a tall order! As I sip Sleepytime tea from my Mackintosh mug so generously provided by the Parent Council, I am reminded how at Mackintosh we strive to develop Keen Minds, Compassionate Hearts and Global Action within our students. May we follow your lead as primary educators in this regard. What beautiful children you have! As we find our way together through these circumstances may we remember that it is in our capacity to seek understanding and to choose love, despite the pull to the contrary and despite our own inadequacies. In this endeavor may we enhance our children’s beauty as they learn from us to do the same.