Every parent has a dream for their child, that he or she will find their meaning, purpose and significance in life. Indeed, the search for meaning has driven humanity since the dawn of time. There is no requirement that values, beliefs or cultures be the same, but human nature mandates that meaning, purpose and significance be fulfilled.
For that to occur in the life of the child, he or she must be:
- UNDERSTOOD - not just heard, but genuinely listened to;
- ACCEPTED - unquestioning respect for our beliefs, feelings and
- AFFIRMED - for our contributions and recognized as having added value and worth.
Meeting these needs traditionally falls under the responsibility of the parents and other regular caregivers of the child. Today, however, the environment around us has changed from regular association with smaller homogeneous groups (within the confines of work, social clubs, etc.), to more robust engagement with a greater swath of people, but more amorphous associations. Maybe not even real relationships at all, but “friends” or “connections” made online. Relationships made or maintained in a digital space are much harder to hold on to and the opportunity for meaningful personal feedback and engagement are more difficult.
This is the ever-increasing impact of technology on our lives, in which information (but not necessarily understanding) makes it possible for the world completely outside a family’s physical boundaries to play a part in shaping its values.
According to the Federal Office of Personnel Management and a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children and young adults spend a great deal more time online than most of their parents spend at work in a given week. The result is that many children have come to depend on their devices as more reliable sources of information, and thus model or influencer of values and behaviors, than their parents. Kids have found in the amorphous "others" (outside of parents and regular caregivers) the understanding, acceptance, and affirmations they seek for determining their own meaning and place in the world. It's a futile and frustrating loop for the family while serving only the economy.
At Birth2Work, our experience has told us that through family leadership the potential damage from such assaults on the family can be managed and overcome. First, parents need to learn about the full scale of human development, from the time a child is born (Birth), to when they are ready to step into the workforce (to Work). While the technology and environment around humans have changed over hundreds of years, the actual ways in which humans develop has not.
Truly leading your family is not to be confused with parenting. While parenting is balancing the everyday discipline, soccer games, snuggles and melt downs, leading your family into the future means developing strategies and long term goals for each individual and your family as a whole. It means skillfully navigating through a much bigger world of influence affecting your child’s life than ever before.
The challenge – and goal – for parents today is to determine how best to raise their children so that no matter what social or economic situation exists, they will be adaptive and capable people who are able to:
- Be economically self-sufficient;
- Engage and interact with others;
- Actively participate in the governance process;
- Learn, unlearn and relearn often; and
- Take actions that prepare them for success in the future.
We must examine what happens throughout an individual’s life - the system everyone is a part of - to understand what it will take to move our children purposefully into the future. Preparing for life is not about successfully gathering and regurgitating information in a closed educational environment. It is about the development of the body, the emotions, the mind, and the soul. It is about integrating real life experiences, fresh information gathered by observation and experience, and establishing a meaningful life born of purpose and commitment to the community in which we live.
We invite you, the parents, to assume a leadership position in your family.