Back to the Future

Back to SchoolSchool is back in session! My reminder is when I see the line of cars waiting to exit Scott Street off I-45 to get to the University of Houston or Texas Southern University. I attended the University of Houston back when our mascot, Shasta, actually resided on campus. By the way, GO COOGS!!! And I grew up in the suburbs of Houston back when life was more simple than it is now.

My childhood friends and I often have conversations about how fun and carefree life was growing up. Remember when you just played outside until it got dark? Or were able to walk or ride your bike to school without much supervision? I have seen it within my own family and with my friends’ children that things are not how it was for me growing up.

With the Internet so easily accessible, cell phones on every hand, Twitter, and other social media outlets, children are so much more exposed to the negatives of the world. It is not enough to arm our youth with affirmations of a positive day. Stories of bullying, suicide, and harmful acts being committed within the student population are increasing at a rapid rate.

I remember when something would happen at school. The worst that would happen is that person would be teased and maybe mentioned in a note that was passed between one friend to another in the hallway. Then it was over. Now, the event can be videoed and uploaded to a site within minutes, someone can tweet about it, it becomes a status update, a text message is blasted to all contacts and that person is also teased or ridiculed. I empathize with what kids these days go through.

What can we do to help? One thing I have learned is communication is paramount. My parents talked to me about “life” often and I have in turn shared what I know with family members and my friends’ children. We can monitor the children’s activities. We can put parental controls on the television and internet sites. We can volunteer at school activities and get to know other parents and children. We have to pay attention for any personality changes or changes in attire or social group.

Basically we have to be present in children’s lives and make time for them. Sometimes we do not want to acknowledge something is going on and turn a blind eye. Or we get so busy in our own lives that we neglect the kids. Who has not been guilty of doing that a time or two? I know I have been. But it is up to us to lift those children up and support them. This does not apply just to parents, but also to anyone who has young family members, is a Godmother/father, has friends who have children, volunteers with kids, or even works with them.

I think when a child learns there is someone available to listen but not judge and to also love unconditionally, a safe haven is created that helps bolster self-confidence and awareness. We all have things going on in our lives, but if we do not help the kids with whom we interact, who will?

Remember that great Whitney Houston song “Greatest Love of All?” If not, look it up. Ms. Whitney sang beautifully about children and what we need to do to empower them. As this new school year gets moving, that song is worth listening to and keeping in the back of your mind.

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