Why In the Know?
As a researcher, I am often searching for answers and communicating information. With somewhat of an elephant-like memory, I pass along what I learn to the person who told me they were looking for a whichamacallit or the person who is looking for a how to recipe for making gluten free pie crusts. Other times, I am asked about scholarships, travel, things for young people to do, or “what the research says”. I am a Developmental Psychologist, trained as an applied researcher. I enjoy working with young people and their families. I try to get to know as much about the communities where I work or who I would like to work with, because it can lead to better relationships and better research questions. Sometimes, I am involved in a research project or come across someone else’s research that is good information to share outside of academic circles. All this knowing – from pie crusts to Pi -needs a place to live. So, welcome to In the Know, a blog for me to share a bit of what I know.
Black American Parenting During the CoViD-19 Crisis
I am a parent and an assistant professor who teaches an introductory course about humanitarian crises and children, Child Protection in Emergencies (CPiE). What we are experiencing with CoViD-19, is a humanitarian crisis. The CoVid-19 pandemic has caused an abrupt shift in the “normal day” and has brought challenges to all of us. In times of crisis (humanitarian), the needs of children and youth are often the last to be attended. While the global community appears to have been a bit better about considering the needs of children at the forefront vs. later in this crisis, we haven’t been super great at utilizing systems or putting systems in place swiftly here in the US. Even more so, the needs of Black Americans are often the last to be attended. To assist with coping particularly for Black Americans whose higher contraction rates of CoViD-19 and morbidity related fatality is only now being publicly acknowledged, stay in side, hang out with your children and try some of these suggestions to help you during this dynamic and challenging period in your parenting and in our lives.
If your children are young, you may have to do additional child-proofing.
Many parents are now at home parenting 24/7 and attempting to maintain a FT job that helps to keep the lights on, the mortgage or rent paid and the refrigerator full. Other parents are on the front lines and have limited time to have hands-on oversight. Whether you are at home 24/7 or you are setting up your home for your children while you are at work, it doesn’t matter how many children you have at home, I don’t take for granted that all parents and adults know what to do now that our children are home ALL day every day. I include in this list simple tips and strategies for integrating the awe-inspiring resilience of African Americans who generationally have had to overcome crises too often associated with being Black in America. The deterioration of Black communities have impacted how we think and transfer skills and knowledge to our children that is protective and models how “we got over”, but now is a time to reintroduce and practice those strategies. Our care for our children should be infused with our ways of being and our care for ourselves.
- Breathe, deeply. When you breathe deep you allow oxygen to reach your brain and you release tension. Your brain needs the oxygen to function at ideal levels. Deep, long breathes are also restorative and centering. When we breathe deeply we can also feel our body.
- Pray, meditate. Both mother wit and research have demonstrated faith is a protective factor for Black Americans! It helps with healing during sickness, with ailments and is calming. Spiritual or religious practice involve prayer or meditating on what is good and well. In spite of what is occurring, Black people historically rely on faith to get through difficult periods. Don’t, DO NOT let go of this practice. If you don’t already, include your children in your faith practices. I have a toddler. Sometimes she is in the mood to pray or practice gratitude, sometimes she isn’t. Today I found her in her room praying on her own, praying and expressing thanks to God. Works for me!
Black Americans have had to manage marginalization and acute societal contractions in the United States differently every time we have an occurrence.
- Express gratitude for those who came before you and made a way. Look to what they did for strength and practical ideas to get through. If you have living family members who can tell you how “they made it” through segregation, the civil rights movement, serving in the military, or being the “first” in their field, now is the time to listen up. Black Americans have had to manage marginalization and acute societal contractions in the United States differently every time we have an occurrence. Call to ask, call, don’t text. Remember, telephones were made for talking. If you don’t have blood relatives to connect with, who are close friends and family you could reach out to for this conversation? A worry for many parents is the lack of inter-generational knowledge-again here is a space to invite your children into this conversation. Learning about how others they know have handled difficulties will likely prove useful for them as they learn about culturally based coping strategies. High school and college seniors, are understandably disappointed with the status of graduation celebrations this year. How might their perspective change if they heard family stories of resilience and persistence when public celebrations and appreciations of academic accomplishments for Black students were non-existent due to circumstance or could only be private and intimate? Turn these interviews into family histories. Tell our stories as keepers of our own culture.
4. Take an inventory of what you have at home to engage your children. Not just the TV or video games. I.e. do you have board games, cards, a jump rope, books, craft kits, gardening etc. Listen, these are connected to life skills that are disappearing but OUR children need them. “Old-school” will become “new school”. Back in the day stories and “my mother”, “aunt”, “grand mom”, “big mom” stories are extra valuable right now. I myself, remember stories my mother told me about growing up in Florida. These stories helps to center me and to focus on making it through this period.
- If your children are young, you may have to do additional child-proofing. They will make their way to your work space right now. Older children may become more interested in what you actually do every day. Consider this a period of additional or new career exploration for your children. Whether you like your current career, job, or position, you have plenty to share with your child about the skills and expertise you use day to day. This is super important for middle school and high school students who may have career aspirations but not in-depth knowledge about what it takes to get there. You could also turn this into an at home assignment. Have an interview with you about what you do OR with your kinfolk. My little learner is searching for her own .com site and joins me for Zoom meetings.
Call, don’t text. Remember, telephones were made for talking.
- Healthy snacks and comfort food. Cooking together can be a to-do and an opportunity for conversations about family recipes or traditions you have been meaning to share. Male and female children should learn how to cook, it is a life skill that is timeless. Cooking at homes means you can make healthier serving sizes and meals. Sautéed vegetables at home can be made with less salt and no butter and still taste good! Sweet potatoes aren’t called sweet for nothing, why add a ton of sugar? You don’t need to because you are just cooking for you and your family not enough for a restaurant full of people. Hand me down recipes, dishes, pots and pans-storytelling time! Everyone will learn from this experience.
- Go back in the day…plan and prepare a sit-down meal. Prepare it not from a can or take out. Make a true home cooked meal. Right now, I bet there are plenty of people to clean the dishes. Turn off the technology, eat and converse. Initially this may be awkward, but give it time to evolve. Conversations at the table often lead to storytelling, tall tales that mix fact and fiction. I still remember, my Uncle William, who loved to fish telling a story about the “wolf fish” he caught that was barking at him! His story made me laugh deeply until I cried and it sent me on a mission to discover whether there is actually a wolf fish, there is! If you are having conversations with family elders, record them. My uncle recently passed, but this memory warms my heart. I am sure some of the stories you share will be heartwarming and you will also be creating new memories to reminisce over in the future. If you are having conversations with family elders, record them.
- Create photo collages, family play lists together, or have your child/children to do this while you are working.
- Home is the first educational space. Lessons at home don’t have to replicate school. My learner is a little one. For example, we count steps, we look for things that began with a specific letter. You can access plenty of educational resources free online that are school like and there are also learning platforms. Be sure to check out the blogs of Black moms that home school, blogs and websites that house Black history, historical and contemporary. If you haven’t been teaching your child Black History at home, believe me, they are not getting it at school BUT they do need it. My research has shown knowing Black History is associated with higher career aspirations, super important, given the quality of our public-school systems, the absence of our experience in American History courses and the lack of Black classroom teachers to hold them to the twice as hard standard. Your child may not want to hear it, but I love the quote from Black Enterprise founder, Earl Graves Sr. below that is taken from the March-April 2017 Publisher’s Page column.
It saddens and alarms me that so many people—and especially young people—seemingly embrace ignorance of history as a badge of honor. They tragically, mistakenly believe that if it didn’t happen in their lifetimes, it’s not worth knowing. It’s a confounding paradox: In an age where we have easy access, thanks to innovations such as Google and Wikipedia, to near limitless amounts of information, we are increasingly disinclined to acquire knowledge and wisdom…Earl Graves Sr.
- For children who can write, have them write letters to family members. It is ALWAYS nice to receive a personal note. This is a life skill. Youth today barely use the USPS, so teaching them to address and envelope may be a necessity as part of this.
- Have your child teach you something they have learned. This may be big of small, let them teach you. Be sure to give them your attention and to provide praise and support.
- Set up a movie night. Pick a classic, how about The Wiz or Roots? I know this is a swing in content and genre, but both are conversation starters. I also know, firsthand, just as you may, Black History and culture are nonexistent, or diluted in our national public school curriculum and in many of our “American History” museums such that youth have no deep connection to Black culture or an awareness of how elements of Black culture have been mainstreamed without any deference or acknowledgement of the origins. I remember taking my aunt to see The Butler, she had lived through this era, talking through the movie, her stories were better than what was on the screen.
Think about the Chips Ahoy cookie commercial with Chuck Brown’s Go-Go anthem Bustin’ Loose playing in the background. Go-go music remains a staple of the D.C. area but Washington formerly known as Chocolate City has been gentrified and there could quickly come a time when people will ask, “What is Go-Go?” or it will become co-opted like hip-hop. Knowing the culture and providing young people opportunities to become keepers of the culture gives them tools to know thyself and correct others who are miseducated. Photo by Charlotte Noelle on Unsplash
- Take walks or have a dance challenge. We do this with our toddler. My daughter almost lost her Natural Born Rhythm, that is another story, and yes it was traumatic for me and my husband! We instituted “Operation Get it Back” with Friday Night Dance parties to ole’ school music with a clear baseline and beat! I bet it is something else with older children. Lately we enjoy listening to D-Nice Home School Club Quarantine and our own playlists of favorites. She will request, “Play DJ D-Nice mom.”
- Laugh. I mean really LAUGH. Find something good to laugh at and laugh from your belly loud and out loud! It might be the recent surge in Teddy Riley memes from the Verzuz battle with Baby Face that are full of inside (our community) jokes, a good sitcom, or a recording of a stand-up comedy favorite, just be sure you laugh.
- EVERYBODY, take naps. Rest is restorative. Turn the lights down low or off and sleep. When I was young, on occasion, my mom would have everyone in the house take a nap. We were all refreshed and better to each other after our nap, even when I pouted on my way to my room. If you happen to make a delicious and healthy home cooked lunch, the itis’ will make napping that much easier.
Practice social distancing, stay in the house and if you must go out, use all the recommended precautions.
By day, I am an assistant professor excited about research that helps us understand how best to support the healthy development of youth, particularly Black adolescents. A night writer, math is a must do in the morning. In my bag is a ball of yarn and a crotchet needle, like my manuscripts, I am often working on more than one project at a time.
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