Are We Really All In This Together? Our Kids Don’t Think So.


Though the lawn signs and the marketing pitches may be telling us we are all in this together, the polar opposite feels true. Never before have we been so divided, so infected with hate, and so vulnerable to the judgement of others. I am feeling it acutely. It is raising my stress level, limiting my conversations, and making me pause before stating medical facts I am confident are factual. It isn’t just me. My children are feeling it. Before being quarantined and terrified they could kill people with their presence, my kids enjoyed relatively hardy emotional health. In the past few months, I have heard multiple times in my home how it might be better if the world would just end. “It’s not that I want to kill myself, I just don’t want to live in this world anymore.” Recently, one of them told me they were afraid to say out loud they wanted to go to school, because people might think them a racist. 

Prior to the global pandemic, we struggled to help our children navigate this poisonous “compare and despair” culture, and our inadequacy showed in the rising numbers of children with anxiety and depression.

And, now this. Our “compare and despair” culture has evolved into a “shame and blame” culture. There is only one way to think, and if you don’t follow the correct voices on Instagram and Twitter, you are horrible. If you thoughtfully consider another viewpoint, you are a murderous, xenophobic person or you are a stupid, uninformed lemming. If you don’t “Like’ all the useless, pandering nonsense on social media, it can mean nothing else than you are a horrible human being. How dare you have an opinion the celebrities may not agree with?

Civil discourse is a thing of the past. There are no examples of it for our children. They don’t see it in politics on either side, in mainstream media, in their own communities and certainly not on their social media pages. The people that run social media conglomerates ensure that two sides are never presented. If your kids follow Trump supporters, they will be fed more right wing drivel, to the point they will never understand how there could possibly be another side. If they follow Biden supporters, they will be served only left wing rants, and the same will happen. 

Tolerance and an appreciation for the differences which make us all unique and valuable are exactly what this country needs more of. We are killing our children’s ability to develop these at every turn. These aren’t taught in schools, even the virtual ones. They aren’t exemplified by adults, who are behaving like children. They aren’t embraced by their role models. Hate, blame and shame are what our children are learning from the people whose responsibility it is to raise them, teach them and model for them. Some are learning it is absolutely not okay to think for themselves, to form an educated opinion or to voice a question. Others are learning the art of virtual manipulation and the power of self-righteous contempt. There is only one way to think if you don’t want to be smeared with a toxic brush. Mask up, shut up. Regurgitate your party’s line. True value lies in one’s ability to make memes and has little to do with compassion or positive action.

These are not the lessons I teach at home. I imagine these are not the lessons you are teaching, and yet, these are the lessons our children are learning. This terrifies me more than any virus ever could. So, no, we are not all in this together. In fact, it very much feels like every man for himself. When there is no respect, there is simply no together. 

We are deep in the weeds, and it is going to take more than a vaccine, more than an election, and even more than Mark Zuckerberg to get us out of this mess. In the meantime, we can control what goes on in our own homes. Be mindful of what your kids are seeing and hearing. Pay attention to what they are posting and challenge them to explain their opinion, whether or not you agree with it. Allow them to question the rules, and listen to their rationale. Don’t counter every complaint with the “it could be worse” blanket response. Help them understand you can disagree with someone and still respect them. Model tolerance even when you want to scream at the top of your lungs. Listen to people you don’t agree with. Take a deep breath and open your mind. Hate is more powerful than any virus, and our culture of venom threatens to far outlast this pandemic. Practice tolerance and empathy. Don’t help hate permeate the world we are leaving to our children.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, Wellness Coach, and founder of Tips From Town. She is passionate about sharing her medical expertise, her coaching techniques and her parenting experience to encourage happier and healthier lives.

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