The stream of tough topics for parents to explain can feel unending: social unrest, hate crimes, natural disasters and the pandemic. Many children and teens have struggled to process what they see at school, in their neighborhoods and on the news.
Michelle and her husband Robert, who formerly worked in Lassen County, are no strangers to addressing these tough issues each week with their young daughter Sophia, 7.
“Having scheduled family nights is crucial,” relates Michelle. “We try to make these planned nights fun, so our daughter looks for-ward to them and feels relaxed enough to share what’s on her mind.”
Between news of different COVID-19 strains and shootings across the country, the family noticed their daughter began experiencing negative thoughts.
“We started monitoring her mood more regularly, and we’ll use our family nights to address important issues or questions she might have,” said Michelle. “Each week, we try to do something new that’s appropriate for her age group, whether it’s researching a topic she has issues with, playing games or watch-ing animations on jw.org.”
In an ever-changing and challenging world, experts recommend regular family discussions to help young ones build resilience.
“Good communication is essential for a child’s survival in this world,” said James Wright, a California-based family counselor and conflict resolution mediator. “Why not have a family discussion once a week and talk about what’s going on in your lives?”
Michelle and Robert are not alone in holding to a set time to have family discussions. For nearly two decades, families of Jehovah’s Witnesses like theirs around the world have been encouraged to make “family worship” an uninterrupted weekly routine.
“For many of our families, their weekly discussions are among the most important hours of the week,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It has brought thousands of our families closer together and helped children feel safe and loved.”
In hurricane-pummeled New Orleans, the Andrades address safety concerns with their two sons during their regular family worship night.
“On one of our family nights, we were able to put our emergency go bags together and practice what we would do if we were to get separated during a natural disaster,” said Ashley Andrade, who safely evacuated with her family before Hurricane Ida uprooted trees and downed power lines on their street.
Her family strengthened this routine in 2009 when Jehovah’s Witnesses reduced their midweek meetings from two to one, freeing up an evening each week for families to enjoy such time together.
“Meeting in large groups for worship is a Bible command, but the Bible also tells parents to make time to talk with their kids,” Hendriks said. “The change to our weekly meetings helped families to prioritize unhurried Bible discussions tailored to their needs.”
For the Cariagas of Lomita, California, their weekly discussion provided a time to promptly address racism when their three girls saw news reports about hate crimes targeting their Asian community.
“The articles on jw.org about prejudice and the video about anxiety were really helpful,” said Lorrie Cariaga, referencing free resources on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where they often turn for practical and Scriptural solutions to family concerns.
Along with serious topics, the Cariagas mix in singing, dramatic performances, and hiking in their family worship together.
“Family time is like an open space; it’s relaxed, and it’s always fun,” said Sophie, 14.
Family nights have become an event that Sophia gets excited about every week.
“I like it when we all come together,” she shared. “It feels good when we’ve got the whole family.”