GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Kirsten at Graphic Organic

How To Be Productive During A Flare

Whenever I have a flare and I can’t get off the couch, I feel like a burden. Sound familiar?

Before I go into detail, I want to point out that resting is being productive, and it is NOT a waste of time. I know it’s cliché, but it’s just true. Our bodies need to rest in order to heal.

It’s not my fault I became ill, so I shouldn’t feel guilty about resting. I’m still learning to listen more to my body, but that desire of wanting to do something ‘useful’ is a feeling I can’t get seem to get rid of.

I made a list of four activities that don’t require much energy, can be done from bed, and will also give you that satisfied, productive feeling. These are just ideas, and may not be for everyone, but they are here to help you get through a flare.

1. Clean up your e-mail

I always put off cleaning up my e-mail. I have a full inbox with at least 100 unread e-mails. It’s a task I put on the bottom of my to-do list because it’s not urgent and I just hate doing it. Whenever I can’t work, I delete old e-mails and unsubscribe from newsletters I no longer need.

I’m always afraid I will accidentally delete important e-mails. Here’s a neat tip: I like to type a certain word or sentence like ‘Urban Outfitters’ or ‘Forever 21’ in the search box and you’ll get all advertising e-mails on one page so you can easily delete them without worrying about other e-mails.

2. Educate Yourself

You know that famous quote: ‘knowledge is power’? Being on bed will give you time to educate yourself and expand your horizons. Choose a topic that interests you and learn more about it by reading a non-fiction book, take a free online course, do some online research, listen to a podcast, or watch a few YouTube videos. When I suffer from brain fog the last thing I want to do is concentrate. Your topic can be light and fun. Learning more about your favorite film is just as powerful!

I’m a huge fan of the podcast A Mile Higher from Kendall Rae and Joshledore who discuss topics like space, crime, and history. They explain extremely difficult topics in simple terms and teach you how to be more open-minded.

Listen here: http://milehigherpodcast.com

3. Get Inspired

Do you have no idea what you’re going to have for dinner? Is there a themed birthday party coming up? Are you experiencing a writer’s block? Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it on Pinterest or We Heart It. Even if you are not looking for something particular, scrolling through these apps will inspire you in any case. Taking some time off from what you’re overthinking about and allowing yourself to browse, will help you to gain motivation, new ideas, and information.

Feel free to follow me on Pinterest and We Heart It.

https://www.pinterest.com/graphicorganic/

https://weheartit.com/graphicorganic/collections

4. Organize Your Phone

I like to have a clean, fresh room where I can find everything. So why would I want my phone to be a mess?

There’s already so much information we have to take on every day. Having an organized phone will help you to feel less overwhelmed by technology. And it looks just nice too.

Delete apps you never use, choose a new background. Delete old text messages.

I organize apps that belong together in files. For example, all the music related apps (Spotify, Podcasts, Radio Belgium, Sorcerer Radio) are in one file called ’Music‘ so it’s easy for me to find and navigate. Some people even coordinate their apps by color. If you have no idea how to get started, there are loads of ”What’s On My iPhone” videos on YouTube to get inspired.

I’d recommend watching ”Lucy & Lydia’s What’s On My iPhone” videos. They are so uplifting and include some interesting Instagram tips.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5Ap5GLu3l0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwYl-rX8s_E&t=7s

Where to find Graphic Organic:

Website: https://www.graphic-organic.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/graphicorganic/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/graphicorganic/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/graphic_organic

The Girl Who Suffers

[clickToTweet tweet=”The question to ask ourselves is: Does it matter to the flowers which butterflies are damaged or not? Should It matter to us?” quote=”The question to ask ourselves is: Does it matter to the flowers which butterflies are damaged or not? Should It matter to us?” theme=”style1″]There is a saying, “you win some, you lose some”. But what the saying doesn’t tell you is what to do WHEN you lose, especially when you lose again and again and again and again.

I have discovered that in reality, the only person who can give you life tips on how to react when life gives you losing experiences over and over again is yourself. At these perilous times, you show yourself your own true nature in how you react to hardship and adversity. For some, this can be very revealing. It was for me.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I have discovered that in reality, the only person who can give you life tips on how to react when life gives you losing experiences over and over again is yourself. You will show yourself your own true nature in how you react to hardship and adversity. ” quote=”I have discovered that in reality, the only person who can give you life tips on how to react when life gives you losing experiences over and over again is yourself. You will show yourself your own true nature in how you react to hardship and adversity. ” theme=”style1″]

In a recent session with my therapist, I was lamenting over my current health situation (my double lung transplant had officially failed, I had been diagnosed with chronic rejection and bronchiectasis, back on oxygen, and was not eligible for another transplant, among other things… but that’s another post entirely…) Anyway, I was feeling sorry for myself and very stereotypically whining and carrying on; “But this isn’t the way this was supposed to happen! This isn’t the way I wanted it! I didn’t want this!” Then, almost immediately, I felt pangs of guilt for all my griping. “I’m supposed to be the strong one. I’m supposed to be The Girl Who Smiles despite everything and keeps on going, no matter what happens. I’m the positive girl. I’m the girl who shows everyone it can be done!” And then I sat there in silence, feeling despondent, disappointed in myself, a failure to my family, my friends, and especially my peers and chronic illness colleagues.

“What if you weren’t those things?” he asked most decidedly. “Maybe you’re the girl who suffers.

***

At a Bible Education event we attended recently we learned about the perseverance of the butterfly. This seemingly delicate insect is actually a strong, resilient, determined marvel of creation. This tiny creature can lose up to 70% of its wings and will still continue in its work of flittering from bud to bud, pollinating and making sure the circle of life continues. It doesn’t matter that it’s damaged. It doesn’t phase it one bit that it is difficult to go on, maybe even to the naked eye impossible to go on… it just keeps going! It knows what it has to do, so it just does it. Despite its being battered, beaten, torn, and scarred – it still flies. The question to ask ourselves is:

Does it matter to the flowers which butterflies are damaged or not?

Should It matter to us?

 

***

The Girl Who Suffers?

What in the world was that supposed to mean?

I looked at the man blankly. He waited patiently, knowing it would sink in eventually.

“So, I’m supposed to show people The Me that just sat here in this office and went Ugly Cry on you like a mad-woman? How would that help anyone?”

He just smiled, cryptically, like only a therapist can.

After leaving the office, I considered that concept for a long time. “The Girl Who Suffers.”

That damaged little butterfly lingered in my thoughts; learning about her perseverance despite all odds and determination to fulfill her work and purpose had really helped me.

I relate a lot to that little butterfly. I’ve experienced many terrible things in my lifetime. Many are related to illness, many are not. Either way, I, too am battered, beaten, torn, and scarred by everything that’s happened.

Despite all that though, just like that deceptively delicate butterfly, I don’t want these things to affect my purpose. I am determined to keep going. I am determined to continue. I will not let my adversities, my problems, my past stop me from doing my best or from fulfilling my purpose and completing the work that I know I am purposed to do.

But does having this determination and perseverance mean that it’s easy for the butterfly to fly with torn wings, and at the same time does it mean that it’s always sunshine and rainbows for me?

Most days, I am easily positive. Most days, I am happy. Most days, I’m smiling and feeling determined and hopeful about the future.

But, not every day.

Some days my body is wracked with pain. Other days, I’m throwing up from side effects from medications. Sometimes, it hurts simply to breathe, or I’m too short of breath to move around even my tiny little house. At other times, it may not be the physical, but the emotional or mental sides of having a lifelong, terminal illness that catches up with me. Feeling like your a walking expiration date can bring its own side of turmoil – anxieties, panic attacks, sleeplessness. Yes, occasionally my spirit is low, and I feel like my wings just cannot beat anymore. That’s just my reality.

Overcoming adversity isn’t about the problem itself, it’s about your reaction to the hardship. Part of the reaction needs to be having a positive attitude. The other vital part must be a strong, unflinching belief that you will come past the trial, even if it takes time, and on the other side, you will be a better person, a stronger person, knowing more about yourself.

 

[clickToTweet tweet=”The hardest part in overcoming adversity is being the victor over your own self – your own weaknesses, doubts, insecurities. Dealing with The Self and all the emotions that go along with it is possibly harder than the trial itself.” quote=”The hardest part in overcoming adversity is being the victor over your own self – your own weaknesses, doubts, insecurities. Dealing with The Self and all the emotions that go along with it is possibly harder than the trial itself.” theme=”style1″]

 

This is what I’ve discovered about overcoming adversity – the hardest part of it is being the victor over your own self – your own weaknesses, your own doubts, your own insecurities. Dealing with The Self and all the emotions that go along with it is possibly harder than the trial itself.

Being triumphant over a trial in itself is useful because it teaches a person who they really are, what they can handle, what they need to work on in their personality. It can also teach you your passions, desires, inner truths, and it will definitely let you know if something in your life is off-kilter (whether physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). If you experience this – listen and fix it! It will make you a stronger person, and you want that when you come to face your next set-back, whatever it may be.

In my case, it taught me that what I need and want to do in my life is to help others through their struggles with my own experiences. I never want anyone to ever feel alone.

What I have come to learn, and what I want to teach other people, is that in the midst of your adversity it’s OK to feel what you feel. During your trial, your problem, your tragedy, you’re going to have days when you feel terrible,

you’re going to have days where you snap at people because your situation is so bad,

you’re going to have days where you don’t want to get off the couch,

you’re going to have days where you feel like this is never going to end and you want to give up,

you’re going to have days where you cry so hard that you feel like you’ve literally dehydrated yourself,

and you’re going to have days where you feel like the man Job in the Bible (who I think is the person who’s experienced the worst of all aspects of life) where he even wished he had never even been born.

And guess what? It’s OK to experience all of those things! It sounds a little cheesy, but be open with yourself and give yourself permission to feel all those things. Don’t hide them.

 

[clickToTweet tweet=”To overcome a hardship you must have a strong, unflinching belief that you will come past the trial, even if it takes some time, and on the other side, you will be a better, stronger person, knowing more about yourself.” quote=”To overcome a hardship you must have a strong, unflinching belief that you will come past the trial, even if it takes some time, and on the other side, you will be a better, stronger person, knowing more about yourself.” theme=”style1″]

 

The Big Thing – the tell-tale – is after you’ve experienced all the crying and the pain and the bad feelings and you’ve got all of it out of your system (for the moment) – do you then brush yourself off, wash your face, drink a little coffee, have a cuppa tea, (whatever) and then put on your game face on and get ready for another day?

OR

Do you chose to allow yourself to remain in a negative abyss?

What does your REACTION to what happens to you tell you about yourself?

In a sense, I realized that by trying to force myself to be The Girl Who Smiles, I had been lying and being dishonest with myself, placing on a lot of unnecessary pressure, thereby not letting my adversities be truly and fully overcome.

I decided I didn’t want to be afraid any longer of showing people this real side of myself, the whole reality of going through what I go through every day. My reality. Through my journey to help others who deal with transplant and chronic illness and immune system disorders (etcetera), I discovered that I don’t want to make people feel bad by putting on the impression that I am positive and happy and sunshiny all the time. That’s not realistic. I have realized that being The Girl Who Smiles is a façade and that by contributing to the portrayal of that façade, I will make other people feel bad about their own journey and their struggles, instead of helping them through their adversity. In the end, this would be, not accomplishing what I have set out to do, but the complete opposite.

And so we come to The Girl Who Suffers. Perhaps it sounds very bleak. But, in reality, it’s because it’s my true identity. My life since the time I was born has been speckled with suffering. Suffering through severe illness including lung diseases, severe immune deficiency disorders, autoimmune disorders, constant life-threatening infections, severe allergies, bladder problems, sinus problems, bone problems, muscle problems, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy, chronic pain, etc….. Suffering through over 30 surgical procedures including a double lung transplant. Suffering through a very painful divorce. Suffering through childhood trauma and medical procedural trauma and emotional abuse and now having to deal with a new diagnosis of PTSD having to attempt to heal myself from this emotional and mental brain injury. Suffering from disappointment after thinking that doctors found a fix for my problems only to find out that was not the case and getting sick again. Suffering from the loss of friendships after people couldn’t deal with my terminal illness – which was probably one of the most painful things to have to deal with – the disappointment of human failures. Suffering, suffering, suffering. The Girl Who Suffers.

I have suffered and that’s terrible, of course. However, that’s not all there is. I have gained extremely valuable treasures through all of this – experience, knowledge, fellow-feeling. Through my suffering, I can use these to ease the suffering of others. And to me, that has made my own hardships worth it. It has shaped me and helped form me into who I am, and has given me the ability to be empathetic, sympathetic, and emotionally sensitive to those around me. I can show people through my experiences, my past, and my adversity that it can, in fact, be done; you can get through it, we all can.

No, it won’t be easy. Just like the broken little butterfly, we may have to flap our broken, torn, scarred wings harder than some of the others around us to get from flower to flower, but it can and will be accomplished. It will be accomplished.

C’mon. We can fly together.

Small Town Girl

“Home – what a wonderful word.” – Anne of Green Gables

I stare at the back of the U-Haul trailer as my husband drives down Highway 190. Another tear slides down my cheek, despite my best efforts to choke down my emotions, and I try to nonchalantly wipe it away before he sees it. I can’t believe we have to move. I know Leland will be there with me, of course, but I cannot imagine having to live in Houston. A city. Blah. We brought our own furniture, lots of pictures, and other things to make us comfortable, but I am already convinced – it won’t be Home.

***

When I was 10 years old, my parents decided to move to a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy rural town called Jasper, Texas. In my view, it was nothing but trees and bugs – boring, uneventful, and country-bumpkin. I hated it. Already then, I started planning – I couldn’t wait for the day I could move out!

By the time I graduated from high school, I was ready. I was going to college in The Big City to be a Metropolitan Girl at last.

Six months later, The Dream had died. I realized I wasn’t a City Person, but a Small Town Girl.

It wasn’t just the traffic, the constant noise, and ozone warning days, but the people were different, too. I felt lost in the crowds; an even tinier speck in the sands of Planet Earth than is necessary for a person to feel. I didn’t like that feeling. But, alas, the universe reinforced my identity by forcing me to remain in my urban life way past its expiration date. At the end of my five years of destitution, I was so happy to go Home to my teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy country town. I never wanted to leave again.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I felt lost in the crowds; an even tinier speck in the sands of Planet Earth than is necessary for a person to feel. I didn’t like that feeling.” quote=”I felt lost in the crowds; an even tinier speck in the sands of Planet Earth than is necessary for a person to feel. I didn’t like that feeling.” theme=”style1″]

***

Here I am. Leaving. Moving. I know it’s what I have to do for my double lung transplant – it’s a requirement. But, now that it’s happening, I feel like I’m being physically ripped apart.

I close my eyes and see our little house, every inch of it built by our family and carefully designed by myself and my husband, my Mom and friends.

I picture the lake nearby our town, sparkling in the summer, blue sky reflecting and making it look bluer than I know it really is.

I breathe in and can almost smell the pine trees that go on for miles in the National Forest.

I imagine all the faces of my friends, my truest of true family, precious people that have known me forever and understand my real self…

Home.

Will I ever see it again? Am I ever coming back?

I can’t think about that now. I have to steel myself for what’s ahead. Wipe those tears, girl. You have work to do.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Wipe those tears, girl. You have work to do.” quote=”Wipe those tears, girl. You have work to do.” theme=”style1″]

****

People have this cliche saying, “Home is where your heart is.” I think maybe the people who say this most often are the ones who have never had the threat of their Home being taken away. It alludes to the fact that wherever your family is, is where your Home is, no matter where you are at the time.

It has been my experience that is not true.

For me, Home is a combination of factors that come together to a rare ultimate perfection.

Home is my husband Leland.

Home is our tiny house in the back of my parent’s property, where we live in what we like to call (as a joke) The Ford Compound with my parents, my brother, and my grandmother.

Home is my in-laws being less than five minutes away, dropping off dinner and having coffee.

Home is my congregation, a group of incredible people who have known me since I was eight years old, and can tell when I say “I’m fine” – that I’m not.

Home is the lake, and the smell of pine trees, and love bugs that come every September.

Home is having a ton of tiny lizards on the deck and being ok with catching them because their bite doesn’t hurt.

Home is our new dog Copper, who we found as a stray, and is already a part of our hearts.

Home is all those things and more. Home is the box that carries the entirety of items in it. It’s all wrapped up together and if even a single thing went missing it wouldn’t be the same. It has to be for me.

Because when I was in that SUV, staring at the back of that U-Haul on my way to fight the hardest battle that I had fought up to that point in my life, I made a promise to myself. When I asked myself the question, Am I ever coming back? I answered, Yes.

Yes, I am coming Home.

And then I fought like crazy to get back here.

When it was too painful, I thought, I am going Home.

When it was too hard, I told myself, I’m going Home.

When I didn’t want to try anymore, I said quietly to myself…

I am going Home.

And you know what?

It was so worth it.

 

[clickToTweet tweet=”For me, Home is a combination of factors that come together to a rare ultimate perfection.” quote=”For me, Home is a combination of factors that come together to a rare ultimate perfection.” theme=”style1″]

(This post was originally posted in part on the blog That Noise is Mine authored by Kirsty Pickering in conjunction with a monthly guest debate series “TNIM Talks.” To see the original post, as well as read the other guest posts with the theme “What or Where Is Home?” please head to Kirsty’s blog here.)

Hypocratic Oath – A Letter to All the Doctors

Why do people become doctors?

I’m sure for some it is for that altruistic “I wanna save people” reason.

For others, it may have been because they saw a family member or friend die, and they don’t want that to happen to others.

But….

in my lifelong experience with doctors, I have been convinced that a lot of doctors become doctors because they think it’s going to bring them

  • Prominence
  • Fame
  • Riches
  • Bragging rights
  • Approval
  • Pats on the Back
  • Hummers and Lamborghinis
  • Nice Suits and Louboutins

And guess what, it usually does. So yay for them.

But, after a couple years, or five years, or 10 years, or however long – I’m not really sure, because I’m not a doctor… They lose the feeling of what a doctor is really supposed to be. And guess who loses out?

ME.

Well, not just me, obviously. You, too. Specifically, us chronic illness patients that have to go to doctors – one after the other after the other – to try to fix what’s wrong with us. Some of us don’t even know what’s wrong with us; so we go to doctor after doctor after doctor to try to figure it out. Others know what’s wrong with us, but we don’t know how to fix it, so we go to doctor after doctor after doctor to try to do that.

So, in the end, we face doctors constantly – once a week, twice a week, three times a week, a couple times a month (whatever) all the time all we see is doctors!

So, I’ve been able to form quite a scientific theory, if you will, of this group as a whole. And I’ve asked myself —- why do they become doctors?

I had an experience yesterday that was very upsetting. It was because of this doctor that I have been trying to get in to for months (you know the kind). One of my *other* doctors was humble enough to tell me that she did not know what to do for me anymore, and recommended another physician that she thought would be able to help me to a greater degree to get out of the situation that I’m currently in (namely looking down the barrel of death). Out of this concern, she referred me to another guy (I limit myself on using the term doctor at this point, because *well let’s just face it* I don’t want to call him that).

It’s not that this person didn’t have any appointments, or was too busy, it’s that he picks and chooses who he wants to see like it’s American Idol. He looks over my records to see whether or not I’m good enough or bad enough or interesting enough or not interesting enough (I’m not really sure) for his caseload. He dangled me like a carrot on a stick for months. And then what happened? A big fat no! And then nothing. No, I’m sorry that you’re in a tough situation. No, I’m going to make a suggestion or another referral or something else to help you out. Nothing. Wow. That is some serious compassionate care right there, I’ll tell you.

I understand that doctors can’t say yes everyone. And I’m not saying that I’m so arrogant that I expect doctors to make concessions for me in every case. I would understand that if this guy had a bazillion patients he could say “I can’t take you on as a patient because I have too many patients already and it’s too much.” But, I know for a fact for my other doctor that this is not the case. He comes into the office once a week (yes people once a week!) And on top of that, chooses patients via The Voice, American Idol, America’s Got Talent sort of way – like it’s a competition.

And I bet he leaves the hospital driving his fancy red Lamborghini, and cruises up to the circle drive of his giant castle mansion lined with fancy orchids, with his house smelling like cupcakes every time he gets there, too. So yay for him.

But boo for the rest of us!

Why is it that doctors can be doctors without having the fellow feeling for people that they should have?

ALL doctors should want to be doctors because they want to help people. Shouldn’t there be some kinda class in medical school where they teach doctors the reason for being doctors in the first place? Wouldn’t that eliminate a lot of the problems we have right now?

Who am I kidding? If no one was sick in the first place we would need doctors at all!

So, if you’re a doctor reading this post ponder this:

When you’re in medical school, I assume you read something called the Hippocratic oath – doesn’t it say something along the lines of “I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm?”

Well…

You’re harming me if you put me through some kinda weird sick person gauntlet to determine whether or not I get to be your patient.

You’re harming me if you come to my hospital room and talk to me about my illness without ever making eye contact with me at all.

You’re harming me when you treat me like a number on a chart and not like a human being.

You’re harming me when you don’t allow me to have a choice in my own healthcare, and assume I’m just going to do whatever you say without questioning you at all.

You harm me when you say it won’t hurt, or be so bad, or it’s fine, when you’ve never experienced it yourself and therefore cannot say.

You harming me when you’re not straight with me about what happening to my health. Just be honest.

First, do no harm. That’s how the saying goes. Think about that when you say it.

It’s not just words.

Why don’t you try putting yourself in my shoes for a minute before you treat me?

Try applying empathy – it will do your patients so much good.

If I Were A Mother – Protecting Our Children From Violence in Media

The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live…

Adlai Stevenson, Mid-20th Century Ambassador to the UN

The world we live in is filled with terror. Reports of wars, shootings of all types, bombings, natural disasters, and senseless acts of hatred are a daily occurence. Not only are we bombarded by these images on the nightly news, but violence is permeated in every form of media available to adults and children alike.

When I was approached by Kirsty Pickering at That Noise Is Mine with the topic of her monthly guest post, I was apprehensive – I don’t have any children of my own. However, I do claim and love dearly many other children of close friends that I consider my family, as well as my nieces and nephews. I also tutor “my kids” and we often talk about current events for school. Moving forward with this piece, I thought of them, and how they are affected by the world and people around them. I was forced to think about technology, media, and entertainment in a different way – and let me tell you, this project was an eye-opener.

According to research, our children have been under assault by the violence in media going way back to the 1950s. The American Academy of Family Physicians has compiled numerous studies that examine the relationship between violence in the entertainment media and the negative effect on children. In 2000, for example, the FBI released an official report “noting that media violence is a risk factor in shootings in school.” A 2007 report from the FCC stated that there is “strong evidence that exposure to violence through the media can increase aggressive behavior in children.” In fact, one study found the association “nearly as strong as the association between cigarette smoke and lung cancer!”

Why is the association so incredibly strong?

According to the AAFP research, “studies have shown that by the time young people living today reach their 70s, they will have spent the equivalent of 7 to 10 years of their lives watching television.” Their research shows that “families own nearly four televisions, nearly three DVD players, one DVR, two CD players, two radios, two video game consoles, and two computers.” That’s all in one single household! In addition, “media consumption through mobile devices and the Internet is increasing in every age group.” In the Awake! cover series article “The Pressures Facing Today’s Youths” it was remarked, “One researcher thus claims that “‘about 90% of young people ages 5 to 17 use computers, and 59% of them use the Internet’” and we all know that this is probably with little to no supervision. In fact, an estimated 54% of American children watch TV in the privacy of their own bedrooms, where they will witness up to 200,000 violent acts by the time they are 18 – or 9 times every hour!

What an incredible travesty! Why don’t more people realize this is happening to today’s youth? Where’s the outrage? “The Pressures Facing Today’s Youths” states, “‘Despite the consensus among experts,’ observed Science magazine, “lay people do not seem to be getting the message from the popular press that media violence contributes to a more violent society.’”

So I suppose this is the the crux of the matter – it is inevitable that our children will be exposed to violence in the media at some point or another. Even if we try to shelter them, it is everywhere! It is inescapable.

I interviewed a few friends in preparation for this post. Lezlie, a mother of two elementary school age children, told me that her family doesn’t have cable television, and therefore don’t have access to cable news stations. They also regulate closely what their children do on the computer and watch on Netflix. However, the school they attend recently started doing Terrorism Drills. This prompted questions and a quick need for a parental discussion.

So, as you see, even if we try, we cannot prevent our children from being exposed to at least some evidence of violence, terrorism, or negative imaging in the media.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Violence – it’s like the air around us – if you smell something bad, you may try to hold your breath to get away from it, but eventually, you will need to breathe again; and the there’s that smell.” quote=”Violence – it’s like the air around us – if you smell something bad, you may try to hold your breath to get away from it, but eventually, you will need to breathe again; and the there’s that smell.”]

So now what? If these images and influences are inevitable, what steps can we take as parents, friends, aunts and uncles to protect our children as much as possible? What can we do as a community to help them deal with all this bad news?

Internet-safety expert Parry Aftab said, “Kids know more about technology. Parents know more about life.” In other words, we as adults need to guide our children through these tumultuous images, stories, and entertainment choices. But, why not give them the freedom to do what they want?

A ancient Proverb acknowledges “foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy,” or another version renders it, “children just naturally do silly, careless things.”

Our kids are just that – kids! They are prone to the insecure and anxious feelings common to growing up. When you mix in the confusion and craziness of the world that we live in today, navigating to adulthood can be even harder.

What is needed then from us as a community of adults? First and foremost, is regular and open communication between parent and child (or guardian and child, teacher and child, adult and child, etc.). Ongoing communication between children and those they respect and hold dear is extremely important. We don’t want our kids to be damaged by adult issues sooner than they should, but at the same time, we don’t want them getting false information elsewhere. So, they should feel comfortable coming to us when they feel worried about the things they see or hear, never feel afraid or ashamed to ask questions, never feel we are too busy for them, and they should feel confident and secure in they answers they receive. In a 2007 Addition of Awake! Magazine entitled, “Helping Youths Meet the Challenge” it states, “Be assured, though, that they want to talk – yes, to you, their parent – about matters both serious and trivial. The question is, Are you ready and willing to listen?”

Many parents and physicians alike have found that setting boundaries on technology and entertainment can help in regards to the amount of exposure, and therefore helps with the overall effect on the children. In addition, overall discipline in this manner helps set a tone for the family and the relationship between members of the family. In the book The Secret of Family Happiness it acknowledges, “parents must find a balanced way to protect their family from the destructive influences that rain down on them from many sources… Some parents do little or nothing to shield their family. Others… are so restrictive that the children feel as if they are suffocating.” The book goes on to bring out that balance must be struck according to individual families. Parents need to set boundaries, rules, and restrictions, while at the same time training the children to know what is real and appropriate. This takes time, as the parents have to become with familiar with the technology their children are using in order to be able to set the restrictions, and to answer any questions. Imagine – all of us having to brush up on our SnapChat filters! The AAFP recommends setting locks blocking certain ratings or images from the child’s device, or even setting up apps that turn off the device automatically at a certain time of night. The best advice I have seen from all sources is to not have a TV or computer in a child’s private bedroom. This allows co-viewing with the parents, encouraging the parents and children to discuss anything that may come up during viewing or homework, and prevents anything being viewed by the child that may be scary or deemed inappropriate by the parents.

What if our child had already viewed an act of violence through the media? What steps can we take then?

Our first step in teach our children should always be through our own example. If we express anger, hatred, prejudice, retaliation, fear, etc., this is what our child will learn to feel and express. We want to display the qualities that we wish our children would want to display in any circumstance. Remain calm, maintain your love for others, never express extremities.

I asked a friend of mine named Brenda this question, who has four children, ages 11, 10, 7, and 6. “I told my children we are not prejudiced toward anyone. God made a variety of forms of creation, just as he made a variety of people. We should love them all.” Her calm, clear, reasonable reply was what her children needed to feel secure in that stressful situation. Her example in connection with her reply was what was needed in that circumstance.

Lastly, I personally think that to fully help our children to understand and deal with the climate of fear we live in, we should not let them live everyday in a world of fear, but with a hope for the future. If children have to live in fear constantly, it has serious consequences on their psychological and emotional development. Now, I acknowledge that every person had a choice what they believe and what they hope for the future. That aside, I believe that as parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and adults raising these children up we have an obligation to give them something to hope for, something to look forward to. Not to live in fear and terror while they go through bomb and terror drills at school everyday.

Lezlie, mentioned earlier, had that experience with her 8 and 9 year old children. After their public school started terror drills, they decided to discuss the article, “Do Not Be Afraid or Be Terrified” in The Watchtower Magazine with their children in order to solidify their Biblical hope for the future after such an event. She says, “The article is so comprehensive, they really didn’t have any further questions.” Quoted in the article in the ancient Bible scripture of hope and peace, “Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more; You will look at where they were, And they will not be there. But the meek will possess the earth, And they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” Sharing your hope for the future with your children can help them deal with the uncertainty of today.

The world we live in is filled with terror. We live in a climate of fear. Our children our exposed to it, and there is little we can do to prevent it. But there is much we can do as an adult community to prevent them from being damaged by it. With time, patience, planning, and love, we can guide our children into a hopeful future without fear. Are you ready?

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(This post was originally posted in part on the blog That Noise is Mine authored by Kirsty Pickering in conjunction with a monthly guest debate series “TNIM Talks.” To see the original post, as well as read the other guest posts with the theme “Should children be exposed to violence and terrorist events through the media?” please head to Kirsty’s blog here).