The Gap by Rose Ann Raspanti
We, parents, educators - society teach our kids to read, write and solve mathematical equations. We teach them to look both ways when crossing and not to speak to strangers. We do. We should. These are critical tools for academic success and overall safety. There is a gap, however, that must be addressed and filled.
For numerous reasons people are losing the ability to relate to themselves and others emotionally. Perhaps it's our obsession with our smartphones that makes face-to-face interaction uncomfortable almost. Think about this -- most of us were not born into the age of technological advances, like our children. We know what a busy signal sounds like and remember the click-click-click of a rotary dial phone. We are capable of old-fashioned modes of communication regardless of whether or not we still practice them. Our children have no frame of reference. Texting is their go to because it's all they've known. Unfortunately, parents have moved to the dark side, as well. Let's face it -- we cultivate in our children what we emulate as parents.
I am not prescribing that we burn our phones, much like women burned their bras in protest for equality or to free us from the burdens of technology. Heck no! Nothing like a quick text to convey a message -- "put on a pot of water"..."do your chores"...."please text when you get there". It's when we use the sanitary text to try and convey emotions that it gets all whacky. Certain things must be spoken -- there is emotion in our tone -- emotions are good for the soul. Face-to-face communication is a rarity. Families eat meals glued to their smartphones, or the boob-toob. That is one rule that will not ever be compromised in my home. Regardless of whether my family argues, yells, spills, disagrees, fights, carries on, goes ballistic, I will not waiver on this golden rule. We unplug at dinner time and discuss our day, or current events, etc. face-to-face without the interruption of texts and notifications.
Children who have not been schooled in this form of dialogue cannot and do not recognize others emotion which pulls the plug on empathy and compassion. Our society, but youth in particular, has become desensitized to human feeling. When we communicate through text or social media, we tend to forget there is a human being on the other end of the message. Because we cannot see facial expressions or hear intonation in their response, we tend to lose touch with the human factor. This leads to our ability and proclivity to say just about anything in text, especially if followed by a JK or LOL. I've been guilty of the very crime I caution against.
It truly does "take a village to raise a child", as the old African proverb suggests. We must give our children the emotional tools they need to ensure their success today and well into adulthood. If we fail to do so, regardless of excellence in academics they will not be capable or able of reaching their full potential personally or professionally.
Parents and educators must broach the subjects and raise levels of empathy in youth for the betterment of the entire generation as well as society. Studies show, and research suggests that the epidemic of school violence and bullying, and unfortunately teen suicide is due to the decrease in levels of empathy in our children. That, for me, is enough to put down my cell phone and build lasting, authentic connections with my children through good ole face to face communication. As children begin to recognize another's emotions, as well as their own -- empathy grows. Families must go back to basics in their approach -- define their values and morals -- and live compassionately towards others. Again -- we cultivate in our children what we emulate as parents.