Mass gun shooting. Attacks in houses of worship. Even positive movements, like #MeToo’s efforts to create a platform for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories and seek justice, are also reminders of how much violence exists in the world. If you’re expecting a baby, the thought that this fragile, innocent little life will enter a world with so much hatred can shake your faith in humanity. From a fellow expectant parent (my second baby is due in March), here’s how I’m thinking.
Look for the Good
Worrying about the world and future your child will inherit is an age-old parenting dilemma. War, discrimination, and crime have existed since the earliest days of civilization. Despite the barrage of news to the contrary, historically speaking, we live in a relatively peaceful period of human existence. One aspect of life that’s changed is our access to information. We can read more, wider and faster than ever before, and so it’s easy to hear about much more bad news than past generations could access.
- Take a breather from social media and the Internet from time to time, as needed for your mental health. Your stress doesn’t solve problems.
- As beloved PBS star Mr. Rogers said, look for the helpers. Bad news gets more sensational sharing, but stories of individual heroes and organizations that help those in need are out there, too.
- Be a helper yourself. Donating time or money, calling representatives, and getting involved in your community gives you an active role in combating hatred and driving the forces of good.
Find Your Support Network
Because of my family’s demographic background, I have the privilege of assuming my unborn baby will not face discrimination because of skin color, ethnicity, or religion. This isn’t true of all families. The effects of racism, for example, can take a physical toll; studies find that Black women age faster at a genetic level due to the chronic stress of living in a society that judges, demeans, and harms people of color on a consistent basis.
If you’re part of a group facing discrimination and injustice, you need and deserve additional support. If you can afford it, working with a therapist familiar with social justice concerns may be helpful. Building strong bonds in your community, with people who understand and acknowledge the challenges your family faces, can provide a source of strength.
Discrimination due to economic status, ability, and sexual orientation can affect anyone, so any parent may find themselves in a position where they need to advocate for their child’s rights. Recognizing the role of privilege, and seeking extra support if you’re part of a marginalized group, is real and important work for new parents.
Parent for Peace
As a new parent, you have the amazing responsibility of shaping a new life. Your baby will look to you for years to understand how the world works, and what their place is in it.
That means you have an irreplaceable duty to raise your child, as best as you can, to become a good person. Every family sets their own timeline for when to discuss the harsher side of humanity with their kids. You need to find the best balance you can between overwhelming a child and sheltering them from information they should know.
- Look for books, toys, and media programs that show your child a variety of protagonists and families, including plenty who don’t look like you and your child.
- Confront your own biases. Check your language, model dignity and respect for others, and be mindful of snap judgments you might pass on without thinking.
- Challenge prejudice and hatred. Whether you notice it around you or even hear your child say something hurtful, use the moment to start a conversation with your kids.
- Let your baby be their own person. We let the ultrasound doctor tell us “what we’re having”, but ultimately, every baby is a surprise, anyway. Sex doesn’t decide personality, and my child, like any child, will grow up to meet some of my expectations and break many others, in ways I won’t be able to predict until it happens.
We all want peace, safety, and love for our children. Recognizing our role in working to bring down hatred is part of creating the world we want for our kids.