Waukesha, WI

Equip Kids to Face Difficult News With Weekly Family Time

David Petit

Jack Howard, 18, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, attends school with one of the children injured in the crowd when an SUV plowed into a holiday parade on November 21, leaving several dead and many injured. As coverage of the event occupies news reports, children especially have been left feeling frightened and asking questions.

The stream of tough issues for parents to explain can feel unending: social unrest, hate crimes, natural disasters ... the pandemic. Many children and teens struggle to process what they see at school, in their neighborhoods and on the news. For parents in Waukesha, this week, the Christmas parade incident has been added to that list.

The Howards’ well-established routine of family discussions every Tuesday at 7 p.m. has helped parents Todd and Stephanie maintain open lines of communication with their son. As a result, they were able to talk candidly about the effect the tragedy had on him.

The Howard family of Waukesha, Wis., benefit from regular Bible-based discussions.Public Information Desk of Jehovah's Witnesses - Wisconsin

"It’s helped us to get [Jack’s] thoughts and open up his heart,” Todd said.

Each family member tries to avoid letting anything get in the way of these weekly times they spend together.

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?”

The Howards 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 mom 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 mom 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.

The Howards, too, find the material on jw.org to be current and relevant to their family’s needs, and they frequently use its topics as a basis for conversation. In the coming days, they plan to share points from articles on the website to help their neighbors in Waukesha find comfort.

More information, including practical tips for parents on how to communicate with their teenagers, can be found on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, jw.org.

Comments / 0

Published by

Sharing positive stories about the Northern Milwaukee communities through the lens of everyday people

Ozaukee County, WI

More from David Petit

Comments / 0