Alison Faison

Being Parents: Working with Our Fears and Values

How did your fears and values show up this year? We have learned a lot about ourselves and our families during the pandemic. If only it could be so easy to create a boundary and say that the pandemic is over.  Transitions and change continue each day for ourselves and our children. God is there with us in the midst of acknowledging that particular circumstances are beyond our control.

I am reading The ABCs of Diversity: Helping Kids (and ourselves) Embrace Our Differences by Carolyn B. Helsel and Y. Joy Harris-Smith.  It is helpful to see how fears and values are simply defined, so that we can look at our responses and move forward into healthy behavior patterns in tandem with growing faith. Helsel and Harris-Smith define automatic ABCs as: afraid, back away, and control. This relates to our physical body’s responses to signals from the animal brain which aims to protect ourselves and those around us.  The authors also created intentional engagement ABCs: acknowledge, be present, and come closer in order to help people stay engaged in learning about themselves and others. “When we start to feel uncomfortable,  we can acknowledge the source of our discomfort. Acknowledge that there is something new happening in you and around you, and that this opportunity can be a gift.” Being present relates to staying curious, open, with a willingness to try as well as and deal with mistakes. “Coming closer means physically remaining in spaces in which you are uncomfortable. Coming closer means actually moving closer toward persons who are different from you, rather than staying away or avoiding them…It means you become a bridge without expectation.” In order to move into these intentional ABCs we need to have most of our needs met. During the pandemic, physical and mental health, economic instability, isolation, and loneliness touched our lives. We may still be in those places where we are trying to fulfill our basic needs. When we can fill our needs we can move into the ABCs of a more just society: Access, Build, and Cultivate.  Accessing reliable information, resources, and interpersonal network connections bring us into reality and community. Building is acknowledging systems in which we and our children have grown up and reframing structures in which those who are marginalized can finally also benefit.  “Cultivate refers to generating something new with what has been accessed and build upon…It also recognizes that we need new methods and processes as we move into the future.”

We acknowledge that our children go through fears and feel vulnerable like we do as adults. Their brains and bodies are developing, so their responses are different than ours. Our homework can be to look at brain research to understand age-appropriate questions and ways to respond to fears in children and youth, as well as learn how to be present and active listeners. Some tools that Helsel and Harris-Smith suggest to buoy up our own attitudes and wellbeing are to access the ROCKS of our foundation: Respect, Optimism, Community, Kindness, and Safety.  We can address our own fears about safety in order to fulfill the need for stability, as well as tap into reliance on God and our faith groups. We can work together to help our neighborhoods, schools, and community centers be more accessible and safe.  Reach out to Calvary friends and pastors when you need to check in with the ABCs. When we do this together, we can be healthier parents for our children.

More to Explore

Celebrating Asian, Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritages

People living in San Francisco, China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia, and all over the world celebrate Lunar New Year. The holiday begins on Sunday, January 22 and continues for a week. 2023 is the year of the Rabbit. San Francisco activities kicked off with the Flower Fair on January 14 and will last through the annual Grand Parade on February 4. During Sunday Studio on Lunar New Year, we will encourage children to read the broad range of children’s books featuring stories of Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families, as well as do activities related to Lunar New Year. It is important that AAPI children see themselves represented in children’s books, history, as well as in dolls and toys. We celebrate AAPI heritage every day, not just during Lunar New Year. I am thankful that SF Unified School District children and youth have a day off to celebrate and commemorate. In a recent SF Chronicle article Mayor London Breed touts that AAPI hate crimes have lowered in 2023. She acknowledges that people still need to look out for one another. The Presbyterian Church USA has written statements against AAPI hate. Here is a statement entitled ‘We see you among us’ from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly on March 25, 2021.

How interfaith collaboration helps us grow

Calvary Presbyterian Church welcomes families of all faiths. At Calvary, many families have one parent who practices Christianity and another parent who practices another faith or is agnostic or atheist. We can create opportunities to welcome each other and hear each other's faith perspectives. Many children and youth have friends of different faiths at school. It can be difficult to share experiences about Christian faith as many folks don’t want to be associated with negative examples of Christian extremism played out in the world right now. We want to encourage children and youth to normalize sharing their faith in safe spaces, so that they can see the commonalities of age-old Golden Rule values that prioritize people over profits, and advocate for the wellbeing of neighbors. Calvary is a Matthew 25 church, as well as a Sanctuary church, so our values speak from Jesus’ words about radical welcome.

From generation to generation: ancestors, us, and our kids

This morning I drank coffee, ate breakfast, and lit candles: twelve connected in a circle, the 4th candle on the menorah, and the four Advent candles on the angel chimes. It is Winter Solstice, also known as the Longest Night. Tonight we will celebrate a long night transition which generations of our ancestors have experienced. We share the Advent theme of “From Generation to Generation” with A Sanctified Art and countless churches across the United States. How do we remember the good that our ancestors fostered while doing good now, and encouraging a sustainable future for our children? This afternoon we will make lunches for over a thousand people to receive on Christmas Eve. Then we will sing together by candlelight in the chapel. How do these spiritual practices relate to sustainability, stewardship, and Seven Generation Thinking?