One of the experiences of the pandemic has been the incredible strain placed on people parenting school-age children. This was acute during times of isolation and work/school from home, but the residual trauma may be felt by children and youth for some time. While no shared experience is the same for everyone, in many ways the circumstances of the pandemic uncovered or underscored an isolation and need for support being felt by families in our society today. This includes our Religious Society; when a family walks through the door of a meeting, there are three sets of needs we should be prepared to support: the spiritual formation of their children, the spiritual journey of the adults as individual seekers drawn to Quakerism, and the family unit as they search for a spiritual community for their family to grow and contribute in.
Welcoming and nurturing a family in the circle of meeting life is the work of the whole meeting, and pastoral care for children begins with pastoral care for their parents or primary caregivers. This care is best served at an intersection of multiple committees and ministries — youth religious education, worship and ministry, care of community, etc. A nominating committee seeks to identify and nurture the gifts of adults in the meeting — including people who are parents (don’t make assumptions about their time for them!). Property committees have a role in creating welcoming, safe spaces where the unspoken message to children, youth, and families is, “You belong here.”
During this time, there have been wonderful examples of meetings staying connected to families in their community. I’ve also heard sadness and worry that because of the pandemic, families have been less present in meetings — Will they come back? That’s really up to us, Friends. Let’s join in recognizing that children and youth are not the future of Quakerism, they are part of the body now. Let’s ask families what they need to participate (hint: child care is going to be on the list). Let’s be open to what we’ve learned from the pandemic and discern what new ways of doing things we tried and want to continue.
As we consider the lessons from the last year and a half, a vital query to lift up is: How can we do better to reach out in love and address the diverse spiritual needs of families with children?
Quaker Parenting Initiative
One important resource for Friends is the Quaker Parenting Initiative. QPI is dedicated to helping parents find direction and spiritual meaning in their parental role as they nurture and guide their children. The QPI website is a place to share ideas, ask questions, learn about upcoming events, find resources and more. Visit the QPI website and the Facebook group for more information and community sharing. Members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting have been active in QPI since its founding, and four PYM Friends are current Facilitators for Quaker Parenting programs — both online and in person for meetings, Quarters, and Friends schools. This QPI flyer can be displayed in meetinghouses and shared with Friends.
Parents Gather at Annual Sessions
While we can’t gather in the residential Family Neighborhood together this summer, we’ll offer a space for parents, primary caregivers (including grandparents), foster parents, and guardians of infants to teens to gather for support and fellowship on Saturday evening, July 31, for worship sharing from 9-10 pm. Gather with others for a time of grounded listening, spiritual care, and joy together. People who are parenting children ages 0-18 are invited to join!
Welcome, Inclusion, & Nurture for People Who Parent
- Building Vibrant Multigenerational Community with Children & Families (bookmark with advices and queries)
- Videos: Welcoming children and families into Quaker meeting (Quaker Religious Education Collaborative – QREC)
- “Faith At Home” section of the QREC website
- Families At the Threshold and ideas for welcome
- Spiritual Nurture in the Home — practices for families
- Coming Together: Talking to Children About Race and Identity Developmentally appropriate resources from Sesame Street for exploring racial justice and celebrating identity with young children.
- Talking About Racial Injustice with Children includes a collection of current resources for families (published on PYM website June 2020)
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