Join Moorestown Friends Meeting’s Anti-Racism Committee for a conversation with Quinton Law and Harry Lewis, leaders of Moorestown Alumni for Racial Equity & Inclusion (MAREI). MAREI formed in the aftermath of a teach-in on racism in Moorestown schools held last spring. (That teach-in was organized by a group that included two young Quakers.) MAREI developed a detailed Call to Action recommending specific steps schools can take to promote equity and inclusion, and are working with the board of education, New Jersey Legislature and others to implement meaningful action. Click here to join the discussion, or phone 646-558-8656 and use meeting ID 815 8781 6369.
As the pandemic continues, and this week our nation struggles once more against the legacy of racial injustice and violence, our children look on.
Children and teens are experiencing the continued uncertainty of Covid and its impact on school, peer relationships, and future plans. Additionally, the events in Washington D.C. on January 6 were deeply disturbing and young people may feel anxiety, confusion, fear, sadness, or anger, and have questions about what they see and hear in the media and from friends. As parents, we’re holding space for our children’s feelings alongside our own anxiety, fury, and questions about moving forward. What follows are resources specifically for children, youth, and families.*
Where to Put Feelings
I was reminded by a Friend that worry dolls are a simple way to acknowledge children’s concerns and help them to find a place to put them. Sitting with a child while they share their worries, fears, and questions with the small doll and put it under their pillow at bedtime may not resolve the feelings, but it models healthy sharing and perspective.
Children need us to hear their concerns, and we can provide reassurance even if we do not have answers. Offering up our concerns in prayer is another way to acknowledge and place them in a larger “container” of our faith. This set of coloring pages “Prayers For When You Feel Anxious” includes both suggested prayers and three different sets of images for mindful coloring.
Young children cannot always articulate their feelings, and they may show us how they are feeling through play or behaviors. Sadness may look like: anger, tiredness, boredom, numbing out (often on screens), displaced frustration, resisting direction from adults. Their anxiety may show up as: anger, negativity, difficulty sleeping (particularly falling asleep), defiance, avoidance, lack of focus, over-planning, and chandeliering (“flying off the handle”).
In her article, Five Things Kids Need in Order to Learn and Thrive During this Pandemic Year (linked below), Stephanie Malia Krauss names children’s need to:
- Feel safe: physically and emotionally
- Know what’s going on (within age-appropriate parameters)
- Feel socially and emotionally connected
- Have time, space, and support to learn and create
- Feel loved and know they belong
Resources for Adults Supporting Children:
Spiritual Practices for Use During a Traumatic News Event from Traci Smith
A Kids Book About Anxiety by Ross Szabo from the “A Kids Book About” series. The inside covers suggests, ”This book is best read together, grownup and kid.”
It’s Not Just Adults Who Are Stressed. Kids Are, Too. — Identifying your child’s emotional and behavioral reactions to stress is crucial, experts say, especially when anxieties are high.
“It’s okay to just be sad” from Courtney Martin and her blog, “the examined family.”
“Coping with COVID-19: A Work Book for Kids and Teens” Designed to help children and teens communicate and cope with their feelings and emotions regarding the global Covid 19 pandemic. Includes writing and drawing prompts to help create a therapeutic experience and provide an opportunity to have open conversations. A good resource for pastoral care for young people (this resource does not touch on death or bereavement).
“Death feels closer”
There may be times in coming days when, in our experience as a meeting, or as a family, or as friends and neighbors, there is a child or young person dealing with loss. A research study published by Penn State University last summer concluded that every Covid-19 death leaves an average of nine survivors who have lost a grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse or child. Millions of Americans are in mourning for friends and relatives, co-workers and community members.
Some of the more difficult conversations I’ve had in the past months with my own children have been about death. My college-aged child remarked during a conversation one day, “Death feels closer,”and has expressed anxiety about family and friends getting sick. A younger sibling has shown up at my bedside unable to sleep, and shared their deep uneasiness about the inevitability of death. “Darn existential questions!,” he tried to joke through tears.
As a parent, I hold my children close and provide what comfort I can. I’m glad for the Godly Play stories they heard and wondered about as younger children, which gave them images and language for big questions about the Divine and created spaces to come close to existential questions we all face about death and aloneness.
Thinking about how we talk about death and helping children develop a vocabulary for loss and grief is pastoral care preparation we can also do across ages in meeting communities. There are excellent resources for children through adolescents for talking about death and dying, that could be recommended to a family in need of support. In addition to this list of books about grief for young children through teens, the titles below are highly recommended.
Suggested Books about Death and Grief:
Giants by A.E. McIntyre, illustrated by ElisaBeth Steines. A gentle treatment of a child’s grief story, written by a parent who lost their own parent as a young child. Website for the book.
The Pear Tree A folktale retold by Luli Gray and illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight. Probably better for older children, the message is that death is a reality of life, but there is always hope.
Death Is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham is part of the “Ordinary Terrible Things” series. A realistic and moving read-along for a child and adult.
The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup is a story about remembering and letting go, and what remains — the forest animals lead the way.
A Little Blue Bottle by Jennifer Grant, illustrated by Gillian Whiting. Thinking about the sadness of losing a neighbor, and what our grief means to God. Includes a page, “Best Practices for When a Child Is Grieving.”
A Kids Book About Death by Taryn Schuelke from the “A Kids Book About” series. The inside covers suggests, ”This book is best read together, grownup and kid.”
*Pastoral Care for our Community during the COVID-19 Outbreak is another resource by my colleague George Schaefer, Care & Aging Coordinator. Adults seeking support can also reach out to the Friends Counseling Service.
Melinda Wenner Bradley, Youth Religious Life Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org. (My children gave their permission to be quoted in this piece.)
Following an extensive search process and interviews with several finalist candidates, PYM Youth Programs are delighted to welcome Aeryn Luminkith as the new Assistant in the Young Friends program. She will begin her work with Young Friends at their Christmas Gathering, December 27-30. We’re really pleased to welcome her to the staff team. Aeryn brings experience with teens and younger youth, has worked as a teaching assistant, art teacher, tutor, and photographer. During the interview process, Aeryn impressed us with her warmth and concern for inclusive youth community, and her interest in creating a balance in programming between playful and grounded energy.
From Aeryn: While working at Greene Street Friends School over the past year, as an after school program assistant and substitute TA, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for Quaker beliefs and values.The Quaker commitment to social justice and equality, where the voices of all community members carry the same weight, resonates very deeply with me. During my time at Greene Street, it has greatly influenced the ways that I interact with students, peers, and colleagues. I have multiple years of experience working with children and youth including two years working with high school students as a photography teacher and tutor in a non-profit youth center. I have also done LGBTQ advocacy work with non-profit organizations in this city. I strongly believe in supporting youth leadership and emotional development through fostering environments of mutual respect, understanding, and equal opportunities. Guiding youth to help them understand and dismantle systems of oppression is something that feels especially important to me, particularly when working with teens and young adults.
Young Friends program Facilitator Lori Sinitzky shared: “I’m excited to work with Aeryn as we plan and facilitate upcoming Young Friends gatherings together. Aeryn brings many gifts to our community, including experience with photography and a commitment to working with youth. I know we have fun times ahead!”
It’s a scene at many a Young Friends gathering: groups of high-schoolers streaming down the streets of a small city that we are visiting for the weekend with a handful of Friendly Adult Presences keeping pace. Some bee-line it for the coffee shop, others peruse the second-hand clothes store or shops of trinkets of local interest, or find the ice cream store which also sells candy and load up with enough for everyone to have a few intermittent sweet treats for the rest of the gathering. This is a dearly beloved free-time ritual in the Young Friends community, and I find that it brings people together to go out into the world and interact with it while being in the context of the Young Friends community.
However, there is a conundrum that I’ve been puzzling about, for which I’m glad to have come to a solution! Some Young Friends have more access to pocket money than others. In Young Friends we work hard to create conditions that mitigate the many oppressions our young people face in the outside world. At the next gathering we have an experiment to try to address this inequality: Everyone will receive 5 dollars before free time. The 5 dollars and no more than the 5 dollars can be spent on whatever a Young Friend might like to acquire (following the Young Friends guidelines) on a walk downtown. Often some Young Friends are less enthusiastic about going on such an outing and those Friends will simply receive the 5 dollars to do with what they will.
In my mind this system has many benefits. All Young Friends will have access to the joy of buying small delights in a downtown outing (as well as the joys of budgeting), should they desire it; no Young Friend will be able to buy enough that they ruin their appetite for the healthy and delicious dinner that shortly follows free time (a difficulty that arises all too often); and finally, while in the Young Friends community, participants will have (more) equal access to resources, regardless of access in the outside world. This is an experiment, to be implemented at the next gathering (taking place in Haddonfield, NJ, which has a lovely downtown!). I look forward to seeing and hearing about the impact. To give feedback email email@example.com.
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July, 31st 2016
To Friends everywhere,
Twenty-three Young Friends gathered for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s 2016 Annual Sessions at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This year we welcomed many new Young Friends attending their first Young Friend gathering. We welcomed them first by introducing ourselves and learning their names, monthly meetings, pronouns, and favorite ice-cream flavors. We also did partner circles where we answered questions such as something deep about yourself that others will not know. The Nurturing Committee prepared queries for us to answer during worship sharing with our small groups. Then we went to bed to prepare for the next day.
The second day we went to intergenerational worship sharing. Then we came together as Young Friends to incorporate the theme of Annual Sessions of transforming in a workshop about conformity which we held outside. Then we checked in with the entire Yearly Meeting. After a delicious lunch, we created and identified Affinity Groups. Then the Young Friends separated to go to Affinity Groups, Committees, and Adult Workshops. During dinner, the Young Friends group “Mantis Shrimp” met and discussed what it’s like to be in the LGBTQIA community. Later in the day, we came together for “All Together Time”, a multigenerational activity to connect the Young Friends community with the larger community. Then we learned about Business Meetings from Traci Hjelt Sullivan. We practiced what we learned with a long, intense Business Meeting. We focused on Sweat Lodges and their potential cultural appropriation. We also spent time on the difficult bathroom situation, which was that only the female-identified bathroom had showers and we wanted everyone of every gender-identification to feel comfortable.
Friday, our planned hike was cancelled, due to weather, resulting in a generally open day. We played many games, including a frustrating game called Four On a Couch and Running Charades. We also completed our business meeting from the previous day, and we managed to come to unity on the bathroom matter. In the evening, we joined the adults to hear a proposal from the Undoing Racism Group and witnessed a heated discussion regarding that proposal. We debriefed the issue in small groups. Finally, Young Friends finished the day with worship sharing.
On Saturday, we began our day with the usual pattern of a healthy breakfast and a spiritual worship sharing, regarding the end of Racism and White Supremacy. Later that day, we participated in a brief workshop regarding the indigenous peoples of our land. Unfortunately, that event was cut short due to a change in the scheduling. We promptly attended a continuation of the previous day’s adults’ conversation. We reviewed what it takes to become anti-racist society and assessed that we have a long way to go. Then, led by wonderful women, a stand-in was put in place to persuade the Yearly Meeting to address the Undoing Racism Group’s proposal.
Young Friends, once again, participated in “All Together Time”. Afterwards, the Young Friends listened to a beautiful, motivational, emotional and overall amazing speech from the lovely Tonya Thames-Taylor. Many Young Friends were extremely inspired by this event and they personally thanked her later. Further into the night, Young Friends got to attend Vespers and worship sharing. Even further into the night, Young Friends got to stay up until 1:00 AM as they played games, strained hair, and gave makeovers and had a lot of fun during late night.
On Sunday, we finished up our final session of business meeting discussing the approval of this Epistle. Then we went to do more work with the Undoing Racism Group’s proposal. Later, we shared our Epistle with the wider Yearly Meeting community. We separated ways to go home and waited to meet up again.
In conclusion, we would like to thank our program Coordinator, Hannah Mayer, and all the other Friendly Presences who made this gathering possible. We would also like to thank the Yearly Meeting for supporting our program. The Young Friends have learned a lot from working with the Yearly Meeting on fighting Racism and White Supremacy. We are eagerly awaiting when we can come together again, to make an impact on Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and fight racism throughout the world. We have had a wonderful time, and it’s going to be incredibly hard to wait for next year’s Annual Sessions.
Young Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting