Our Role as Parents

As I type this…damnit to hell, I was about to write something sweet about my kids, but I swear to God, my son just screamed “OW!” at the top of his lungs. I’m not sure what happened, but he’s…oh, for God’s sake, he’s upside-down now, playing on the couch. Kids are weird. 

Well, at least I got cute pictures:

IMG_0532

Kids are weird. Yup. Also, here’s my daughter, because as any parent of multiples knows, if you include one kids, you HAVE TO INCLUDE THE OTHER LEST YOU EXPOSE YOURSELF TO ACCUSATIONS OF FAVORITISM. And yes, she was in motion. She’s always in freakin motion. 

Anyway, the kiddos have been on my mind lately. No reason – they’re wonderful, and Brenna and I are very blessed. They spent about two months doing virtual school but have been able to get back to face to face. We’ve sent them to a Jewish Day School in the area for years but pulled them virtual when we were uncomfortable with the COVID numbers. 

Our experience has been blessed. Our kids are physically and emotionally healthy. That is very unlike students profiled in this Morning Call article, who have suffered mightily during the pandemic. And that is nothing compared to the issues faced by students in Las Vegas. Nevada has long been a suicide hotspot, having the 11th highest suicide ratings – and that was before the pandemic. Now? Suicides are so bad that schools are reopening as part of an effort to clamp down on a rash of suicides.

These numbers are brutal. My wife and I are lucky, and while I like to think that we’re good parents, I’m not dumb enough to think that our kids’ health doesn’t have a heaping dose of luck in it. But…I don’t want to understate the role that parents play in terms of their kids’ mental health.

Sometimes, it’s the little things, but they can be so, so meaningful for kids with certain challenges or issues. For example, take transgender kids. According to studies, suicide rates amongst transgender adults are absurdly high: One study shows that more than half of all transgender people attempt suicide. But there’s good news: Parents who are accepting and supportive of their kids can help reduce these suicide and depression risks. This involves promising unconditional love, support, and using chosen names and pronouns.

Of course, there are a million little ways that this is the case, and your kid doesn’t have to be transgender. According to a 2017 study on suicide and parental involvement, parental involvement and support can have a “significant” influence on reducing suicide. The connection is not a question – it makes perfect sense. Kids grave the love and support of their parents, and that support can help  keep them alive.

Because of my own history, I regularly worry about my kids’ mental health. I regularly think about that nightmare scenario. The only way I comfort myself at those moments is by reminding myself there are some things I can do. Loving my kids – unconditionally – and supporting them – that’s about it. That’s all any of us can ask for, and that’s all any of us can do. 

Keep that in mind in your worst moments as a parent. You matter deeply to them, even when you think you don’t.

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