During this global pandemic, we have all been experiencing major adjustments to our day-to-day lives. And for parents and their children, this has brought its own set of difficulties. Now many school administrators are envisioning a new normal for classrooms this September, which could include students spending part of their school year learning from home. So, from the practical wisdom and inspiration of Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings, we would like to share with you some thoughts that we hope will help you, as an SRF parent, to navigate the challenges confronting you and your family.
Acknowledge the Changed Situation, but Keep a Balanced Attitude
Many of you find that the regular routines of your children and teens have been upended. They are confined — unable to participate in the types of physical activities and sports to which they are accustomed and have little if any in-person social time with their friends and relatives outside of their immediate families. They also face all this with having to tackle new software and computer skills to keep up with academic assignments for school.
At the same time that your children and teens are having to adapt, your world also has changed dramatically, not only as a parent, but also as an employer or employee, spouse, and caretaker responsible for keeping everything going — from paying the bills and preparing meals, to balancing at-home work and helping your young ones engage in at-home school projects, to keeping them occupied and entertained. If you are feeling a little overwhelmed, it is certainly understandable!
We have been so touched by the stories we have heard about how you are handling these difficult times and finding creative ways to maintain a healthy spiritual balance in your life and the lives of your children and teens. Some of you have expressed to us concern that you may not be doing enough, or are not handling situations as smoothly as you can. Rather than add inner pressures to those coming at you from outside, it is helpful to remember that human efforts to deal with unfamiliar situations are always a “work in progress.” Immediate perfection is not a realistic expectation! Please know that God and Gurus are very aware of all that you are doing to support your children, teens, and each other — and are blessing you to do your best, which is all that They ask of you. And while it is natural for your children and teens to focus on what is lacking in their lives right now, know for certain that they do notice your loving support and your efforts to keep them safe, content, and well. This greatly helps to give them the sense of security all children and teens need.
Supporting Each Other Spiritually
This current crisis is an opportunity for all members of the family to come together to support one another spiritually, and the most effective and meaningful way to do this is through practicing the presence of God, meditation, and prayer. These God-reminding actions are of key importance during periods of crisis — they are the true panacea to challenges, because from attunement with the Divine comes inner strength and practical insight to deal successfully with all obstacles in life.
So, especially during this difficult period, we encourage you to find even short periods of time — even if only a few minutes — to turn your thoughts to God and talk to Him and meditate. It is through meditation that you become that calm center that your children and teens will want to turn to when they see uncertainty and turmoil in the world. It is natural for them to look to you to help them feel secure, assured, and protected. Parents must have that for themselves within if they are to share it with their children and teens. Give your heart, mind, and soul to God and Guru. They are well aware of your circumstances. They understand and They care, more than you might imagine. They are always there to strengthen and help you. Talk to Them and ask for Their help and guidance. And draw from Their source of peace, calmness, courage, love, and inner conviction.
Recharge Within Through Meditation
Our Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, once said:
“This world will always have turmoil and trouble. What are you worried about? Go to the shelter of God, where the Masters have gone, and whence they are watching and helping the world. You shall have safety forever, not only for yourself, but for all those loved ones who have been entrusted to your care by our Lord and Father.”
An SRF parent’s first duty during times of crisis is to make the effort to go to that shelter of divine protection in meditation. This does not mean you are neglecting your children or teens. It means you are drawing upon that which will serve them best. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord promises:
“To [those] who meditate on Me as their Very Own, ever united to Me by incessant worship, I supply their deficiencies and make permanent their gains.”
The more deeply we can cling to this truth in meditation, the more we can feel that assurance and convey it to the children and teens in our care through our words and actions. As we all know, they respond more to our attitudes and what we are doing than to what we say to them, if the words are not reinforced by our actions. So, first we must recharge ourselves within.
The power of positive thoughts and attitudes has a tangible effect on those in our immediate environment. This is especially helpful to remember in connection with children and teens. If we feel irritated by them, or think of them as vulnerable, weak, and insecure, they will feel the vibrations of those thoughts.
But if we think of them as powerful spiritual beings who are capable of surmounting all obstacles in their path, they will rise to that challenge and respond accordingly. By having a positive attitude yourself, you influence them to think and feel positively as well.
Spend a little time every day to practice an affirmation; invite your children and teens to join you. Here is just one of the many affirmations and visualizations that Guruji gave:
“I will make up my mind to be happy within myself right now, where I am today.”
Create Balanced Daily Routines
Provide your youth with a balanced, structured, daily routine. This is important; knowing what is going to happen next creates stability.
One way of doing this is to create a plan that includes daily time periods for their school work, divided up with at least a couple of play periods (as they would have in school), as well as for activities that nurture them spiritually.
For example, if your child or teen is familiar with the Energization Exercises, depending on their age and if they are interested, you can include these in their routine — perhaps with the whole family doing them together. Explain to them how valuable these are in helping you “de-stress” and feel connected to the flow of God’s power.
Also, your older children and teens may find it helpful and reassuring to read a brief passage from our Guru’s teachings that they resonate with during this period — for example, a quote on courage or positive thinking. Write it down and use it as an affirmation or as a reminder of Truth. For younger children, this can be replaced with sharing a spiritual story that would be of interest to them.
Including a few minutes each morning and evening for meditation and to pray for world peace can be a powerful source of peace and strength. In our SRF youth programs we have definitely seen that children and teens feel empowered when they feel they can make a difference. Let them know when they visualize the world filled with light, when they pray for all who are struggling at this time, their prayer thought is a real force that goes out and helps everyone.
Keep in mind it is more effective for your children and teens to see you applying those spiritual practices that support and strengthen you, than for you to urge them to practice when they are not interested. As they see the benefits you are reaping, they will be more likely to want to participate.
This daily routine can also include a couple of their own age-appropriate household duties, so that they feel they are making a contribution and are supporting you. Make a special effort to show appreciation for the unselfish, serviceful efforts they are making. And plan for fun periods together — playful activity that releases energy and allows the family to bond. Creating a routine will help the whole family.
Make Up Your Mind to Be Happy
Remind your children and teens that this difficult period is only temporary, and encourage them to be happy and cheerful. Even children can understand and apply these powerful words from our Guru:
“If you make up your mind to be happy, nothing can make you unhappy. But if you make up your mind to be unhappy, nothing can make you happy.”
During family time together, you can invite each of your children to remember and share aloud some memory or some activity that makes them laugh, feel cheerful, or happy. Older children and teens can be helped by explaining that just as we strengthen our bodies with sports and exercise, we can learn to build mental muscles of positive thinking and faith when conditions are unfavorable, remembering that the trouble is only temporary and will pass away. You can help them find or create an affirmation to help with this — one that particularly resonates with their interests, temperament, and stage of development.
Our Prayers Are With You
As Brother Chidananda, president of Self-Realization Fellowship, said, we can use the current challenges as a spiritual opportunity for growth. How true that is! In the midst of all you are facing, you may not realize how much you are growing. But know for sure that with every effort you make, you are receiving God and Guru’s boundless blessings.
We miss seeing you and your dear children and teens, and we look forward to when we shall share our beloved Gurudeva’s teachings together in our various youth programs.
Our prayers and best wishes are ever with you, and each of you has a special place in God and Guru’s heart. May you feel how deeply They love and bless you. Jai Guru!
In divine friendship,