The stream of tough topics for parents to explain can feel unending: social unrest, hate crimes, natural disasters and the pandemic. Many children and teens have struggled to process what they see at school, in their neighborhoods and on the news.

The Galvan family of the Central Valley sets aside time each week from their busy schedules to confront these challenges.

“We as parents work to create a comfortable space for our kids to talk about the scary things going on around us, like the California fires and natural disasters,” David Galvan said. “Just being able to talk freely and to ask questions means a lot,” Landen Galvan, 15, said.

Weekly family discussions have helped relieve anxiety for all five members of the Galvan family. “We discussed the mentality of people and our concerns, especially when riots and shootings were dominating the news,” Nikki Galvan said. “It’s nice to have an open floor discussion to hear what’s on everyone’s minds and see how the kids feel.”

In an ever-changing and challenging world, experts recommend regular family discussions to help young ones build resilience.

“Good communication is essential for a child’s survival in this world,” said James Wright, a California-based family counselor and conflict resolution mediator. “Why not have a family discussion once a week and talk about what’s going on in your lives?”

The Galvan family is not alone in holding to a set time to have family discussions. For nearly two decades, families of Jehovah’s Witnesses like theirs around the world have been encouraged to make “family worship” an uninterrupted weekly routine.

“For many of our families, their weekly discussions are among the most important hours of the week,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It has brought thousands of our families closer together and helped children feel safe and loved.”

In hurricane-pummeled New Orleans, the Andrades address safety concerns with their two sons during their regular family worship night.

“On one of our family nights, we were able to put our emergency go bags together and practice what we would do if we were to get separated during a natural disaster,” said Ashley Andrade, who safely evacuated with her family before Hurricane Ida uprooted trees and downed power lines on their street.

Her family strengthened this routine in 2009 when Jehovah’s Witnesses reduced their midweek meetings from two to one, freeing up an evening each week for families to enjoy such time together. 

“Meeting in large groups for worship is a Bible command, but the Bible also tells parents to make time to talk with their kids,” Hendriks said. “The change to our weekly meetings helped families to prioritize unhurried Bible discussions tailored to their needs.”

For the Cariagas of Lomita, California, their weekly discussion provided a time to promptly address racism when their three girls saw news reports about hate crimes targeting their Asian community.

“The articles on about prejudice and the video about anxiety were really helpful,” said Lorrie Cariaga, referencing free resources on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where they often turn for practical and Scriptural solutions to family concerns.

Along with serious topics, the Cariagas mix in singing, dramatic performances, and hiking in their family worship together. “Family time is like an open space; it's relaxed, and it's always fun,” said Sophie, 14.

Family nights have meant a great deal for Makayla Galvan, 13, who said, “It’s a time I can count on each week, where we can come together as a family and help each other.”


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