I love my children. This should come as no great surprise. Parents love their children. While many are feeling that our nation is divided, love for our children and their future can unite us.
In my professional career as a pediatrician, I have seen parents experience happiness, sadness, fear, and sometimes frustration but always behind these emotions is love for their children. As a mom, I can empathize with each of these emotions. Throughout my career, I have always thought of my patients as “my kids.” I strongly believe (as every good Mama Bear should) that each of “my” children deserves the best care and the greatest opportunity to live to his/her potential.
I recognize that health and opportunity happen outside of my office or hospital. In these potentially divisive times, how our local and national leaders resolve their differences will affect our children. Their policies may affect our children’s access to health care, housing, education, and food.
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published its “Blueprint for Children.” The Blueprint gives recommendations to our nation’s leaders to “promote healthy children, support secure families, build strong communities, and ensure that the United States is a leading nation for children.” AAP provided this guide as a “comprehensive vision for how the federal government should be aligned to give children a solid foundation.” This road map is not for Democrats or Republicans; it is for everyone. Its aim is to keep what is best for children and families in the forefront of policy making.
These recommendations are not limited to the federal government. On the local and state level, we can work together and advocate for policies and efforts that build safe and strong communities, and ensure that the entire family is healthy, and that children have what they need to be successful.
In the U.S., almost 1/4 of our children are living in poverty. These economically disadvantaged children are vulnerable. These children are more likely to be chronically absent from school, less likely to be reading by second grade, more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to go on to secondary education if they graduate, and more likely have low-level employment for the rest of their lives. They are also more likely to be hospitalized for their illnesses and more likely to suffer from expensive, chronic diseases as adults.
How we support all our children to live to their full potential is important. My children won the lottery of birth. They were born to highly educated parents who give them opportunities and support. The 24 percent of children living in poverty have parents who love their children just as much as I love my children. Our dedication to and our love for our children can be the tie that binds us.
In of my favorite books that I read to my children, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, the Lorax famously says, “I speak for the trees.” He speaks for the trees because they need saving and cannot speak for themselves. Our children need us to speak for them to ensure their best possible future. I urge us to speak for our children. Let our leaders know that we stand together and speak in support of a future that allows every child to live to her fullest potential. We can model behaviors of community, communication, and compassion. We can make our community a healthier, safer, stronger, and more prosperous for everyone. We can show our children that no matter your color, belief, identity, language, or zip code, parents love their children.
Zoey Goore is a pediatrician.
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