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Raise your hand if you love The Walking Dead! We are big fans here at Daily Mom. We’ve been watching for years. For many of us, our love for The Walking Dead began before our children were even born. What makes this show so excellent isn’t the gross zombies and special effects, it is the character development. We learn lessons right along with the characters. As they change, we change and we take away new things to think about after every episode. They might be surviving a zombie apocalypse but we are surviving parenthood and some days, that feels like the same thing. Spoiler Alert! If you aren’t caught up through Season 6, please don’t read this. With Season 7 premiering, we thought we would bring you 10 parenting lessons from The Walking Dead.
1. Have a group you can trust.
You can’t survive anything alone, whether it is zombies and psychopaths out to get you or a Monday at home with toddlers. We just aren’t designed to live life in a solitary way. Parenting can’t be done alone. You need support. You need people you can count on. You need people you can trust. You need someone to have a drink with! Even when someone tries to go at it alone in the world of The Walking Dead, they can’t. They end up back in the group one way or another. You will go crazy alone. Please, please, please do whatever you have to do to have a group of friends or family that will be there for you. Even if you just join a mom group on Facebook, connect with other adults in a meaningful way. Don’t try to survive alone.
2. Teach your kids survival skills.
There was some struggle, particularly when the group was living in the prison, about whether the kids needed to learn how to survive outside the sheltered walls and false security of the prison or whether they should focus on normal kid stuff. Carol secretly taught the kids survival skills and Carol made the right decision. When the walls came crashing down at the prison, those kids needed to know how to survive. Are you teaching your children the skills they need to live in the world outside the security of your arms and your home? Please don’t teach your kids how to stab zombies in the brain. That’s not necessary.
- Are you teaching them your phone number and address in case they get lost?
- Talk about money, debt and savings.
- It might seem simple and unimportant, but make your kids order their own food at a restaurant.
- Teach them how to interact in a socially appropriate way in public.
- When they can read, your kids need to learn how to make and shop with a grocery list.
- They need to learn how to cook by following a recipe.
- Kids should run a vacuum, load a dishwasher, and fold laundry.
One day you won’t be there to do all that for them. Your job isn’t to create a perfect world for your kids. Your job is to raise kids who can live and live well long after you are gone.
3. Survival mode isn’t always a bad thing.
We can have some serious moments of greatness when we feel like we are just surviving. Getting through difficult circumstances will give you confidence as a parent just as the characters in the Walking Dead grow more confident in their skills. Survival mode is a good thing because we learn things through survival mode, things that help us avoid getting to that place next time. After almost becoming dinner for the cannibals at Terminus, our friends on The Walking Dead learned not to just walk into a situation with other survivors trusting that they have everyone’s survival in mind. If you barely make it through the afternoon with your kids because you skipped nap time in order to extend a playdate, you learn not to do that again and the next playdate and the rest of the day go much smoother.
We say “survival mode” in a tongue and cheek way. However, some parents really do live in survival mode. They are doing what they can to keep a sick child alive. They are parenting as best they can while trying to make ends meet when there isn’t enough or dealing with a fatal illness of their own. Even in your darkest, most desperate moments as a parent, remember that you are enough for your kids. When you continue to parent through things that would cause most people to give up and shut down, you show your kids what it means to survive. You show your kids what strength is really about.
4. Know when to push your kids and know when something is too much.
Sometimes as a parent, we have to push our kids to get them through something, and sometimes we need to wait it out and be patient. Listen to your gut when it comes to pushing your kids or backing off. We’ve seen kids in the Walking Dead pushed into situations they were not ready for and the results were tragic (think Sam in Alexandria. Poor Sam!) For most of us, the stakes aren’t life or death when making decisions about what a kid is ready to handle, but we should still not push our kids into something they aren’t developmentally ready for. If you know your child isn’t ready to wean, don’t push it. Same goes with potty training, sleeping through the night or any other developmental milestone. Forcing a kid to use the potty can have disastrous results for everyone in your household, just like pushing Sam in Alexandria had disastrous results. Are people going to die over potty training? Of course not, but the lesson is still applicable.
5. Children learn more from what you do than what you say.
Rick can talk to Carl about how to behave all he wants but we see time and time again that Carl is going to behave the way he sees his father and the other adults he looks up to behave. Your kids aren’t going to be polite if they see you acting like a jerk. Your kids aren’t going to be patient if they hear you yelling at a slow car in traffic. If you want kind and strong children, you have to be kind and strong yourself. Be generous and their hearts will follow. Be brave and they will grow in courage. Model to your children, don’t lecture to them.
6. Remember that you aren’t promised tomorrow with your family.
In the Walking Dead they are painfully aware that no one is promised another minute, let alone another day. While you aren’t going to get your face eaten off at the grocery store this afternoon, you are also not promised another moment with your family as you know. Any of us can die at any moment, zombies or no zombies. But what about the other things that can tear our families apart, like the zombies tear their victims apart? Divorce can split up a family in a heartbeat. Unemployment can change the way your family life looks. An unexpected move across the country is a loss. Illness can change your family dynamic. Appreciate your family the way it is today. Things can change drastically with no notice.
7. Cherish sweet little moments.
When you are surviving in a world full of man eating zombies, you really learn how to appreciate the small, sweet things, like a can of soda. Let’s all pledge to not wait until the world is ending as we know it to enjoy the little things. The little things are actually big things. Even if you have had an extra tough day and you are exhausted, try to find one thing to soak in and remember. Don’t take a picture with your iPhone. Don’t post about it on social media. Just sit and enjoy something the old fashion way, with your heart, soul, and mind. Breathe in the way your baby smells. Try to memorize the way your preschooler looks after eating a popsicle on the front porch. Listen carefully to your teenager laughing. The laughs may be few and far in between eye rolling and the silent treatment but those laughs are golden!
8. Your kids will eat even if you don’t offer them their favorite foods.
If we can take anything away from The Walking Dead, it is that kids will eat what is available. This obviously doesn’t apply to kids with sensory issues or health issues, but if you have a kid who won’t eat anything other than chicken nuggets, just quit serving chicken nuggets. If Carl can eat a can of beans and like it, your kid can eat the healthy, organic dinner you so lovingly prepared. Your kid will not starve if you refuse to make macaroni and cheese. Remind him that you could be wandering in the woods with the dead trying to eat your brains, looking for your next meal and next sip of water. Just kidding, don’t do that!
9. Loyalty, honesty, and bravery go a long way.
In the Walking Dead, those who remain true to those characteristics are our favorite characters for a reason. If you love Maggie and Glenn, it is because Maggie and Glenn embody the good that is left in that dark, dark world. As a parent, strive to show your kids what it means to be loyal, honest and brave. Make those traits a priority for everyone in your family. Are you more focused on your son’s performance on the soccer field or how he treats others? Don’t give up on what is good in your heart and the hearts of your children no matter how bad things get. Be Maggie and Glenn.
10. Draw lines and don’t cross them.
Whether surviving in a zombie apocalypse or just living an ordinary suburban American life, all parents are just trying to get to and stay in a place that is the best possible environment for their kids to thrive. We just have to weigh the costs and benefits and make conscious decisions when it comes to how far we will go to get our kids what we think they need. Do you take a job with longer hours so you can buy more things for your kids, or do you stay in your current job where you have more time together as a family? What sacrifices will you make?
In every episode of the Walking Dead we see someone cross a line they never thought they would cross and we have to struggle with whether that makes them a good guy or a bad guy now. However, it isn’t that simple. We aren’t all good or all bad. We are all good and bad parents. There is dark and light in all of us. Everyday you choose where to draw the line when it comes to parenting and every day will present new circumstances that will challenge your preconceived notions of what you thought you would or wouldn’t do. In the Walking Dead, they may have to deal with killing another human being. In your life you have to deal with how to handle a child acting out, how to respond to your spouse and how to treat yourself. Sacrifices have to be made. You will do things you never thought you would do. Hershel was the master of this. He had some truths about himself as a father and as a man that he wouldn’t let go of and he was steadfast until the end. Draw those lines for yourself and live your life accordingly.
We love the Walking Dead because we see ourselves in the characters every episode. This show challenges us, frightens us and inspires us. There really are lessons to be learned from the story of the Walking Dead and they have nothing to do with scavenging for supplies or stabbing zombies. If nothing else, this drama illustrates that we can parent no matter what is happening in the world around us.
Just like the characters on the Walking Dead, we all face our own fears everyday. Our Daily Grandparent, Michelle, gets real about battling her fears as a grandparent and we can all learn a lot from her.