Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

We have a lot to be thankful for, living in the South. Beautiful weather, breathtaking landscapes, a sense of community and tradition, a culture like no other

But whether you’re a native of Dixie or a welcome newcomer, the reality is that raising children in the South today is not like it used to be. Whether you’re raising your family on the Gulf Shores, nestled in the hills of Tennessee, or swept up in the urban rush of Atlanta, your Southern children will be smarter, more connected, more tech savvy and more worldly than the Southland sons and Delta daughters of yesteryear.

And then you throw in the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented changes that the virus has brought to all our lives, and the world your children are growing up in looks even less like the world Southern kids used to know.

But just because your kid is growing up with a smartphone in one hand doesn’t mean they can’t grow up with a fishing pole in the other. Just because your kid is sheltering in place from the pandemic doesn’t mean they can’t sleep under the cover of stars on a balmy summer night.

In the face of so much change, making an effort to keep Southern culture alive for your children will come to mean everything in the world to them, to you, and to your family. We’ll show you how.

Old Traditions, New Ways

One of the best things about living in the South is that you’re never at a loss for stories. In the age of social distancing, though, Sunday family dinner after church might have to be put on the backburner for a while. 

Warm nights spent chasing lightning bugs with the cousins while the aunts and uncles, moms and dads, sit on the back porch sipping sweet tea and swapping stories may not have been the hallmark of Summer 2020 as it was in years past. 

That doesn’t mean, though, that your children have to grow up in a colorless world without the old family histories that are their birthright and among the greatest gifts of growing up Southern. It does mean, though, that you might have to get a bit creative to keep this pivotal tradition alive. 

For example, instead of your usual visits to the grandparents’ house, take things virtual for a while. Use video messaging not just for quick recorded greetings and pick-me-ups, but to create a whole archive of the family stories. Your children can listen in real time with a group video platform, such as Zoom, or you can save the recordings for later, such as just before bedtime.

Faith and Family

It’s not only our incredible storytelling traditions that make Southern culture so precious and so unique. At the heart of Southern living are two things and two things only: faith and family. 

As we’re all trying to protect ourselves and the people we love most from the virus, though, we’ve been forced to get creative. We can’t always be with our loved ones face-to-face like we used to be, but we can still use technology to connect. Through videos and recordings, we can still celebrate the people and the stories that make us who we are.

The same is true for our practice of our faith. When you grow up in the South, you learn early on that the Church isn’t a building. The Church is the people. Your children now have an incredible opportunity to learn this most pivotal of life lessons, that belief doesn’t begin or end at the church-house door.

So use this time to help your children learn to practice their faith in all hours and in all places. Show them that the secular world does not and should not be separated from the sacred. Teach them that, yes, even technology can be a tool for worship and praise, if you use it right. 

For instance, free apps like Church at Home can help you lead your family through worship, with songs and videos meant not only for praise, but to help your children learn about the Lord. And with its conferencing tools, you don’t have to defy a single lockdown to hold the kind of prayer meeting that will get you and your little ones through whatever this world might bring today.

Get Smart

Putting technology to good use to help your kids find that consistent connection with fellow believers is probably going to be the best use you’ll ever have for today’s digital tech. But it’s far from the only use. In fact, we parents often get a lot of flack, including the reproach we heap on ourselves, for plopping our kids down in front of a screen.

That said, today’s apps can be incredibly good for your children if you use them strategically. Sitting down with your kids to watch an educational video, especially if you talk with them about what you’re watching, can be a wonderful learning opportunity, particularly in this age of distance education. 

If the pandemic has you and the young ones spending most of your time at home, why not use these tools to learn about some of the lesser-known places and histories of the region. You might even use this time to plan the next family road trip! 

Keeping Traditions Alive

Growing up Southern means growing up blessed. But coming of age in the South in the age of corona is far different than it was in the past. With a bit of strategy, though, you can still give your kids that powerful connection to faith, family, and history that lies at the heart of every Southern childhood. And that is a gift that, no matter where your kids may roam and no matter what they might do, they will never forget, never leave behind, a gift that will never fail them.