Social media has been filled with photos of mothers, families and tweens wearing T-shirts marked with the words “You can sit with us” and the message behind the campaign is not only crucial in these times, but also inspiring.
People feel disconnected
Isidingo and Die Byl actress, Milan Murray’s company, The My Story Tribe, launched the #YouCanSitWithUs campaign in collaboration with Tweenology and Pic-a-Tee, taking the country by storm with people relating to the message now, more than ever.
Milan says she thinks the “You can sit with us” campaign is so successful because people feel disconnected.
“In the past 18 months, we have been forced to disconnect and now, more than ever, we realise how important connection is and how important people are.”
When her kids were nine and 11 (they are now 12 and 14), she realised what challenges kids face in that age group.
“All of the sudden, you are not picked for the team.”
Hormonal changes, bullying, parents getting divorced, friends emigrating – these are all factors that have an influence on tweens’ mental wellbeing, whether it happens with or around them.
Milan sat with psychologists, occupational therapists and play therapists while doing thorough research on what tools would be beneficial to tweens regarding their mental health.
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Campaigning in protest
The “You can sit with us” campaign is in direct protest to a retailer who put a T-shirt with the phrase “You can’t sit with us” on the shelves a few years ago.
Although it is not the first time the hashtag has been used, Milan says she believes it is the first time it has reached so many.
Team Tween – make the circle bigger
“#YouCanSitWithUs was an easy first choice for our first campaign,” says Milan “because we work with tweens. We work with six to 13 year olds and we find that something that they struggle with – in primary school, specifically – is exclusion. It is part of our mission to support mental health, mental wellbeing, emotional resilience in this age group and to say ‘you can sit with us’ is one of the things we want to teach children in primary schools to do more often.
“To make the circle bigger, to invite people who are not necessarily like you to come and sit with you.”
She says at the impressionable age of nine to 13, we look around for people to open up and invite us into their circle and say: “You can sit with us.”
Help children connect
Milan says it is parents’ responsibility to drive connection at home. Still, it is difficult as in many South African families, both parents work and kids’ programmes are filled to the brim, leaving them with limited time to connect.
“Covid has certainly not made it easier,” Miln adds. She says if we are connected at home, it is easier to have the confidence to connect elsewhere.
The businesswoman says she gets goosebumps when she hears the words “you can sit with us,” and the reason for the visceral reaction is because as humans, we have a need to be included.
“I think that is why people are grabbing onto the message and spreading it.”
Creating a new generation of tweens
She wants to change tweens, teens and ultimately the country with the message of the campaign and individuals and schools are quick to come onboard. There has even been a school that put up “buddy benches” for children to sit at when they feel excluded.
Milan says we need to help children to write their best life stories. Parents and teachers are there to guard and guide children’s stories. She wants to create teenagers who have self-confidence, backbone and self-love.