Do you remember what it was like to be 15? Sometimes it feels like yesterday, other times it feels like a lifetime ago. 15-year-old Marsai Martin, from the hit show “Black-ish,” has a lot figured out for her age, especially when it comes to her wellbeing. She says that a lot of her wisdom comes from her family. They taught her, at a young age, what it’s like to be self-confident and walk through challenges instead of letting them hold you back. With faith, her family left a small town in Texas to move to L.A. in support of the gift they saw in their girl. In my recent interview with the ABC star, she talks a lot about feeling heard by her family.
In her early years of elementary school, Marsai would isolate herself. She said she was one of the few black kids at her school and she stayed to herself. “I was just there to learn.”She had regular head-aches, dizziness, she had problems sleeping and she had challenges in the classroom. Because of her strong relationship with her parents she worked up the courage at age 7 to tell them about the symptoms she was experiencing daily that were distracting her from living a worry-free kid life. When she spoke up she said she felt relieved.
“I felt like, wow,! I said something about it, I’m confident in what I said, and that was a big change. I really felt like it was something bigger than me that I couldn’t really tackle but when I made sure it was said to my parents, it was totally easy– it was super chill and now I’m trying to preach that to other kids to do the same thing as I did. Actually, the cool things about what I’m doing if you go to 2020visonpledge.com you can enter to get free glasses and eye exams for your entire school.”-Marsai
Marsai has partnered with Essilor to ask every parent to take the pledge to get our kids’ eyes checked. After spending time with her, I’m in! I am one of the many parents who has not prioritized optometrist appointments for my kids. “Nearly half of parents with children under the age of 6 have never taken their child to the eye doctor and it’s recommended that by then children visit an eye care professional three times.”-thinkaboutyoureyes.com I take my kids to the Pediatrician and Dentist annually but I am now adding the Eye Dr. to the list. Many of us rely on the school’s vision test or for teachers to notice symptoms, but 75 percent of the time school screenings miss a vision problem.
With overexposure to screens and less time spent outside, it has never been so important to take preventative measures to protect our kid’s eyes. The more obstacles in our kids’ way of reaching their potential we can eliminate the better. An eye exam is a small thing that can make a huge difference in our childrens’ wellbeing. Marsai and I spoke about physical challenges impacting our mental health. Chronic pain is often overlooked in children, but it can take a toll on anyone’s ability to feel confident and focusing on tasks at hand.
Struggles can look different for different kids. Marsai attributes her ability to be authentic and persist through adversity to her family where their support got her through times of both struggle and success. Whether you are taking preventative action, or you have noticed some of the symptoms Marsai describes in your child, you are helping your child in more ways than you may know.
“I knew I needed glasses or I knew I needed something, but I was too nervous to say something because it was already difficult to =be like the only black girl in my school, then to actually have glasses to get more eyes on me was very uncomfortable. I was definitely that type of person that was like ‘I’m just here to learn, I just want to swing on the monkey bars and whatever, I’m not trying to hang out with you all.’ I was def. that type of kid to make myself isolated. But when I got self-confidence and to make sure I pushed to my full potential to anything I do, then I actually became more social and I am how I am, which is deeply who I am”.-Marsai
We can only hope that our kids feel like they can be “deeply who they are.” If your child is worried about wearing glasses or taking any other kind of action that feels scary but will better their lives, share with them Marsai’s advice
“I had to think like they’re just kids, they are my age. They are going through the same struggles I do. They put on their pants the same way I do. When you think about it that way you think it’s more like, “oh it doesn’t really matter what they think” it only matters what I think about me, it just matters about the self-confidence that I have. I really have to think about it that way, and make sure I’m on the right path.”-Marsai
From the wise teen, what can we parents do?
- Set up on annual eye exams.
- Communicate with your kids in a “chill way” making sure your kids are going through life “in a good vibe”.
- Help your kids know that “glasses look dope,” but also that it’s about their health and wellbeing.
- Go after your dreams at whatever age you are, you are never too young or too old to pursue your goals. “There is no such thing as too anything”.
- Take the Essilor 2020visonpledge.com by September 25th for the chance to win free glasses and eye exams for your child’s entire school.
As we wound down our chat, I asked Marsai what she would say to her younger self. She shared a sweet and inspirational story that made me reflect on my own insecurities that I’ve allowed to stop me from being who I deeply am. Marsai shared that she felt insecure about wearing her glasses to auditions. The first audition she wore them for was for her role on “Black-ish.” She said that part of the reason the casting directors liked her for the part was her glasses. She was obviously a great actress but they loved her glasses. You never know, the things we feel most insecure about can be the things that make us positively stand out.
“Be confident. Be passionate. Try something new!”- Marsai Martin-Marsai
Read the full interview at lets-talk-teens.org/interview-marsai-martin