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Friday, April 19th, 2013
In light of the news out of Boston, Parents.com asked mothers living within the area on lockdown to share how they’re handling the situation with their children. Sheri Gurock is a mom and the co-founder of Magic Beans, a chain of baby and toy stores in the Boston area. Gurock explains what she’s told her kids about the lockdown, and how she’s answering their questions.
They bombed our marathon, and life hasn’t been the same since. Monday was shocking. The senseless loss of life, the horrific injuries, the heroism of the first responders, the surrealism of Boston in the world’s spotlight. I will never forget trying to field frantic calls from my kids on a rapidly crashing cellular network while I was out cheering on the runners at mile 24. I was never in any danger, but they didn’t know that.
All week long, the tough questions kept coming.
“Now that we know there are terrorists in Boston, how do we know what they’ll do next?”
Good question. No good answers. Lots of hugs instead.
But with all the chaos, anxiety, and uncertainty of the last week, I never, ever thought I’d wake up to such insanity this morning.
Right before bedtime last night, I read a news alert about a shooting at MIT, right across the street from where I’d eaten lunch with my daughters that afternoon. Goosebumps. I couldn’t imagine it was related to the bombing – the two suspects had their faces broadcast around the world just hours before. Surely if they were still anywhere near Boston, they were in hiding. Still, I made sure the doors were locked before I went to sleep.
My husband woke me at 7 in wide-eyed disbelief. The whole city was in lockdown, school was canceled, the MBTA was shut down, and all residents were being asked to stay inside. Both our phones started buzzing with worried text messages from friends and family.
We’ve sheltered our youngest, a four-year-old, from any details of what’s happened in Boston this week. When he heard school was canceled, he ran to the window, expecting to see snow. When there wasn’t any, he asked, “What kind of a day is it?” “It’s a Family Friday,” I told him.
Our older daughters, almost 11 and 9 years old, are much more tuned in. When they woke up, I gave them a general update, and understandably they were scared. Here’s a threat so tangible and immediate that we can’t even walk the dog. Yes, it is scary, I told them. But we are just very small needles in a giant haystack. The likelihood of any real danger is incredibly remote.
More hugs. We’ll focus instead on the heroism, the efficiency of this investigation. It’s Friday morning and one suspect is dead while the other is on the run. The girls are impressed.
We will catch this angry young man, and I pray that no one else will be hurt in the process. Boston will heal and move on. Much has been said about the Bostonians and their tough constitution this week, and it’s all true. Even today, we are not hiding. We are doing whatever we need to do to help the people who are risking their lives to protect us.
But still. We’re in lockdown. All stores are closed, including the supermarkets. Our business is shut down. The park across the street, which would normally be full of frolicking dogs on a beautiful day like this, is empty. The TVs are showing images of places that are intimately familiar. It feels like we went to sleep and ended up inside some crazy action movie. We are all ready to wake up from this nightmare and get back to our regularly scheduled life.
Image: Boston Globe via Getty Images
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Friday, April 19th, 2013
In light of the news out of Boston, Parents.com asked mothers living within the lockdown region to share how they’re handling the situation with their children. Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a mother of two young daughters and a clinical social worker. She is a contributing editor for Kveller and she writes the Mindful Parenting blog on PsychCentral. Naumburg explains why she is shielding her children from the scary situation happening right outside their door.
I am currently sitting at my dining room table, listening to the news with an ear bud in one ear. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and my neighborhood is eerily quiet. My 2-year-old is taking a nap, and my 4-year-old is drawing quietly during her afternoon rest time. As far as they know, it’s just another day.
They have no idea that we’re on lockdown while a major manhunt takes place less than 5 miles from our home. They have no idea that thousands of police and SWAT teams are searching door to door, looking for a man implicated in the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the murder of an MIT police officer, and the shooting of a transit police officer. They don’t know that police with large guns searched their cousins’ house this morning. They know absolutely nothing about the bombing or any of the other horrifying events that have dominated the news and distracted me throughout the week.
It’s been surprisingly easy to keep it all from them. We weren’t at the marathon; in retrospect I’m grateful for the fatigue that kept me from taking both girls over to the crowded corner just a mile from our house where we can see the runners. Their preschool is closed for spring break this week, so there was no risk of them hearing about it from friends with older siblings. Finally, we’re not in the habit of keeping the TV on in the house, and I get my news from NPR and online sources. I generally don’t talk to them about world events; they’re focused on learning through picture books, baby dolls, and sandboxes—as they should be. I just don’t see a need to distract them with information that is beyond their cognitive and emotional abilities.
I have friends who have told their young children about what’s going on, and I think every family needs to do what feels right for them. Here’s what I know. My younger daughter is equally mischievous and oblivious, not yet terribly curious about the world beyond her immediate awareness. My older daughter, however, is a sweet, fragile child, easily prone to fear and anxiety. Fortunately, her worries are the right size for how she understands the world; she is scared of our cat sneaking up on her, of tall slides, and loud noises. It’s true that her awareness is expanding every day, and she’s starting to ask about what happens when we die and who will take care of her if her father and I die. I answer those theoretical questions as honestly as I can while still communicating to her that she is safe and that we’ll be around for a long time.
But those are typical questions for a child her age, a little one who is just starting to figure out how the world works. She is just as likely to ask about death as she is to ask about life, about how to get a baby in her belly. (“Don’t worry, Sweetie,” I tell her, “When you are old enough to have a baby, you’ll know how to make one.”)
Death. Life. When are you old enough to learn about it all?
It’s different for every child and every family, and if we’re lucky, we get to choose what we share with our children and when. If we’re not—as far too many parents in around the world, and now in my own town, aren’t—the painful reality of terrorism intrudes on our children’s sweet innocence far earlier than it should. I know that my girls will learn about all of it soon enough, and we’ll handle it when it happens. For now, ignorance truly is bliss, and I am grateful for it.
Image: Boston Globe via Getty Images
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Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
This post is by guest blogger Dr. Harold Koplewicz, President of the Child Mind Institute.
The anniversary of 9/11 is always a painful one and the 10th anniversary this year brings certain things more sharply into focus: We are reminded of that terrible day, of the thousands of lives lost, of how stunned and vulnerable we felt. There’s a desire to honor the dead, the families who bore the burden of the attack, and the things we stand for as a nation. We celebrate resilience and renewal even as we vow not to forget.
We’re aware of all the ways we’ve changed and moved on in a decade, and nothing reminds us more viscerally of how much time has passed than our children. We have our memories and our own relationship to the events of that day, ones our children may not share. Children who were infants and toddlers the day of the attacks are now in middle school. Those who were just old enough to understand what happened are in high school or heading off to college. For many younger children today, 9/11 isn’t something they lived through but a piece of history they learn about in school.
Parents still have an opportunity to consider what they want kids to know about the attack on our country and to talk to them in an age-appropriate way. Here are some guidelines for talking to kids about 9/11.
1. Be age appropriate. If a child is too young to remember 9/11, consider her age in deciding when it’s a good time for her to learn about it or learn more about it. Don’t force the issue. But if you see the time is right, you may want to use the event to invite questions, to take an inventory of what she knows and thinks she knows, and provide more details.
2. Take cues from your child—each individual child, if you have more than one. For those old enough to remember the events of 9/11, let them tell you what they remember, what the anniversary means to them, and how they feel about participating in any commemorations.
3. Don’t answer questions that aren’t asked. Children as young as first grade are learning about 9/11 in school as an important part of our history. There’s no reason to volunteer disturbing or frightening details unless a child has heard them and needs a reality check from you. If he does want to talk about things that are deeply upsetting, try to do so calmly without telegraphing your feelings.
4. Share but don’t impose your feelings. The events and the emotions of that day are still painful to many of us, but let kids know they don’t have to feel the same way. Ten years is a long time, especially in the life and mind of a child, and unless they lost people close to them in the attacks, the memories may not be potent. It’s helpful if they don’t feel you depend on them to perform in a prescribed way.
5. Help them feel safe. Kids want to know, “Are we safe today?” The answer is “Yes, we are.” As a result of 9/11, there is tighter security at the airports and in important buildings everywhere. We are also able to tell our children that the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and many other leaders of Al Qaeda, the hate group that sponsored this attack, have died or been captured.
6. Focus on resilience. If you go to a memorial, talk to kids in advance about why you’re going. Focus on honoring those who died and celebrating the resilience of both the nation and the individual families that lost loved ones. We memorialize people out of respect, to demonstrate that we haven’t forgotten their sacrifice and to stand up for our values and beliefs. We honor those who lost their lives as the buildings fell. We honor the many, many people who helped with the search for survivors and the painstaking and painful job of removing the mountain of rubble left by the attacks. Don’t talk about the threat of terrorism or possibilities for the next terrorist attack.
7. Don’t focus on hatred. Teenagers have a lot of bravado. They tend to be dramatic and extreme, and some may respond to the renewed focus on 9/11 by wanting to lash out. As a parent, say, “I understand that you are angry, but 9/11 happened because of a select few people not an entire population.” Help your child do something positive and active instead. There are a number of great organizations that need support, including Tuesday’s Children, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the American Red Cross.
8. Avoid exposing children to repetitive TV news coverage. Media pictures of 9/11 can be shown weeks before and after the event. They can make children feel anxious and stimulate unwanted emotions, so limit what they see on TV.
9. Don’t feel you have only one chance to talk about this. As parents, you always get a “re-do” to talk about difficult things. It’s better to think of tough issues as an ongoing conversation that develops as kids grow and change. If you didn’t get it right the first time, give yourself a break and try again later.
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