For Everyone Who Worries About The Kids In Their Lives Who Worry

Monday, May 2, 2011

How Do You Explain Osama Bin Laden's Death to Children?

Lots of emotions in the last twenty-four hours here in the United States! Osama Bin Laden was found and killed yesterday. Upon hearing the news, crowds formed, people cheered, and God Bless America was being sung just about everywhere.

Where did I first hear the news? Where I get all of my news these days - facebook of course! After reading several posts this morning, I turned on the television to see the footage of crowds cheering and chanting "USA!" My kids were still sleeping so I had a few minutes to find out what I could and take it all in.

Since my kids are only 5 and 7 and were not even alive to witness the events of September 11, I turned the news off when they came down for breakfast. When they got home from school, it appeared that they hadn't heard or discussed anything about Bin Laden's capture and death, so I decided not to talk with them about it just yet.

Now after putting them to bed, I am thinking about what I will tell them if they ask or what we will talk about when we discuss it. Not easy. I wonder how other parents in America handled it with their kids today.

First of all, I suppose I will tell them a little about Osama Bin Laden and how he was a very bad man that hurt many people. I can explain that our country has been looking for him for a long time so that they could capture and punish him for having killed so many people. Yesterday, members of our military found him. While they were trying to capture him, Bin Laden and his followers tried to kill these brave soldiers. In order to save themselves and possibly many others, they had to kill Bin Laden.

So that part I think I can make understandable to two young children. But how do you explain what I think is the harder part and the questions many parents may have been asked today: Why is everyone celebrating that a man was killed? I thought we weren't supposed to kill others? Aren't we supposed to forgive? Why is it OK to want Bin Laden dead? Is it OK to wish death to anyone who does harm to another? Is getting revenge a good thing? Is God happy about this?

Anyone got the answer key to these questions?

Many of the posts and signs I saw today contained statements like, "Burn in hell" and "Thank God, Bin Laden is dead." I watched a news report where the man being interviewed described with great joy what the last minutes of Bin Laden's life must have been like and how we can all take comfort in knowing that he was in great fear and died an awful death.

While that might indeed bring comfort to many Americans, I'm pretty sure that information is not going to comfort my kids. It would just scare them!

Then I saw this quote today:  "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." Martin Luther King, Jr

That quote sums up so much of what I try to teach my children every day. But I also know that in this situation, this quote would infuriate many Americans. Many would say that Osama Bin Laden deserved and needed to die after the devastation he caused to so many people. That peace and love are not going to keep us safe from future acts of terrorism.

So, I am sitting here and still so very much confused. I believe in the quote above with all of my heart. And I want my children to learn and live it as well. But I experienced the events of 9-11 and saw the pain of loss in  many people close to me. I can't feel what they feel and would never pretend to be able to. I continue to wish them love, healing, and peace every day.

I think I will just be honest with my children and tell them that (once again!) I don't have all the answers. I can explain to them how I felt today. Sad, relieved, confused, scared, unsure, reflective. How I want to live in a world of peace where everyone treats each other with respect and love. But that I don't exactly know how this will be accomplished. Is it possible to keep our country safe without war or violence?

I will just continue to tell them that in order to change the world, you have to start with yourself. Believe in yourself and in your ability to live in peace. Have faith and believe in what is true for you and in what brings peace and happiness to your soul.

May your heart be at ease,

Angela      सन्तोष

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Day or School Day?

Here in Connecticut, we have been hit pretty bad this year with snow storms. Which means we have had many delays and days off from school. I don't think my kids have had a full week of school since before Christmas break!

Personally, I have always loved snow days. Something very peaceful and freeing about suddenly being stopped and forced into giving up the schedule and to do list. And of course my children absolutely adore getting the call that school is closed! An unexpected day off is such a treat.

But lately, instead of waking up and expecting to go to school, my kids are waking up and expecting a snow day. School has become the unexpected surprise. And for a child who already suffers with anxieties about going to school, it is also an unpleasant one.

With the routine of going to school Monday to Friday not being the norm lately, my son is having difficulty making the transition from snow day to school day. He absolutely loves being home, staying in his pj's, playing and being with mom. But the fun comes with a price, because it makes going back to school again that much more difficult for him to handle. Some days, it is like we are back on the first day of school with all of the same worries and insecurities that came with it.

The serenity prayer asks that we be granted the courage to change the things we can, the serenity to accept the things we can't, and the wisdom to know the difference. Well, I know that I cannot change the weather. Even though my son now prefers The Weather Channel to Nickelodeon, we cannot stop the snow from coming or the schools from closing. I also know that I cannot take away all of his anxieties for him, and presently he cannot either. So what is there that we can do?

One idea that has helped us a lot this year is to take each day, each morning, each task one step at a time. (Thanks Alice for this helpful tip!) Talking about being scared and upset about going to school has not changed those feelings much at all. Sometimes it even makes them worse. So instead we have stopped and focused on what we need to do at that moment. "Let's read a story together to help you fall asleep." "Go to sleep so you will feel rested for the morning" "Let's just get up and get dressed right now." "How about we have breakfast together." "All you need to do right now is put on your coat."  We keep going at this pace, and before he knows it, he has made it on the bus. I acknowledge his feeling of being scared and upset, but we don't dwell on them at that moment. Rather, we focus on the positive, the now, and what is important at each moment instead of looking at the whole day ahead which is just too overwhelming when you are anxious.

When do we talk more about how he is feeling and why? At calmer, happier times like while having a snack together after school, or cuddling together on a weekend morning. It is during those times that we have started talking about creating a tool kit. (Thank you Alisa for this one!) This "tool kit" contains all of the things that my son can use to calm himself down and build his confidence and security up when he is feeling anxious. I started by asking him what makes him feel better when he is sad or worried. His blanket, some favorite stuffed animals, thoughts of being on the beach in Florida, memories of Seaworld, hugs from his family - these are all some of things he wanted to "put" in his tool kit. Now when he is worried about something, I can remind him to pick one of his tools to use to help him calm himself down and put his mind at ease.

Now don't make my mistake and try talking about this tool kit while your child is anxious and upset. The only thing he will want to put into it then is "NOTHING!" Not helpful I'm afraid.

One last strategy I can share with you is called "changing the channel". If I can get my son to calm down enough to try this, it sometimes helps. I ask him to close his eyes and get as quiet as he can. I then tell him to imagine that his brain is a television set and that his hand is holding the remote. I ask him if he likes what he is seeing on the television now - this scary, unhappy show that keeps playing over and over again. I tell him to instead think of another show he would like to see playing in his head. Maybe one where everyone is happy, enjoying themselves, and acting strong and courageous like the most powerful sea animals (he loves sea animals!). Then I tell him that all he needs to do to get that new show on his television is to use the remote in his hand to change the channel. Whenever he doesn't like what is playing in his head, he can always change the channel to something that he does like and that makes him feel good to watch. Again, I learned to try this strategy out when your child is calm and relaxed. If they are already familiar with it, then they will be more willing to try it during those anxious moments.

As I write this, I just got the call that we will be having another snow day tomorrow due to the ice storm headed our way. Another fun day ahead tomorrow, but the going back will once again be tough. Like my son, I am trying to take it one step at a time.  Hopefully, we will both make it back to the bus stop together  with as little tears as possible.

May your heart be at ease,
Angela   सन्तोष