How do we take the fear, fire, and fury out of our children… out of the myth they are living… out of their childhood?
How can we remind them to love thy neighbor, when images from the news show them otherwise? Can we restore their childhood to safety or does this current madness dislocate them from their innocence?
When I was young, I heard about the Cuban Missile Crisis from the back seat of our Mercury station wagon. In the front seat, in hushed voices, my parents discussed stocking up on canned food, the building of a bomb shelter, what if….
We were spared the images, because media was controlled: one television, in the one living room, no remote control. Our parents were our first line of defense against such intrusions. There were no computers, iPhones, social media sites for us to garner frightening graphics of missiles aimed at the United States. We saw protests, and we saw riots, but we felt safely cloaked within the arms of justice, within a moral compass that kept us pointing north towards a greater good.
Today, the news is accessible from everywhere. Our children get news, they talk to one another in a persistent flow of text, information gets transferred as quickly as new news is being made. Updates pop up on phones, entering our lives at any given moment, unannounced, when they are least expected. The images, words, and voices laced with fear, doubt, confusion. News like missiles headed our way, never sure if or when they will arrive, changing our world a little or permanently. Our good friends, their good friends separated and shunned because of race, gender bias, or religion. How do we keep the compass pointing north?
News enters the lives of our children like a firestorm uncontrolled and it burns into their psyches in unknown regions. We cannot even imagine the potential damage.
What do we tell our children? What do we tell them when we, ourselves, are caught in a perpetual state of awe and disbelief?
What we need to do today, right now, is to help our children better understand the news as it is being broadcast. We need to sit with them and attempt to make sense of circumstances that are nearly incomprehensible. We need to help them process their feelings: their fears, their terrors – as we face our own, together.
In my book, The Present Parent Handbook, I speak specifically about being present with our children. Present in the moment, day-by-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-after-year. Children cannot be left alone to process the chaos that we are currently facing. We cannot hide from our responsibility to make media human: invite it in, sit it down, discuss.
Our children get news, they talk to one another in a persistent flow of text, information gets transferred as quickly as new news is being made.
I would like to share a few helpful tips:
- Maintain your family’s daily rituals: wake up at a regular time, breakfast as usual, dinner as usual. Bath, stories, bed as usual.
- Hold your children in your hearts: love them as they are, in this moment. The future does not live in your heart but in your thoughts. The present is the domain of the heart. Embrace them now without attaching your own fears and concerns about what may happen.
- Laugh: This moment is the life we have. Make it a happy event: play, talk, listen and dance to the music, have delicious meals.
- Keep your children connected to their extended family. After informing your family that your children need to be held in the safety of their love, instruct them in ways to express their love and support that are consistent with yours.
- Hold your partner in your loving concern. Your children will register the bond you share. Children feel it and it will provide a subliminal context to ensure them that their world is intact.
- Engage with your child’s teachers and school and express to them your expectations of how you want your child held.
Finally, there is no better parent for your child or children than you.
You are their best bet. Be that parent. We do not know what is coming. We are presently the generation that faces this particular global uncertainty with the responsibility of holding and keeping our children in an embrace of safety. We are not the first, nor are we the last. You, my fellow parent, are not alone. Reach out to those close to you and embrace the beauty that you have cultivated in your life.
You should not know how to “be” in these times. No one really knows. You do know, however, that these times are difficult. Each day is a challenge. Stay close to the sanity that is indisputably yours. Other generations have faced similar challenges. Remember, you are not alone. Your children are not alone.