Fear is Not a Family Value
September 11, 2001
© Anne Geller
In my work with children and families, I have seen some of the impact of this. I’ve met a two year old who had night terrors; know a child who is convinced one of her relatives died in an airplane; a few days after the attacks a four-year-old (out of the blue) said to me, "my mommy and daddy didn’t die". An adolescent talked to me about his plans to finish high school – "unless there’s a war or something". Adults are purchasing gas masks and suits that are supposed to protect them from bio-terrorism. The post office has sent us notices, helping us identify suspicious mail.
The events and aftermath of September 11th have left us changed and there seems to be no escaping the message that we are in danger. Let us hope we can keep that message from permeating the thoughts and spirits of our children and adolescents.
To that end, here is my wish list for you and your families:
- Keep a predictable schedule for your children, especially young children.
- Take care of yourself. Take a bath, go for a walk and kick up some maple leaves, watch the moon rise.
- Pay attention to your own moods and behavior – your words and actions. Children look to you to protect them and keep them safe. If you are not feeling safe, they cannot feel safe. If you are feeling exceptionally tired, concerned about your health, feeling down, worrying about things, constantly angry or irritated, or having any feelings you feel like you can’t control - seek professional help. Do this for your children.
- Watch the images on your television screen. In reality two planes went into two buildings in New York City, but I have seen hundreds of planes hit hundreds of buildings. I don’t need to see that anymore and neither do our children.
- Talk to your older children and teens about the television news and images. The world is hurting, you may want to think twice about supporting programming that shows more hurting. Make some family decisions about what is appropriate to watch and how much.
- Take time to talk and play – lots of time. Have a weekly family game night. Sit down to eat dinner together. Laugh. Ask what’s going on, what they’re thinking about. Ask again. Don’t allow yourself to be shut off from your children. Sometimes just being there is enough. Slow down a little bit so you can really be there.
- Talk to your children about how you plan to make a positive difference in this world. Ask them what they can do to make a difference. Ask them what they think needs to be done by others to make a difference. Pick something that will result in making a difference and do it.