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September 11th: a parent perspective

."They crashed the World Trade Center, but WE still exist," were the words of a five-year-old who, with some of her fellow kindergarteners, recreated the twin towers in the block corner of her New York City classroom on September 12th.

Much has already been written about the collective sadness and vulnerability we now feel. Both the events of September 11th and their aftermath are too much to absorb, and the losses, in Mayor Giuliani's words "too much to bear."

The word "surreal" seems to be used a lot. So many people we talk to are exhausted. Even as we return to regular routines, we know that the mix of sorrow, fear, and anger we feel will remain, though for how long we don't know. What we do know is that our lives have been changed forever.

One of the perspectives we can offer at is that people react in different ways and that, in dealing with our own sorrow and our children's responses and questions, it is important to respect those differences.

See if any of these suggestions make sense for you and your family.

Do some things that provide a sense of control.

As adults we have recently been reminded that there is more that's out of our control than we'd like to admit. (And while children need to feel some sense of choice, predictability and order, they usually don't harbor the same illusions in this respect as we parents.) Find activities, and projects, that give you and your kids a sense of order; that involve steps, routines, planning.

Cook a family meal together
Gather pictures for a family album
Make a song book of favorite family songs

Find creative ways to express a wide range of emotions.
Write poetry, stories, essays
Draw pictures
Sing familiar songs and make up new ones
Write a play dealing with the events and issues
Come up with some creative solutions for promoting tolerance during a time of distrust

Reach out to others. Seek activities that are truly meaningful and provide a sense of purpose.

This is a time when many of the concerns that occupy our everyday lives seem trivial. We want to find ways that we can make a positive difference.

Donate and collect money for families impacted
Write letters of thanks to police and firefighters
Spend time with family and friends
Volunteer in other ways that make a difference

Read, learn and discuss.

Being better informed is another way to feel a sense of control, to connect with others and to make a difference. Parents and older children can discuss information from the newspapers; read more history and learn from others who have survived past upheavals.

Provide Reassurance. Provide Hope.

We need to expect that our children, like us, will be shaken. Even young children who don't understand the events, will pick up on the sadness and anxiety we are communicating. Turn off the TV. The images linger. Emphasize that you are there, that many efforts are being made to make things safe. Most importantly we need to convey to our children a sense of hope.

Please send in any thoughts, suggestions or ideas that you would like to share.

The American Library Association, provides links to many resources that may be helpful you and your family.


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