Bolster Your Child's Spirit During War
Our children are processing the meaning behind atrocious terrorist attacks, chemical weapons and the grim realities of a country at war. This is a time we must draw on our connection with spirit as never before and find ways to help our children find their center when they are rocked with fear and questions.
The key to helping kids get through any challenge is faith – believing what our eyes cannot see – along with compassion, conversation and action.
The following are ideas to support your sons and daughters when worry and doom can darken even the most glorious day.
Knowledge Can Be Power
Help your children confront scary incidents by equipping them with knowledge of the positive actions being taken. Remind them how the Washington police force, for instance, worked around the clock to find the sniper in the Washington area sniper attacks.
A 12-year-old girl recently told me, "It helped me after 9/11 to see the wanted signs for Bin Laden people had put up around town and to know that so many were working to get this bad guy." Assure your children that you will do everything you can to keep them safe: Walk them to the bus stop, talk to their school about safety policies and lock the doors of your home.
Faith Fosters Hope
Encourage your child's relationship with God, or whatever you name as the Divine presence. When she turns trustingly to God, a child can share worries she might not be able to discuss with her parents or friends. God is flexible and can become anything a child might need at any given time.
An anxious 9-year-old said, "God is a like a blaze of power in my heart. When I need that power I just feel it. It helps me to feel this power when the world is so scary." For a 17-year-old: "God is a loving presence when I get scared – which seems to be a lot these days when I think of my friends possibly going to war."
Use Television With Caution
Be aware of the images you are beaming onto your young child's consciousness. If you want news, turn on the radio; it's less intrusive. Listen to broadcasts with your children so you know what information they are hearing, as well as answer questions that may arise.
There have been mornings where I've removed the newspaper's front page from the kitchen table so my children, ages 12 and 15, wouldn't have to face the harsh images of war so soon in their day.
Talk, Listen, Talk and Listen Some More
Don't assume that your 5-year-old is "oblivious" to world events, or your cynical teen won't talk to you anyway. I'm hearing from parents across the country whose children of all ages are experiencing depression and anxiety with the resulting tummy troubles and headaches.
These kids are having trouble falling asleep, and when they finally enter dreamland, nightmares of war shake them awake. Make yourself available to listen to your kids – turn off the music in the car, take a walk after dinner, sit on the edge of their beds for an extra five minutes at night.
The key to supporting your child's spirit is to replace images of disaster with activities of hope. Come up with ways you might reach out together. Your son or daughter might be inspired to write letters or send pictures to U.S. Military personnel. Send to the address below and they will be distributed to soldiers abroad:
Support Our Soldiers
P.O. Box 1928
Round Rock, TX 78680
A group of 12-year-old girls I know are busily crocheting cotton scarves for soldiers to help with the blowing sand conditions in the desert. Brainstorm other ideas for your family to help victims, make a difference in the world and foster hope.
Consider creating a new family ritual about peace or compassion. You can begin by simply lighting a candle each day set up on a special place in your kitchen. This could be your peace candle, and by lighting it, you are adding your tiny speck of positive light to the world.
As you gather at the dinner table you might each share an image of beauty, peace or an expression of kindness from your day. You might sing a peace song with your young children at the end of the day.
Supply Nightly Good News Nuggets
Make sure to end the day with positive information. Generate an ongoing list of "Amazing Things in Our World." Start the list by noting your child's most cherished friends than vamp on the theme by including awesome facts about our world such as: In a single season, a large elm tree makes about six million leaves, and no matter how rough the ocean's surface appears, if you could look down into deep water you would find it calm and undisturbed by the troubles overhead.
Find Your Own Source of Comfort
We can't shield our kids from the chaos, confusion or conflict in the world. We can, however, give our children the gift of a parent who finds serenity within the sorrow, who remains grounded when the ground seems to quake beneath us. Our children learn how to handle hardships by observing us.