When I was a little girl in the sixties, I remember seeing on television that people were setting their city on fire. It was baffling and terrifying to me. I remember standing out in the backyard, feeling the sunshine and seeing my mother’s beautiful flowers, and feeling that terror intensely. After that, whenever my family left the house, I spent the time they were gone worrying that something bad would happen to them, or to me. I often sat on the wooden blanket box in our hallway window watching for them to come back. To this day, I am always happiest when all of my chicks are home safely.
If I have one piece of advice to offer parents during this terrible time of sorrow, it is to turn off the television and the radio, and put aside the cell phone. The thing you need to do now is spend time with your child. Make something. Read something. Sing. Go for a walk. Play a game. It will give your child a sense of safety that nothing else can. No words of reassurance will help as much as your presence.
Parents of boys, this goes double for you. I was so struck by the little girl who was talking on television this morning about how she and her classmates were huddled in some small space listening over the intercom to the screams. She said, “The girls were all crying, and a couple of the boys.” That really says something about the different way they process emotions. Boys especially will need some extended time with their parents to give them enough space to be able to express some of what they find so hard to articulate. You can’t force them to feel, but you can make a lot of room for it by sharing your time and your attention.
Here is something that the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd reposted on Facebook. It offers very wise and helpful advice about where children are developmentally and how best to help them in terrible times. Please share it, and please give your kid a hug from me.