Parenting in Times of Crisis
KellyAnn Bonnell

  

Yesterday my seven year-old son hit my two-year old daughter.  He was appropriately disciplined and our day went on.  I don't see much physical violence between my children.  Yes, they taunt one another; but hitting and physically hurting one another is not as common in our home as it is in some.  But yesterday was different.

Yesterday our nation became angry and collectively our children felt the anger.  Teachers reported inattentive, agitated children and toddlers in childcare were reported to be cranky and fussy.  Our children were reacting the emotions we as adults are transmitting.  Our children felt our rage.

It took a while for me to see what was happening; and I began to realize that if our children are feeling our rage we must understand why we are feeling it in order for us to successfully help our children during this highly stressful time.

As a nation we are grieving.  We experienced a trauma so far outside normal human experience that it will take years for us to come to terms with it.  We couldn't allow ourselves to believe it had happened.  When my husband first heard it on the radio, he thought it was a prank.

The first time I became aware of it was on a bulletin board post, and I too thought it was a prank.  Then we turned on the television.  For some the television never left the news station.  Our children saw and heard the same images we did.  We understood what we were seeing.  They, however, did not.

As adults, as we watched the terrible images on our television screens we collectively went into shock and denial.  This is the first stage of grief.  It lasted most of Tuesday.

We were so caught up in the numbness of it all that most didn't really think about how these images and our conversations about the images were affecting our children.  And when our children began to misbehave, become agitated, or generally cranky we were impatient and frustrated.  We were in emotional turmoil and so were our children.

On Wednesday collectively we became angry.  Anger is the second stage of grief.  If we are not careful during the anger stage we will cause irreparable damage our relationships with many Americans who are of Middle Eastern origin.  Irrationally pointing fingers at individuals who had nothing to do with the events earlier this week because of their ethnicity will only cause strife in America.  As parents during this very stressful time, we must be careful of our words and actions.  Children learn what they see.  We must be responsible enough about our anger that we do not inadvertently sew the seeds on hatred and intolerance.

The anger will last a long time.  It will come and go.  We will feel the sadness of the loss and we will again feel the anger.  As a nation, we just recently reconciled the events in Oklahoma City and now we have to begin the process anew.  It will bring up the feelings of that tragedy and of other personal wounds many Americans have had in the past.

As parents we will have to contend with agitated, distracted children in the weeks to come.  We will have to contend with our children's fears in the months and years to come.  Our world has been forever changed by these events; and we will parent differently because of these events.


Copyright (C) KellyAnn Bonnell.

  
   


 
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