Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
I had an “A Hah” moment this past week when I was reading a news article about how to discuss 9/11 with your children. Part of the advice the writer gave was to talk about it in a way that will not startle or scare them and to reassure them that they are safe. The writer was quoting supposed mental health experts with whom he discussed the issue.
I was left feeling very uncomfortable with what I read but could not figure out why. After all, I thought, what is wrong about answering questions your children may ask about this very public anniversary and what is wrong with reassuring them that they are safe?
These are not profound questions and, at another time and a different issue, I would have known what was bothering me. However, having been in Manhattan the morning of the attacks, I am not able to take an objective stand on how to cope with an event that was so traumatizing.
When Nazi bombs and V2 rockets were falling on London and families were hiding in the Tubes, our version of the subway, but much deeper and safer, parents did not assure their children that they were safe. How could they? The explosions and vibrations were heard and felt all the way underground.
When I was a boy in a Bronx elementary school, there were regular practice emergencies in preparation for a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The principle or other teachers would suddenly and unexpectedly enter the classroom and yell, “take cover.” We even had to wear dog tags every day in order that we could be identified if the worst happened.
Why do we give our children so little credit for their resilience and ability to understand in their own way? How can we tell our children they are safe in an age of terrorist attacks? Even as America prepares for this tragic anniversary, there are threats of another attack on the United States. Finally, why do we give our parents and families so little credit for knowing how to handle this and other awful life events?
Please understand that I am not criticizing the information and help that mental health experts provide. I’m one of them. What I fear is that families may come to believe they cannot use their judgement in raising their children. My parents did not consult experts about how to handle having to “take cover” at school.
Families, have faith in yourselves in your ability to creatively handle crises as they come up. We are here to help when and if a crisis becomes so overwhelming that people feel helpless, scared and in need of help. Other that, use your own good judgement. I have a feeling you do, anyway.
Your comments and questions are encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD