September 11th Commemoration Issue
The Peaceful Parenting Newsletter
A free e-mail newsletter from Naomi Drew
Our work for peace must begin within
the private world of each of us.
former Secretary General of the United Nations
In commemoration of September 11th I offer you an excerpt from my new book, Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World, which will be out at the end of October. In it you will find suggestions for helping your children work through any reactions they might be having to this difficult anniversary date and the replaying of frightening images in the media. Children are very much aware of events going on in the world, even if they dont verbalize it.
You will also find an excerpt from the book on the nature of hope. May both of these pieces be helpful to you and your children.
I wish you all well, and urge you to do whatever you can to bring peace to your own lives, your families, and every life you touch for peace truly starts with each of us.
With warmth and love,
Helping Children Process and Express Emotions
- Open up discussion, but dont push. Your children will let you know how far they want to go. If you are talking about world events and you have fears of your own, admit it, but dont dwell or give too many details. Focus instead on things that are being done to keep us safe and all of the kind and magnanimous acts we have witnessed in the past year.
If your children still have issues about their safety, the best thing you can say is I will always keep you safe in every way I can. Then allow your child to speak his or her truth. One father I talked with said his five year old daughter wanted to know who would take care of her if something happened to him and her mom. He calmly reassured her that he and Mommy were safe, but if anything should ever happen to them Grandma and Grandpa would be there to take care of her. Just knowing she would be taken care of seemed to be enough for his daughter. For older children, deeper discussions may be in order.
- Encourage your child to express feelings using different modalities. If your child is not comfortable verbalizing feelings, offer him or her the opportunity to write, draw, or engage in dramatic play. Provide your child with related materials. Sometimes a reticent child will talk about something she has drawn or painted; from there feelings may emerge.
- Listen with an open heart to what your child has to say. Refrain from judgments, opinions, or pat solutions. Listen compassionately and reflect back what you heard your child say. This will open doors to communication.
- Make an extra effort to be close. Spend more time at the end of the day or before bed to be there, talk, or listen. Just being there is a statement of comfort. Check in from time to time, and if your instincts tell you your child needs an extra hug or dose of listening, give him what you think he needs. He might not always tell you.
An Activity to Help your Children Express Feelings
Feelings Popsicle Sticks
This is a variation of an activity guidance counselor Jane Mangino does with her elementary students. Sit down with your children and name every feeling you can think of together. Use markers to write them down on popsicle sticks. Each stick gets a different feeling word. Talk about what each feeling is like. Ask your children to role play some of the feelings, or to identify them on the faces of people in books and magazines. Make a pocket out of construction paper, oak tag, or old wallpaper so you can hang up the popsicle sticks. From time to time ask your child to choose one that represents hers feeling in that moment. As the feeling changes, have your child choose a different stick. Do the same thing yourself. It will help your child understand the range of feelings you experience too.
This activity has three purposes:
- It helps children identify feelings and own the feelings they have.
- It helps children understand that feelings can change, that even bad feelings are impermanent, and that we can do things to change our feelings.
- It helps children tune into the feelings of others, seeing how our behaviors influence how other people feel.
Help your child discover ways they change negative, painful, or angry feelings. Then, each time they do, ask what worked.
The Nature of Hope
Hope is something we create; it comes from within ourselves, not from external circumstances. Suzy Yehl Marta, founder of Rainbows, a grief support network, says, Hope is at the center of all loss. This feeling is what carries us from darkness into light. Hope suggests that suffering does have a purpose. Hope says we do have the strength to survive what has happened. Hope is much more definitive than a wish. To hope is to have a determined, clear vision for the future and how it can be.
A determined, clear vision for the future -- thats what we each must create for ourselves and for our families. A vision of peace for all of our children and the ways to make it possible. We each possess the power to do this.
Four essentials will accelerate your journey toward peace, hope and healing:
- Suspend disbelief.
Put aside old concepts of what is possible and what is not. So many people feel resigned, believing that peace is not possible. But as long as the sun rises in the sky each morning, there are hopes for peace. When the voice of doubt fills your mind, let it pass rather than allowing it to fuel your anxiety.
Nelson Mandela changed the world from a prison cell, but too many of us believe we cannot make a difference. To that I say, oh yes you can! One person can make a difference. Every big movement has started with grassroots actions of individuals like you and me. If not us who?
- Let your vision be a source of inspiration and energy.
Visualization and verbal affirmations will strengthen the power of your vision. If your goal is to be at peace as an individual and have peace within your family, then create a mental picture of what that would look like. Picture every detail. Write down what you envision, and create a corresponding affirmation like: I am at peace within myself and I have a peaceful family. If you want to think really big, add The world is at peace. We might not know the way to make this happen yet, but our collective visions may just lead us to discover how. Also remember this: Everything of value that has ever been created by human beings has started with a vision. So suspend disbelief, focus on your vision, and let this book be a touchstone to hope.
- Trust in the power of goodness.
There are more good people than bad in this world. Remind yourself of this and tell it to your children. Look around and you will see a preponderance of goodness confirmed every day: kind people who reach out to lend a hand, compassionate people who care about the common good. Let the awareness of this strengthen you and give you hope. Include in your vision the knowledge that good people who care really can make profound changes in this world, and they already have. And trust this vision, just like you might trust a prayer.
Trust also that impossible things have been created and impossible obstacles overcome in this world by good people. On days when your vision of peace is challenged, think about other seemingly impossible good things that have come to fruition.
Mahatma Gandhi accomplished the impossible. Believing India could gain independence through non-violent means, he stood firm in the face of countless voices that said it could not be done. Gandhi believed that love was the most powerful force in the world and he believed in the power of goodness. By remaining true to what he held closest to his heart, Gandhi made manifest an impossible vision, and in doing so he literally changed the world. Share his story with your children. It is critical that they learn from the earliest ages to trust in their own power, and to honor the the visions they perceive. Teach them to believe that with enough hard work and determination, what they envision is within reach.
Nelson Mandela had the impossible vision of a South Africa free of apartheid. Inspired by Gandhi he held to his dream of achieving freedom largely through non-violence. Like a beacon of light he rose above voices of hatred and helped dismantle this deeply-engrained system of oppression. Mandela says, Playing small does not serve the world. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.
This is the essence of believing in what is possible. It is the type of courage allows goodness to speak with strength and pride in the face of negative forces.
Remember these stories when doubt rears its head, and allow them to inspire you beyond your trepidations. Right now we need to spark each others hope and desire to take action. The race to peace will be won when enough of us join in, and by sharing your inspiration and commitment, you will be and inspiring force for others.
- Be willing to take action. We live in a society where people want everything fast and easy. Yet creating the things we value most is a slow process.
A wonderful childrens story by Arnold Lobel called The Garden beautifully illustrates this. In the story, Toad plants some seeds and expects them to grow immediately. He goes out to his garden the following day and grimaces in frustration at the empty soil and shouts, Seeds, grow now! But his impatience yields nothing. He repeats this several times with the same result. Finally Frog advises Toad to water his seeds each day, tend them patiently, and then see what happens. After following Frogs advice Toad learns that seeds grow only if we lovingly tend them over time.
Many of us are a lot like Toad. We have lost the discipline to persevere. In theory we want a peaceful world for our children to grow up in, but what are we doing to make it happen? The things of this world we want most -- hope, healing, and peace -- will only come with our patience and determination. Being willing to take action to create peace means taking the small arduous steps day after day.
As you read, please remember that creating peace is a process that requires faith, but the results will be long-term and life changing. I so strongly believe in your innate power. Remember -- you are the key to peace. God bless you.
If your organization or school would like to schedule a workshop or speaking engagement, you can reach Naomi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naomi Drew is the author of four books, all available through LearningPeace.com:
Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids (Kensington Publishers)
Learning the Skills of Peacemaking (Jalmar Press)
The Peaceful Classroom in Action (Jalmar Press)
Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World will be released in September of 2002 (Kensington Publishers)
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Copyright Naomi Drew, August, 2001 All Rights Reserved.
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Love and Peace to All of You.