September 25, 2017
Hello Mariposa families.
At the beginning of this week, a fifth grade boy found me during snack recess to ask me a very upsetting question. He’d heard there was “a nuke coming this way,” and wanted to know if it was true. I asked him if he knew what that meant, and he told me it was a huge bomb that would wipe out everything. My instincts told me to keep it simple. I told him that there were news reports about one country’s leader testing powerful weapons, but at this time, there was no bomb on its way here.
I was relieved when he replied, “OK, thanks!” and ran off to play.
I’m old enough to remember ducking under my own school desk at his age, covering my head in regular rehearsals to be ready in case of an atomic bomb. It’s disconcerting to think we may be returning to that surreal sense of suspended fear, and exposing our children to it. In addition to all the recent coverage of missile tests and threats, we’ve been inundated with daily news video of destruction and misery from hurricanes and earthquakes, most of which has been graphic and upsetting to adults, let alone children. It’s worth taking a moment to think about how all of this might be affecting our families, and take control where we can, to support our children’s processing of troubling information.
Monitor what children experience on screens, including TV and devices. As a noted psychiatrist explained on NPR this week, it’s important we know what’s going on in the world, so we can effectively plan our response. But it’s probably counterproductive and unhealthy for us, and might even be psychologically traumatic for our children, to watch several hours of emergency sound and imagery– even though it’s news, and therefore important to know about.
Make time to listen and respond to your children. As we know, their fears and concerns are sometimes hard for them to express, and often come out at unexpected moments. Try to stop and listen when they ask deep questions, and think about what they are needing to know, before answering. That 10 year-old boy didn’t need to know about the adult world’s fear and frustration, or the likelihood of nuclear war– he just wanted to know if a bomb was coming today, and was happy to learn it was not. Keep your responses “kid-sized,” and hold back your adult anxieties for another conversation later, with a sympathetic adult.
Take care of our yourselves, too. Remember that admonishment to put on your own oxygen mask, before helping others around you? Your mental health is essential to your family’s wellbeing, so make it a practice to turn off devices and find time to share your own worries and concerns with a trusted adult. None of us is perfect, and parenting isn’t easy! I’m the first to tell you that when I’ve blown it with my own children, it’s because I’m not really present, instead caught up in an anxiety that is apparent only to me. All of us need a way to relieve our own stress, to be available to support others– and especially our children.
We are truly fortunate to have wonderful school counselors at all our San Carlos schools. Please let any of us at school know if your children need emotional support, or if you would like guidance to help with your parenting concerns.
Best wishes for a mindful week,
Principal, Mariposa @Heather, @Arundel, and @Tierra Linda