A young mother herded her flock of children, small heads and eyes cast downward, through the Port Au Prince Street littered with dead bodies. Thankfully, they were not stopped by a CNN foot soldier asking, “How does it feel to walk down this street ?”
The continuous coverage of the graphic horror of this unimaginable catastrophic event is so reminiscent of the continuous replays of the towers attacked and aflame in 2001. Once again, parents are concerned about the impact on their children. Last night’s Fundraiser with alternately inspiring music and harrowing images puts into sharp relief the need for parents, educators and nannies to be mindful.
Here are some suggested steps to take with our children.
1. AVOID OVEREXPOSURE. We need to be aware of the effects of overexposure on our children and not have TV coverage as an ongoing backdrop to our activities in our homes. Parents, teachers and nannies need to be mindful of their own conversations as small ears are listening and absorbing.
2. KEEP CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION OPEN AND ONGOING. Asking the questions that determine how much children know allows adults to go from there in terms of processing information. Careful and active listening is critical here. Don’t share more than they need to know.
3. MAINTAIN NORMAL STRUCTURE AND ROUTINES. It is a time to maintain traditional structure and routines so children can feel safe and that the events of their lives are predictable. Affection and support should be heightened for all children.
4. OPPORTUNITY TO TEACH COMPASSION AND OTHER-DIRECTEDNESS. Parlaying shock and deep compassion into charitable and collective action that includes the children in the effort is empowering. Have them help family and community in pooling together a contribution of support and relief to send to Haiti.
5. FIND POSITIVE MESSAGES AND MEANINGS AMIDST THE TRAGEDY. So many profiles in courage, hope and dignity have emerged. The resiliency of the human spirit is portrayed in so many miraculous moments of saving lives and in the widespread generosity of angels who rushed in to help Haitians .