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WHAT TERRORISM IS DOING TO YOUR KID'S MIND
DO YOU THINK THAT BECAUSE YOUR CHILDREN ARE MILES AWAY FROM A TERRORIST ATTACK THEIR MIND IS SAFE? READ AGAIN!
People that I know, tell me that the best way to fight terrorism is believing that they cannot hurt us, because we are the strongest nation in the world. And that all these violent demonstrations of terror, are nothing but an attempt to subdue us, to control us. I believe this could be true to a certain point, but there is not a doubt in my mind, that it will be a very difficult and painful journey to stop them. Despite the fact that we are not only dealing with an outside threat, but with infiltrated criminals living among us. Terrorism has created a veil of fear in every single American's mind.
We might not want to accept it, but the damage to our society is being dealt gradually, like a cancer growing silently. Our concept of national security is leaving scars deep in our sense of safety, nationwide. What we don't realize, is how these terrorist attacks are emotionally affecting our children too. I read something that caught my attention the other day, “Continuous exposure to violence is linked to an aggressive and antisocial behavior in preschool children due to anxiety, which could lead to other problems such as alcoholism, anger problems, and even suicide.”
We think that because they don't watch the news, or they don't make any comments, they have no idea what is going on, WRONG! My seven year old grandson was sitting in the back seat of my car the other day when out of nowhere, he said, “Mema, do you think someone put a bomb in the movie theater where we are going now?" Even after I tried to explain to him that there was no bomb in the movie theater, I observed him acting kind of uneasy during the whole movie. Me? I was secretly praying that, indeed, there was no bomb. The truth is, that these acts of terrorism, can happen now just about everywhere. Denying this potential danger, would be completely naïve.
The effect of terrorist acts shown as an every day news in the media, is causing fear and worry in our children. It is an implied thought of a possible short life term expectancy. In other words, they fear that the same thing could happen to them and their families. Although this fear is not noticeable in their everyday behavior, it could eventually cause an inadvertent depression, which will affect their overall perspective toward life. The fact terrorism appears as a dangerous, out of control concept, causes our children to feel helpless, and unprotected. An aggravating factor will be a dysfunctional family, violence at home, hostility at school, or chronic illnesses. This would reflect on their performance at school, the ability to interact with other people, and at some point in their lives, with their ability to take risks, in order to achieve their goals.
Children of all ages translate their fears into nightmares, separation anxiety, continuous worry about death, poor concentration in school, and even unexplained aches and pains. For parents, taking these signs lightly on their children, could mean serious consequences, which might reflect later in their adult life.
They hear others talking about it all the time! Even when they are watching T.V. They see uninterrupted chains of this violence in the news previews. Hiding the fact that we are continuously living at risk of an act of terrorism, would be like trying to block the sun with our thumb.
WHAT TO DO
Be honest with them. When they ask you a question, you don't need to give a graphic detailed explanation of what the terrorist attack caused. Remember, they have no way to control that fear, but you can assure them that whatever happened, was far away from them. Reassuring them that they are safe, will make them reduce the anxiety to the unknown. Talk about "pretty things" to deviate their attention, but make sure that you listen to what they have to say first. Especially teenagers tend to “bottle” in all these fears, because they feel embarrassed to say something, and be taken as weak, and ignorant.
Children don't know how to deal with stress, they feel helpless, at risk all the time, and unable to cope with something so big, and horrible. Just imagine our fear of an act of terrorism zoomed 100 times! That's how you child feels, when someone tells in front of them that someone was blown in pieces, or that an explosion happened in a public place. Their insecurity just turns overwhelming!
The best way to minimize the psychological damage caused by acts of violence in our children, is to let them express their feelings, DO NOT make fun of them, remember! their fear is real, authentic, and it is bigger, than their possible comprehension of the concept of violence. Listen to them, without interrupting. Remember, for a child is not easy to caught the adults attention, and nevertheless to explain their emotions. You would be probably horrified if you could hear some of their scary thoughts. The truth is that when it is about fear, age doesn't matter. An uncontrollable fear is just agonizing, I don't care who you are.
Don't just deviate their attention to end the conversation, this is as bad as covering an infected wound with a bandage! You need to clean your child's mind first, and the only way to achieve this, is by listening, understanding, and handling their fears, the best you can. Just the fact that you are really listening to them, will make them feel more secured and protected.
That afternoon after the movies, when we were going back home, my grandson said: “ You know mema? I would never want nothing bad to happen to you!” Then I realized, that the worse nightmare for a child, is to lose the ones they love. What terrorism is doing to our society, can't be denied. It is touching every single one of us, in some way. Our battle against it needs to start at home, with our own children, so they won't grow up in fear, and unsecured.
Maybe we cannot bring back our old America, where there was violence too, but never as evil as the one we are currently living. However, we can try to keep our kids' childhood as fearless, and normal as possible. It doesn't mean we will close our eyes to terrorism, it means to close theirs to the horrible events transpiring around them. Now, when it is about our teenagers, we also need to make sure, that they know the difference between: feeling angry and being hateful.
Explain to them that feeling anger is completely normal, when is about innocent people been killed by terrorists, but make sure that you tell them that hating is a negative feeling, which only destroys the heart of the people who hates. It is a chain reaction, which only brings more devastation.
If someone would have ever told me 20 years ago, that I was going to be afraid to go to a public restroom in my hometown, or walking the streets wondering if something will blow up on my face, I would have just laughed, and called that person ignorant. “Nothing like that ever happens in America!” I would have said.
Well, it seems that we are living a different world now, is not exclusively happening overseas anymore, terrorism is here, these criminals live among us, and they only want one thing: to destroy us.
Unfortunately, we don't know who they are and where they live, but we do know one thing, we can still use the strongest shield there is to protect our children' s mind: communication, and especially, the reassurance that they are loved, and protected at all times.