“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”
REM is playing in my head. Post-apocalyptic visions of dystopia are unfolding before my eyes: Nukes being launched from Cuba, food and gasoline supplies dwindling, Satanic daycare workers abusing children, satellites falling from the sky, black holes created at particle accelerators, killer clowns loose in the woods, and children sold as sex slaves at pizzerias.
These are just a few of the panics in my lifetime. Some of these panics were grounded in facts; most were completely baseless. Ignorance, coincidence, and passion blended together and repeated are is the perfect recipe for mass hysteria. Children are especially vulnerable to this hype. Lacking perspective and critical thinking skills they cannot discern between reality and hype.
Make no mistake, the world is dangerous and horrible things happen. There are bad people who want to take advantage of us. Accidents happen. and Bad things happen to good people. organizations that do not care about us and will take advantage of us if they can. We must be wise and diligent to provide safety for ourselves and our families. However, we cannot allow fear to control and paralyze us.
This past Presidential campaign has taken its toil on the American people, especially our children. School counselors are reporting higher levels of anxiety, bullying, and fear. These are real and powerful issues. It is hard enough for us adults to properly process our own fears and anxiety. How can we provide the tools our children need to handle them?
In hindsight, we should have posted parent advisory notices on everything related to the election. Although we want our children to understand the world around them, there are some things young children are not developmentally ready to handle. We can’t go back and erase all they have seen and heard but we can change how we act and discuss things around them. We can limit the amount of news and information we allow them to consume.
In foresight, we can train children to develop resilience. Resilience is the ability to say, “It’s not the end of the world” when problems come our way. It is saying, “I can adapt to adversity, trauma, tragedy, and threats in a healthy way”. It’s the attitude of “I can.” As parents and adults, we can have a tremendous impact on children. Instead of providing safe spaces and trigger warnings, we can provide skills of resilience
How can we do this? We can model these skills through our own healthy reactions to the news and events. We can acknowledge their fears while emphasizing their unique abilities to overcome them. We can provide kid-sized opportunities for them to accomplish goals which develop competence and confidence. We can allow them room to fail without rescuing them.. When they don’t make the team, they can try out for something else. When the family pet dies, they can mourn the loss and keep going. When they are made fun of and their views are challenged, they can continue to speak up for what they believe in. When they fail, they can get back up again. It is not the end of the world and I feel fine.