As many of you know, there has been recent bomb threats towards Jewish Community Centers across the nation. Where there are JCCs, there are pre-schools. Enter a parent’s worst nightmare. The thought or our little ones having to evacuate because some heartless monster, unsure if the threat is real or not, is beyond horrible.
Do we talk to our kids about this or are we going to instill fear where fear didn’t exist? What if they hear it first from their friends? Don’t I want them to be prepared in case they need to be? At what age should we be discussing this with our families? How are we feeling about this situation? What are other parents thinking about this whole situation?
The questions are limitless and can drive us nuts. I am honored to have Lydia Abrams, a licensed clinical social worker, and school counselor for Hillel Academy in Tampa. Lydia shares her advice for parents and offers tips that will help us, and our children, get through this frightful and confusing time.
“The recent bomb threats at our local JCC preschools can bring about feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, and/or anger. It is hard to hear news of this sort, especially in conjunction with the news of the bomb threats at the Jewish centers in Orlando and the recent shooting at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.”
“As parents, we may be faced with how to talk about these events with our children, while also grappling with our own feelings regarding them. Here are some tips that can assist parents in helping to talk with their child about the recent JCC preschool bomb threats:”
Encourage your child ask questions: Whether or not you have chosen to talk with your child about the recent bomb threats, your child may have heard other students speak about it at school. In addition, your child has participated in the evacuation drill today which may prompt questions and provides a great opportunity to start this dialogue. Ask your child open-ended questions such as: “Have you heard anything at school that you may have questions about?” or “What did you think of the evacuation drill? Do you have any questions about the evacuation drill? Do you know why your school did the evacuation drill?” Asking open-ended questions allows your child to let you know what they are wondering about and where they are at. For younger children, this can help guide you in recognizing how much information they are ready to hear. Encourage your child to ask questions and let them know that there are no “right or wrong” questions. Check in with them periodically in case questions come up for them down the road.
Be honest with your answers at your child’s developmental level: Answer your child’s questions honestly while keeping in mind their intellectual and emotional developmental level. For example, for younger children, parents can opt to say that “some people played a joke on others by trying to scare them, but it’s not a funny joke, it’s a scary joke”. Whereas, for older children, parents can be honest by explaining what a bomb threat is and why it is scary. Honesty is important so that your child has an adequate understanding of the situation and it can help them to trust you with questions as they mature.
Validate and normalize their feelings: Tell them that all feelings are okay. Whether they feel sad, scared, angry, confused or nothing at all – there is no “wrong” feeling. It is okay to tell them how you feel. Keep in mind that feelings may change and allow your child the safety of approaching you with any questions or thoughts for the upcoming days, weeks or even months ahead. If your child does not feel comfortable talking, they can write or draw their feelings or act them out through play
Remind your child that their school is safe: Remind your child of the many ways that Hillel Academy is safe and secure. Even though they already know, it helps for them to be reminded. You can talk about the police officer in the parking lot entrance, the locked gates, the locked door to the entrance which requires people to be buzzed in, as well as the locked door to get from the lobby into the primary building. Remind them that people need to sign in and out, that the teachers and faculty or constantly monitoring the school for safety, and that the drills help us to prepare in case of an emergency.
Limit media exposure: News and social media have a lot of troubling pictures and information that can cause feelings of anxiety for children, as well as adults. News that adults may not find disturbing – can be confusing for children. If you are watching the news while your child is within earshot, they may be exposed without you realizing it. Try to watch the news when your children are in bed or out of earshot. For those with older children who may be exposed to news and social media, having honest and open dialogue can help prepare them for handling the exposure. Encourage them to turn off or disregard any information that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Take care of yourself: Check-in with yourself to see how you are coping with the latest troubling news. Our children can pick up on our emotions and body language. If you are struggling with your emotions, talk with someone you trust. Your partner, family member, friend, Rabbi, or a therapist can help. Going for walks, engaging in relaxation activities, and writing in a journal can also help.
Thank you again to Lydia Abrams for being a resource and sharing this invaluable information with Mommy Masters.
Lydia Abrams is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who obtained her Master of Social Work degree from Florida International University and her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of South Florida.
For the past twenty years, Lydia has worked in a variety of settings to help children, adolescents, teens, adults and seniors. Her experiences include: psychotherapist, school counselor, Clinical Director for a non-profit social services setting, case manager and counselor to survivors of domestic violence, school and home-based interventionist for behavior concerns, and counselor and advocate for individuals with special needs, disabilities, and HIV/AIDS.
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