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Let's face it - conflict is inevitable. We all cannot get what we want the way we want it all of the time, and thus our needs and wants and personalities will collide. SO - let me suggest that the goal is to handle conflict well so that:

  • we maintain mutual respect;

  • we look for win-win (rather than win-lose or lose-lose) solutions;

  • we restore domestic tranquility - life is too short to stay in the fight!


Here is a valuable technique - which I first learned from Mary Pipher's book Reviving Ophelia (which is still a must-read for parents of daughters) - that can achieve these goals. Thesandwich technique has praise as the top piece of bread, hope as the bottom piece of bread, and your criticism as the "fixings" of the sandwich.


Here's a scenario you might relate to: you come home from a long day at work to find the kitchen full of empty jars and boxes, a sink filled with dishes smeared with tomato sauce, and a half-empty gallon of milk on the counter. This is the result of a pasta-cooking event led by your son and his football buddies. You want to get dinner started, and now the kitchen is a mess. How to proceed?

PRAISE: Hey John, I really appreciate how you take care of your buddies and share our home with them. You are a good friend to them, and I enjoy having your friends at our house.

CRITICISM: I do feel, however, that cleaning up after yourselves before I get home is an important part of our shared family agreement. Today's mess in the kitchen is just too much for me to deal with right now, and it needs to be cleaned up before I make dinner.

HOPE: I hope we can continue to respect our common spaces in the house and take care of one another. I know you can be a kind and conscientious kid, and I believe this won't happen again.


Let's look a bit closer:

  • Praise that is specific, helpful, and true opens up the listener's ears and heart and helps our message to get through to others.

  • Criticism that looks at the "directly observable data"  - like the dirty kitchen - and avoids labeling - like "lazy" and "slob" - is most likely to get good results.

  • Hope in the message getting across suggests faith in the other person and a positive attitude when looking ahead.  

So - why not give it a try?

Thanksgiving is coming, and families do their best to have it be a joyful and harmonious time for sharing around the hearth. However - as we all know! - things can get contentious: for me it was my found political views as a first-year college student in 1968 clashing with my parents and my traditional Italian relatives. SO - maybe some prior preparation is in order?

 

1)      Do your homework: what really happened that day? Go to www.manataka.org  to get a perspective on the holiday that shows a more comprehensive sense of Europeans encountering indigenous people in Massachusetts. There really was a feast of thanksgiving, but the historical story is much more nuanced.

2)     Put your kids to work: a) include your children in planning the meal by getting a copy of the likely first Thanksgiving menu on line; b) discuss why these foods were chosen and why we might want to celebrate with the same foods today; c) have your children prepare some of the dishes - what a great math lesson cooking from a recipe can be!

3)     Have your children prepare short readings to share their newfound knowledge about the day - check out the children's Haggadahs used at Passover seders. Children are natural-born culture changers: they create a new classroom peer culture every new school year. Let your children lead your family members into more inclusive thinking about this holiday.

4)     The present polarization of our nation can easily divide your Thanksgiving table: set some ground rules regarding political discussions before everyone sits down at the table. If need be have a "designated politics space" away from the dining room for those who insist on such discussions. Let this meal be a "common ground" from which civil discussion might ensue after the meal in your designated space.

5)     Go around the table and have everyone express what they are grateful for - a practice I am certain many of you already do. An "attitude of gratitude" has wide-ranging healthy effects - physical, emotional, and spiritual - and will help you digest that big meal!

6)     Make a decision to support a local effort to feed one another one this day - either one of our events right here on City Island or a local organization (like POTS on Webster Avenue in the Bronx).

I hope this is helpful - many thanks for reading!





THE PLYMOUTH THANKSGIVING STORY

By Chuck Larsen


When the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1620, they landed on the rocky shores of a territory that was inhabited by the Wampanoag (Wam pa NO ag) Indians. The Wampanoags were part of the Algonkian-speaking peoples, a large group that was part of the Woodland Culture area. These Indians lived in villages along the coast of what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island. They lived in round- roofed houses called wigwams. These were made of poles covered with flat sheets of elm or birch bark. Wigwams differ in construction from tipis that were used by Indians of the Great Plains.

The Wampanoags moved several times during each year in order to get food. In the spring they would fish in the rivers for salmon and herring. In the planting season they moved to the forest to hunt deer and other animals. After the end of the hunting season people moved inland where there was greater protection from the weather. From December to April they lived on food that they stored during the earlier months.

The basic dress for men was the breech clout, a length of deerskin looped over a belt in back and in front. Women wore deerskin wrap-around skirts. Deerskin leggings and fur capes made from deer, beaver, otter, and bear skins gave protection during the colder seasons, and deerskin moccasins were worn on the feet. Both men and women usually braided their hair and a single feather was often worn in the back of the hair by men. They did not have the large feathered headdresses worn by people in the Plains Culture area.

There were two language groups of Indians in New England at this time. The Iroquois were neighbors to the Algonkian-speaking people. Leaders of the Algonquin and Iroquois people were called "sachems" (SAY chems). Each village had its own sachem and tribal council. Political power flowed upward from the people. Any individual, man or woman, could participate, but among the Algonquins more political power was held by men. Among the Iroquois, however, women held the deciding vote in the final selection of who would represent the group. Both men and women enforced the laws of the village and helped solve problems. The details of their democratic system were so impressive that about 150 years later Benjamin Franklin invited the Iroquois to Albany, New York, to explain their system to a delegation who then developed the "Albany Plan of Union." This document later served as a model for the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.

These Indians of the Eastern Woodlands called the turtle, the deer and the fish their brothers. They respected the forest and everything in it as equals. Whenever a hunter made a kill, he was careful to leave behind some bones or meat as a spiritual offering, to help other animals survive. Not to do so would be considered greedy. The Wampanoags also treated each other with respect. Any visitor to a Wampanoag home was provided with a share of whatever food the family had, even if the supply was low. This same courtesy was extended to the Pilgrims when they met.

We can only guess what the Wampanoags must have thought when they first saw the strange ships of the Pilgrims arriving on their shores. But their custom was to help visitors, and they treated the newcomers with courtesy. It was mainly because of their kindness that the Pilgrims survived at all. The wheat the Pilgrims had brought with them to plant would not grow in the rocky soil. They needed to learn new ways for a new world, and the man who came to help them was called "Tisquantum" (Tis SKWAN tum) or "Squanto" (SKWAN toe).

Squanto was originally from the village of Patuxet (Pa TUK et) and a member of the Pokanokit Wampanoag nation. Patuxet once stood on the exact site where the Pilgrims built Plymouth. In 1605, fifteen years before the Pilgrims came, Squanto went to England with a friendly English explorer named John Weymouth. He had many adventures and learned to speak English. Squanto came back to New England with Captain Weymouth. Later Squanto was captured by a British slaver who raided the village and sold Squanto to the Spanish in the Caribbean Islands. A Spanish Franciscan priest befriended Squanto and helped him to get to Spain and later on a ship to England. Squanto then found Captain Weymouth, who paid his way back to his homeland. In England Squanto met Samoset of the Wabanake (Wab NAH key) Tribe, who had also left his native home with an English explorer. They both returned together to Patuxet in 1620. When they arrived, the village was deserted and there were skeletons everywhere. Everyone in the village had died from an illness the English slavers had left behind. Squanto and Samoset went to stay with a neighboring village of Wampanoags.

One year later, in the spring, Squanto and Samoset were hunting along the beach near Patuxet. They were startled to see people from England in their deserted village. For several days, they stayed nearby observing the newcomers. Finally they decided to approach them. Samoset walked into the village and said "welcome," Squanto soon joined him. The Pilgrims were very surprised to meet two Indians who spoke English.

The Pilgrims were not in good condition. They were living in dirt-covered shelters, there was a shortage of food, and nearly half of them had died during the winter. They obviously needed help and the two men were a welcome sight. Squanto, who probably knew more English than any other Indian in North America at that time, decided to stay with the Pilgrims for the next few months and teach them how to survive in this new place. He brought them deer meat and beaver skins. He taught them how to cultivate corn and other new vegetables and how to build Indian-style houses. He pointed out poisonous plants and showed how other plants could be used as medicine. He explained how to dig and cook clams, how to get sap from the maple trees, use fish for fertilizer, and dozens of other skills needed for their survival.

By the time fall arrived things were going much better for the Pilgrims, thanks to the help they had received. The corn they planted had grown well. There was enough food to last the winter. They were living comfortably in their Indian-style wigwams and had also managed to build one European-style building out of squared logs. This was their church. They were now in better health, and they knew more about surviving in this new land. The Pilgrims decided to have a thanksgiving feast to celebrate their good fortune. They had observed thanksgiving feasts in November as religious obligations in England for many years before coming to the New World.

The Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. The beginning of the Algonkian year was marked by the Maple Dance which gave thanks to the Creator for the maple tree and its syrup. This ceremony occurred when the weather was warm enough for the sap to run in the maple trees, sometimes as early as February. Second was the planting feast, where the seeds were blessed. The strawberry festival was next, celebrating the first fruits of the season. Summer brought the green corn festival to give thanks for the ripening corn. In late fall, the harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown. Mid-winter was the last ceremony of the old year. When the Indians sat down to the "first Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims, it was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year for them!

Captain Miles Standish, the leader of the Pilgrims, invited Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoags), and their immediate families to join them for a celebration, but they had no idea how big Indian families could be. As the Thanksgiving feast began, the Pilgrims were overwhelmed at the large turnout of ninety relatives that Squanto and Samoset brought with them. The Pilgrims were not prepared to feed a gathering of people that large for three days. Seeing this, Massasoit gave orders to his men within the first hour of his arrival to go home and get more food. Thus it happened that the Indians supplied the majority of the food: Five deer, many wild turkeys, fish, beans, squash, corn soup, corn bread, and berries. Captain Standish sat at one end of a long table and the Clan Chief Massasoit sat at the other end. For the first time the Wampanoag people were sitting at a table to eat instead of on mats or furs spread on the ground. The Indian women sat together with the Indian men to eat. The Pilgrim women, however, stood quietly behind the table and waited until after their men had eaten, since that was their custom.

For three days the Wampanoags feasted with the Pilgrims. It was a special time of friendship between two very different groups of people. A peace and friendship agreement was made between Massasoit and Miles Standish giving the Pilgrims the clearing in the forest where the old Patuxet village once stood to build their new town of Plymouth.

It would be very good to say that this friendship lasted a long time; but, unfortunately, that was not to be. More English people came to America, and they were not in need of help from the Indians as were the original Pilgrims. Many of the newcomers forgot the help the Indians had given them. Mistrust started to grow and the friendship weakened. The Pilgrims started telling their Indian neighbors that their Indian religion and Indian customs were wrong. The Pilgrims displayed an intolerance toward the Indian religion similar to the intolerance displayed toward the less popular religions in Europe. The relationship deteriorated and within a few years the children of the people who ate together at the first Thanksgiving were killing one another in what came to be called King Phillip's War.

It is sad to think that this happened, but it is important to understand all of the story and not just the happy part. Today the town of Plymouth Rock has a Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving. There are still Wampanoag people living in Massachusetts. In 1970, they asked one of them to speak at the ceremony to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival.

Here is part of what was said:  Frank James speech was written but was suppressed and he did not speak at the ceremony.

"Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of looking back to the first days of white people in America. But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people.

Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the Wampanoags, still walk the lands of Massachusetts. What has happened cannot be changed. But today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important."

 


          Most of us who are parents and grandparents remember well the issues that arise as a new school year begins:

·        What will I wear the first day?

·        Who will be my new teachers?

·        Will my friends still like me?

·        How can I possibly pass Algebra II/Physics/AP History???

(We might also remember that many of issues are issues of privilege: how many students in our country and around the world have limited access to new clothes, poorly staffed schools, peer groups dominated by gangs, and few opportunities for advanced courses?)

In the midst of this very natural angst there are also opportunities for new goals, new experiences, and new challenges for growth. But - as always - "chance favors the prepared mind" (to quote Louis Pasteur). How do we prepare ourselves and our students for the new beginnings that come each September?

·        Start adjusting the home schedule before the first week of school: wake-up times, meal times, and bed times can be quite flexible in the summer. Many of us need to slowly adjust to the school day, homework time, and fall sports schedules.

·        Set goals for the new school year: have your child pick one new activity they will try this year and hold them to that choice. Suggest grades or specific achievement points for various school classes that hopefully can be attained, and write those down as a "pledge" or "contract" to be reviewed at Thanksgiving (or after the first grading period). Making a team, running for an office in school, and learning a new skill or musical instrument all would apply here.

·        Make your home "school-friendly": be sure there are appropriate spaces for doing homework, knowing that these spaces will need to change as your child grows up and has different needs. Have appropriate healthy snacks available for after-school munching. Try to have your home be a welcoming space for your child to do school projects with other children.

·        Have a family "screens" policy: screen time is here to stay, but parents can still set the standards for screen use at home. Have clear policies about dinner time (no screens and phones for parents, too!), multiple screen usage while doing homework (multitasking is a myth!), and how you will collect screens before bedtime (eliminate those 2 am texts!).

If we do not provide values and structures for our children the culture - which is based upon social media and consumerism - will fill in the void. We have a responsibility to raise our own children, and that takes time and effort.

 

 

I have had the luxury of working with children of all ages for the past 45 years. I especially enjoy middle schoolers - the group often dubbed the most challenging to parent and the most challenging to teach - because of their energy, their idealism, and their willingness to try new things. If you talk down to a middle schooler all is lost - they have radar for adult disdain. If you enjoy and encourage a middle schooler they will be an enthusiastic fan - recruit one for your next personal project, treat them with respect, and enjoy their loyal participation.

I recently began working with a middle schooler and - as usual - asked about personal interests: what's your favorite TV show? Your favorite book? What kind of music do you listen to? What's your idea of a perfect Saturday? This young person immediately told me about Grey's Anatomy - a long-standing TV show about doctors in a Seattle hospital - and so I agreed to watch "a few episodes" to get the gist of things. (Previous young people have introduced me to the band Nirvana, Beavis and Butthead, Taylor Swift,  Dexter, The Witches of Waverly Place, and YouTube videos on how to solve Rubik's Cubes quickly - you get the picture...)

Well, over 250 episodes of Grey's Anatomy later (I got my wife hooked, too), I now enjoy the various relationships and professional quandaries everyone finds themselves in on that show. And - in fact - there is parenting advice to boot!

In one episode one of the regular characters - Doctor Alex Karev (played by Justin Chambers) - is helping a new father whose baby has just been born to a mother who is about to die. The father is struggling - "I don't know how to be a father by myself!" - and Karev (in his usual brusque but loving way) says, "There is only one trick: just show up!"

I think this is good advice for all of us as parents: just show up for the events that will shape our child's life. These can be the usual "special days" - like birthdays, school concerts, playoff games, and the like - but they can also include making breakfast together, taking a walk, driving them places with their friends, and just "hanging out" after school.

This also means being really "present" - no electronics, no reading the newspaper while asking about their day, not taking phone calls on that walk. We used to joke about "quality time" but it is a useful concept: "be here now" is more than just a saying from the 1960's.  Some people talk about the "precious present" - not a material gift but the gift of now. That gift is available to us - and our children - all of the time. Just show up.

Parenting for Non-Violence

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We certainly struggle as parents when we hear about school violence. As we read the news feed and try to understand the family dynamics of the young men who engage in school shootings, we often ask: where were the parents? how did this happen? Clearly mental health issues can be a cause for such behavior - I am not solely blaming the parents here - yet we as parents can choose to be actors in our children's lives in ways that can hopefully help to prevent such tragedies.

I believe we can actually parent for non-violence. Most of our children have a natural tendency to do "the next right thing" - what Quakers call "growing into goodness." Our parenting style can support this process if we have a belief in the innate goodness of each individual. We can also undermine the confidence of our children if we believe that our role is "spare the rod and spoil the child" when disciplining them. Discipline - which comes from the Latin word "discere" (which means "to follow" as in a "disciple") - can certainly happen without violence. Discipline based upon natural consequences allows our children to face the results of their actions, be responsible, and still maintain their dignity.

So if we ask ourselves, "what is violence?" - what comes up for us? If we were to brainstorm a list of behaviors that are "violent" we might begin with the more physical examples (hitting, spanking, fighting) but soon we must move to more emotional examples (shaming, verbal abuse, gossip, neglect, withdrawal) as well as cultural forms of violence (sexism, racism, elitism, ageism, ableism). Do we really want to be "violent" with our children?

If we ask ourselves, "what is non-violence?" - a different set of behaviors and values emerge: love, respect, inclusion, community, peace, service to others, and others. So how can our parenting embrace these values?

There is a good formula for addressing issues: it is "non-violent communication" as defined by a psychologist named Marshall Rosenberg. It goes like this:

·        Observe without judgment: instead of saying "you are such a slob - just look at this room!" you can say "I see a room with dirty dishes, clothes all over the floor, and an unmade bed."

·        State your feelings: begin with "I" and take ownership for what you feel. "I feel sad and discouraged when I see this room."

·        State your needs: "I need a home where I can feel comfortable to walk into any room." Kids need to know that parents have needs, too.

·        Make a request: "I want this situation taken care of as soon as possible. If not there will need to be consequences."

Think about what this means: a child can correct her behavior without feeling attacked. That is parenting for non-violence.

All of us do better when we have the opportunity to make adjustments and maintain our dignity. Let's reduce violence in the world by beginning with our own families.

Raising Kids Who Bounce Back

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I believe that there is a continuing revelation of truth in the world - that we are always going to find new ways to be authentic. Our children's development is a form of continuing revelation: they will grow and teach us who there are, what they need, and how they will live in this world.

 

I also believe that children - with the right nurture and the right environment - naturally grow into goodness. That being said, life presents challenges, and thus we need to talk about how we help our children - and ourselves -  deal with setbacks - the concept of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity with positive

  outcomes and optimism. We all need it - but how do we develop it? Here is a list of qualities that we can nurture in our children to develop this "bounce back" skills:

·        Learn how to have positive relationships.

·        Cultivate a good sense of humor.

·        Develop an "inner compass" and learn right from wrong.

·         Encourage independence in age-appropriate ways.

·         Model and cultivate a love of learning.

·        Model and develop flexibility

·        Look for self-motivation in things they are passionate about - baseball, painting, gymnastics, reading - even if these passions would not be your first choice for them.

·        Honor and applaud competence - self-esteem is based upon competence, not self-praise...

·         Make your home a place of creativity.

·        Model and nurture perseverance: learn a new skill with your child.

·        Recognize spirituality in yourself and your child: how do you practice as a family respect and awe for the divine?

A major challenge to resilience that many parents ask about is bullying. Let's first talk about what bullying is:

1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.

It is also important to know that bullying is not teasing (between friends with no power differential and with a goal of humor and not aggression) or a random unkind act (which is regrettable but can be addressed as a single incident).

So what can we do to stop bullying?

1)                 Teach children to use their words first and ask for what they want.

2)               Empower children to a) find common ground with others; b) seek positive cohorts who can be allies in positive activities; c) walk away from bullying situations toward friends and allies; d) remain calm and confident, and e) (when all else fails) ask for adult help.

3)               Avoid solving the situation for children when is first arises - instead use Fay and Cline's Love and Logic formula (respond with empathy...pause... "what can you do about this?"...pause... "I love you, you are a competent child, I am sure you will figure this out"...walk away.

4)               Letting us know at school if nothing has helped and all three criteria for bullying (listed above) have been met.

 

Here is the text of a Good Housekeeping "sidebar" on resilience (December 2010 issue, page 124) that staff writer Jacqueline Nochisaki put together after interviewing me:

 

Four simple moves that'll nurture a bounce-back kid from John Scardina, a school psychologist and parent educator in City Island, NY:

 

 GIVE YOUR CHILD THE REINS: When your child is talking about a tough situation, let her finish, then say, "This must be really tough." Pause. "What are you going to do about it?" The key here is to show you are tuned in by acknowledging the pain she is feeling,

 

 CAST A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: As your child formulates a plan, give her a boost by saying, "I see someone who is caring," or "...strong," or "...good at x, y, z." Reflecting her assets back to the child helps her realize she is capable of handling the situation, tough as it may be at first. "Say, 'I know you can handle this, but if you need help let me know.'"

 

 CREATE A GRATITUDE LIST: Help a kid going through a tough phase count his blessings and cultivate optimism: Have your family write up and post a gratitude list of five to ten things to be grateful for. The message: These good things in life are here to stay, regardless of challenging situations. When your child is feeling low, remind him to check the list

 

 CALL IN THE PROFESSIONALS: If your child has a rough patch and experiences sleep or appetite disruption or lethargy, or if you notice a change in relationships with family or friends, it may be time to have a therapist step in. Ask your pediatrician, family practitioner, religious leader, or school guidance counselor for references.

 

As always it is my privilege to work with you and your families.


Growing up with Dick and Jane as my school reading book main characters - Dick usually building something and Jane watching with her hands clasped behind her back - gender modeling was pretty straightforward. Those who did not conform with the male and female stereotypes - and those were the only choices our culture seemed to offer - stayed out of sight if they wanted to avoid the pain of stigmatization and punishment.

We now understand that gender - a cultural construct that assigns roles to individuals - and sex - a biological trait based upon anatomy and physiology - are different. There is a continuum - a spectrum (like the rainbow, in fact!) - of gender possibilities, and our assigned gender (what was recorded on our birth certificates) need not be the same as our identified gender. Some of us - called "cisgender" - have our gender expression aligned with our sex. Some of us - called "transgender" - have a gender expression that is not the same as our sex. Can our culture be big enough to embrace both types of individuals?

Children can often be gender fluid, and our role as parents can be to provide the opportunity for exploration of many ways to be our authentic selves. How we dress, what toys we choose, what sports we pursue, and what arts inspire us can all be free of "one story" gender stereotypes. Some of us will also have children who have "girl brains" and "boy bodies" or "boy brains" and "girl bodies" - and thus we will need to find the tools and love and compassion to help these individuals find their own ways of being authentic.

In the end, all parents can treat all children in the following ways to help make our families gender-inclusive:


  • say "I love you" often;

  • learn as much as you can about gender issues;

  • work for equality and inclusion;

  • become a protector and an ally of all children;

  • listen;

  • document your child's awesomeness;

  • decorate their room as the child sees fit;

  • use gender-inclusive language that avoids binary gender-bias (like "children" instead of "boys and girls" and "friends" instead of "ladies and gentlemen").


         Each of us strives for authenticity - to be our true selves and to do our best work with the gifts we have. All individuals deserve the chance to pursue their dreams and goals - you do, too!



      There is a lot of news these days from different political and cultural points of view about holidays, statues, and the various ways in which national heroes and patriotic events can be seen in a new light by having a new perspective. How do we really feel about Thanksgiving, Robert E. Lee, the Declaration of Independence, or Christopher Columbus?

We as parents want children who can think critically - they will be making life-and-death decisions in their teen years as they learn to drive, face the widespread use of drugs and alcohol, get involved in intimate relationships, and vote. It is never too early to develop critical thinking skills - and remember, a young person's brain doesn't fully develop until age 24, so you can make a difference in their lives for quite a while.

We as a nation want young people entering the work force who can take on multiple perspectives and make wise and deliberate decisions. Letting young people lock into one ideology, one point of view, or one idea about how life should be lived leads to fundamentalism and intolerance. Our schools and our faith communities do best when we present multiple points of view, looking at how we are connected rather than how we contradict one another.

We as a planet need a global perspective on how our actions affect everyone alive today as well as the generations to come. Deciding to support the fossil fuel industry in the USA while other industrialized nations are moving toward independence from fossil fuels represents a different approach to meeting the needs of all people. Is the already epidemic rise of childhood asthma in the USA related to the dangers of unregulated emissions here at home?

SO - what can a parent do?

·         Look for ways to discuss holidays with your children that include multiple perspectives: How did Thanksgiving turn out for the indigenous peoples of New England? How can we look at the historical facts, face the difficult choices our ancestors made, and still maintain the spirit of gratitude and family that we cherish about this holiday?

·         Look at patriotic events with your children in wholistic terms: When the Declaration of Independence says "all men are created equal" do we make sure our children understand that this phrase only pertained to white men of European descent who held property? How did women and people held in slavery and indigenous people benefit from this document? (Hint: they didn't...) This was an historic event to be sure - thus our July 4th fireworks! - but it didn't change the world for many people living here.

·         Find ways to engage your children in your own process of political discernment: When someone says "don't dump on the Bronx" but is in fact not talking about garbage but human beings, we can point out how political rhetoric can be inflammatory in ways we would not allow our children to speak? Encourage them to look at candidates with you and practice the skill of making an informed choice when voting. Your children may have a perspective about a candidate that can inform your own voting patterns. They will be voting soon enough - and don't we hope for an informed electorate?

 

If, as John Dewey said, the goal of education is to build a new world, then we need to be educators who open our children's minds and hearts to the multiple possibilities our future world can embrace. 

Friends - this is a revised version of the letter I wrote on 9/11/01. I certainly had hoped it wouldn't be needed so often, but that has not been the case. May we all find ways to develop alternatives to violence in ourselves, our families, our schools, our communities, and our nation.

 Talking With Children About Difficult Events

·         Remain available to talk about what is happening. Accept all questions, even if they are repeated over (and over!) again.

·         Be honest. Give facts at an appropriate level for your child's developmental level. Be willing to say "I don't know" if that is indeed the case.

·         Acknowledge feelings - your own and your child's. Unsettling events bring up lots of emotions for us - fear, anger, worry, despair, hope - and that is how it should be. Talking about feelings helps everyone.

·         Let your child know there are people who can help out in difficult situations. Become people who can help. Find ways to help those in more need than you. Helping others creates hope for all.

·         Limit television viewing of news: vivid images can be quite disturbing and can cause long-lasting discomfort.

·          Use drawing as a way to get disturbing images out of your child's mind: have them draw the image and then rip up the picture. This works especially well with nightmares.

·         Recognize that headaches, stomach aches, and sleep disturbances all accompany anxiety and uncertainty. Let your child know that these are natural reactions to stress and will pass soon.

·         Let your children be kids: when they are ready to just go out and play with their friends, let them do so.  Help them - and yourselves - come to terms with this "new normal" in our world.

 

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