How to Care for Kids During Scary Times

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In our home, Goose often gets to choose whether we listen to the news (on public radio) or to music during dinner. One evening in mid-June, she chose the news. We’d been getting home later than normal, so neither of us had had our fill of current goings on. As Audie Cornish and Mary Louise Kelly explained the family separation crisis on All Things Considered, Goose’s eyes got wide, and she asked if we were going to be separated from each other. I was surprised. This is the girl who has placidly listened to details about the Jim Jones atrocity and Hitler’s drug use on Fresh Air (despite my pleas for music those evenings), and who at age 4 asked to have Terry Gross over for dinner.

I tried to reassure Goose that what was happening would not tear she and I apart, while at the same time give her an idea of what was happening to the families seeking asylum on the southwestern border. She usually gets the point, blames the chaos on the people in power and moves on, but this time was different.

In the morning when I asked her what we should do about the family separation crisis, she said “hide.” Clearly I had done neither a good job of reassuring her, nor of explaining the situation. I had a faint memory of learning how to deal with these situations, and remembered two presentations I’d witnessed over the past two years about how to help children deal during anxiety-producing situations.

In 2017, before Goose entered kindergarten, my friend Monica arranged for some professionals, including two counselors, to talk to parents at the local elementary school about how to deal with their children’s fear surrounding the political climate, and immigration and deportation. Although my daughter wasn’t attending yet, she would be that fall, and I thought the topic would be useful. This past school year with the help the school’s wellness council, these two experts—Dr. Margot Burke, Child Psychologist, and Dr. Pamela Vail, Clinical Psychologist — returned to speak to parents on the same topic, but this time in light of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

I have done a lot with my Goose to ensure she is both engaged and active in regards to social justice and political awareness, but this is the first time she seemed worried about herself. Even the morning after the 2016 election, when she sat up and asked if she’d awoken to a safe world, it was she who patted my back, handed me tissues, and comforted me, while I sobbed in response — our roles should have been reversed.

I’m lucky that this month I recalled attending those presentations, but we at TME are even more grateful to have Shana’s dear friend, Kirsten Ellingsen, PhD., give us some of her own sage professional advice. Dr. Ellingsen is a child psychologist and mom who currently resides in Florida. She thoughtfully took the time to provide us with step-by-step guidance and wise words in order to help us help our kids through troubled times.

*Where relevant, I’ve added in tips from Dr. Burke and Dr. Vail, noted by italics.*


Recommendations: Talking with Your Children About Family  Separation (and Other Crises)


Be Honest and Age-Appropriate

Be honest, but keep your language and content age- (and developmentally) appropriate. Be prepared and know generally what you want to say.  

  • Think about what you want to say and why. There are complex issues related to immigration, enforcement, politics, and trauma, so try to address your child’s concerns.
  • Let your child’s questions be your guide. Consider whether you need to provide more information than they are asking.
  • Be mindful of your tone; the current political climate is highly emotionally charged, and consider what is helpful for a child to hear.
    • Let children know that negative, aggressive language about anyone is not OK.
    • Focus on the behavior not the person (if relevant): the person is not bad: the person has policies that conflict with our family values; the person made a decision we don’t agree with.

Keep it simple and straightforward. Be careful to discuss in a calm and rational way.

Validate feelings and normalize emotionsTry not to dismiss or minimize concerns or feelings expressed (e.g., ‘its OK to feel scared, mad or sad’). Allow children to express their feelings. While being careful not to minimize or dismiss, also reassure your children that they are safe.

Where? Ideally, when you can give your child your full attention, when you are calm (e.g., at the dinner table, seated together at home).

  • Early childhood: Young children need to be protected from distressing news coverage. Limit television watching and emotional discussions when children are present. If a child has seen images or coverage and is concerned, provide a very simple statement with an emphasis on how they are safe and will be protected by their grown-ups.
  • Young children (ages 0-6): Limit exposure to news, especially pictures. Even if you think that a child is not paying attention, if they can see or hear you, chances are they are aware; if you are upset and have a strong reaction (which is normal and understandable) this could be upsetting and confusing.
  • Middle Childhood (6-12): Provide simple information, and assure safety. Limit details so as not to overwhelm. Let children ask questions and lead conversation. You can start a discussion asking what he or she knows and feels. This also allows you to clarify any misinformation or inaccurate information. Help the child put events into perspective.
  • Adolescents:  Provide opportunities to talk, listen, help address misinformation, and support. Introduce opportunities to talk (e.g., at the dinner table, in the car, while walking to or from school).
  • Consider child temperament, limiting repeated exposure to images or news coverage for anxious or sensitive children.

Aware and Self-care

While children may not understand abstract concepts, they will pick up on the emotional response of parents. They may be attuned to the emotional state of the parent and will be watching.

It is important to be aware of how this situation is affecting you and get support needed. Children will watch your reactions — model calm and rational responses. Be aware of how the situation is affecting you and what your children see as your reaction.

Model healthy coping and label your feelings. Identify positive coping strategies for children; label your feelings or theirs.

  • Talk about how you are managing your feelings; this also reinforces building good coping strategies (‘I am sad about what is happening. When I feel this way I like to take a nice walk, to snuggle you, to listen to music’.)
  • Take care of yourself with good sleep, healthy food, exercise, and participation in fun, relaxing, and enjoyable activities alone, as well as with your children.

Watch children for signs of fear, anxiety, or confusion. Observe changes in sleep, eating, play, behavior. You don’t want to increase fear or worry. Children pick up on the emotions of their parents.

Safe and Secure

Keep the BIG-PICTURE perspective. The goal is to leave your child feeling safe and secure (not overwhelmed and helpless). Children need to feel safe and secure in order to be healthy and function well.

  • Limit access to news and coverage, especially visuals.
  • Reassure your child that you will do all you can to keep them safe. Remind them how they are loved.
  • Point out and talk about the people who are doing good and trying to help (kind and caring people). Let them know that bad things happen and injustice is part of life, but that there are people (grown-ups) also working to change this.
  • Model caring and compassionate responses.
  • Let your child know you can talk about this again.
  • Depending on the age and interest of the child, help them find ways to get involved and feel a part of positive change (raising money, writing letters, making signs, engaging in peaceful protest, etc.,)
  • Keep home a safe haven, and maintain consistent (‘normal’) routines at home.

Resources for Helping Kids During Troubled Times

Non-fiction Resources

Tips for talking with and helping children and youth cope after a disaster or traumatic event.: A guide for parents, caregivers, and teachers (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

How to talk to children about difficult news (American Psychological Association)

How To Talk With Kids About Terrible Things (Cory Turner on NPR)

How to Talk to Young Children About What’s Happening to Families at the Border (big city moms)

Supporting Vulnerable Students in Stressful Times: Tips for Parents (National Association of School Psychologists)

Managing News

Explaining the News to Our Kids (Common Sense Media)

How much news coverage is OK for children? (American Psychological Association)

Disrupting young lives: How detention and deportation affect US–born children of immigrants (American Psychological Association)

The City Institute branch of Philadelphia’s Free Library has been a phenomenal resource for us. The children’s section is a great place to make new discoveries, many of which are well-worth owning.


How to Help Children When They Are Actively Upset

During their presentations, Dr. Burke and Dr. Vail also pointed out some ways for us to help children calm down when they are upset and/or acutely anxious (crying, yelling, having a temper tantrum, expressing anger/frustration). These tips are helpful as well.

To help children learn to self-regulate, engage in mutual regulation (You + the child, not the child alone).

  • If a need isn’t met, it will persist: hearing the need and empathizing with the need can resolve the need.
  • We become our kids’ inner voice: what do we want them to replay?: ‘they will be safe’; ‘they can handle this’. Attitude should be: ‘You seem angry, but you can handle it’. Tell them they are able to calm down. That will be their inner voice. BE their coach.

We need to time in during big emotion, not time out.

  • We can send them to their rooms, but we go with them: the message is that ‘I can handle your big emotions’ — not ‘I can’t handle your big emotions, get them away from me’. (We want our children to circle back to us when they’re older).
  • Calm the amygdala first (emotional, reptilian part of the brain) before engaging the prefrontal cortex (reasoning and rationale).
    • Work to calm: Deep breaths, squeezing something, dancing it out, shaking it off.
    • Let them know you’re listening. We want to turn off the ‘fight or flight’.
  • Acknowledge their position, empathize with them. Breathe with them. We can set limits and be empathetic at the same time.
    • Empathy and acknowledgement—’You seem sad. This is a sad thing that happened’. ‘You seem worried. I can understand why you’d be worried.’

Find out what the bottom worry is.

  • If they won’t give information, we have to elicit it from them: ‘I wonder if you’re feeling scared’. ‘It appears you feel sad’. (You “seem” mad, you “seem” sad). So you aren’t assuming, and sometimes they’ll even correct you (‘I’m not mad, I’m sad’).
  • Dig down to follow the anxiety to see what they’re truly worried about.

Because it can be difficult to explain the complexity of political and social situations to children, especially younger ones, we’ve added a selection of picture books below that we think might be helpful.


Kids’ Books to Enlighten and Inspire

 

1. The Braceletby Yoshiko Uchida — This is a lovely picture book about a gift from one childhood friend to another, as a young American girl of Japanese ancestry heads off to an internment camp with her family. It’s based on the author’s own childhood during World War II, and while it is truthful, it’s not frightening.

 

2. Stepping Stones: by Margriet Ruurs  (Author), Falah Raheem (Translator), Nizar Ali Badr (Artist) — A beautiful picture book offering the story of a refugee family from Syria, in a palatable, child-friendly description and tone. The illustrations are gorgeous, the syntax poetic (in English and Arabic).

3. Islandborn: by Junot Díaz (Author), Leo Espinosa (Illustrator) — I’ve been wanting to read this story of Lola, who doesn’t remember the place from where she immigrated (the other kids in her class do), since I heard about it. Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, brings us the tale of a young child and her quest to understand her homeland while living among other immigrant children in vibrant New York City.

4. Mama’s Nightingale: by Edwidge Danticat (Author), Leslie Staub (Illustrator) — I loved using Danticat’s writing when I taught AP Language & Composition to high school students, so I’m eager to see how her style translates to a children’s book. Written in 2015, the tale features a mother who has been detained, but sends folktales and bedtime stories to her child on tape, while the family attempts to reunite. This is definitely in my cart!

5. The Journey: by Francesca Sanna — Another tale of the difficult decisions a family makes when leaving their home, and on their journey for safety and security, this book is based on a series of interviews the author did with migrants and immigrants, inspired by two girls he met at a refugee camp in Italy. This was also recommended by happily.ever.elephants to Shana at the height of the family separation crisis.

6. We Came To America: by Faith Ringgold — Our local library does a fantastic job of featuring beautiful, timely books, and this is no exception. Faith Ringgold, artist and professor known for her narrative quilts, weaves together the story of American migration and immigration in order to highlight the gifts and stories of our diverse cultures.

7. A Different Pond: by Bao Phi — This one hits close to home, since my daughter was born in Viet Nam and we repatriated a short four years ago. I like the idea of this story because like Lola above, it highlights a young boy’s experience here in the U.S. while learning about his family’s life in their home country of Viet Nam. It also paints a realistic portrayal of the long road to fulfilling the American Dream.

8. Welcomeby Barroux — Another recommendation by happily.ever.elephants — in her words ”This is a wonderful, gentle story that will spark a discussion on the significance of acceptance and how important it is to welcome people to our country with open arms, especially those in search of safety.” It’s an anthropomorphic tale and analogy of three polar bears seeking a new home after their ice breaks and the sea becomes too dangerous.

9. Peaceful Heroes: by Jonah Winter (Author), Sean Addy (Illustrator) –  This is a beautiful book detailing numerous “heroes” who’ve used non-violent resistance or have been kind and helpful in times of strife. There are some Christian allusions, but they are easy to navigate and/or explain if you choose. Also, since these are person-by-person essays, they make for great separate bedtime vignettes.

10. My Heart Will Not Sit Down: by Mara Rockliff (Author), Ann Tanksley (Illustrator) —  My Heart Will Not Sit Down is another inspiring book about a young village girl in Cameroon who collects money to send to Americans affected by the Great Depression, even though she herself has not much money to give.

11. Malala’s Magic Pencil: by Malala Yousafzai  (Author), Kerascoët  (Illustrator) — We’ve read many books about Malala, the young girl who bravely fights for girls’ education in Pakistan and survived a Taliban assassination attempt, but we haven’t personally read this one yet. It looks lovely for younger children, and is also in my cart.

12. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughtersby Barack Obama (Author), Loren Long  (Illustrator) — This is a personal favorite. When we were living overseas in Viet Nam, a friend and co-worker made a visit to the States and brought a hardcover copy of this back for Goose signed by the illustrator, Loren Long. Even as a toddler, Goose responded strongly to the images and stories of America’s great trailblazers, able to identify Einstein’s image, and saying “Sí, se puede” when she saw pictures of Cesar Chavez.

13. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black Historyby Vashti Harrison — Goose and I love this book! It features a number of women of color from American history and their accomplishments, including political dissent and many achievements for which the women are not known best. It’s also great because each woman gets her own page and illustration, so it can be read as a collection of essays (good when it’s after bedtime).

14. Good People Everywhereby Lynea Gillen  (Author), Kristina Swarner (Illustrator) — This picture book is lovely because it highlights examples of everyday people doing kind, caring and compassionate deeds. These are regular people, as opposed to heroes, and it also contains an activity page.

15. Peaceby Wendy Anderson Halperin  (Author, Illustrator) — I LOVED reading this one with my little girl. She happened to fall asleep while I was reading it, but I finished it, and I read it to her again the following night. Another special feature from our local library, the content and the images are so superb, it’s well-worth owning.

 

16. Vote!by Eileen Christelow — This book is super-informative and the format makes it fun and engaging for young children. The content may have been a bit above my five-year-old’s head, but she enjoyed it nonetheless, and wanted to read it over-and-over again. It focuses on a local election, but also includes a timeline of voter rights and other historical information.


Never in my daughter’s life have I had to monitor or stand vigilant against what we might hear on NPR that in the past year and a half — which is ironic since she’s been getting older. But since everything from “grab ’em by the….” to “17 children massacred in their classrooms” to “kids being separated from their parents at the border”, I can’t get to the speaker volume quick enough to turn down the scariness. However, one of the points I remember most from the advice of these sage experts is this: what children imagine is happening based on what they see and hear, is usually going to be far worse than the actual situation. Knowing this, combined with the fact that our voices (up to around ages 8 or 9) become their inner voice, and we need to coach them into feeling they are capable of handling their emotions, highlights how crucial it is for us parents to engage in order to ensure our children feel safe.

We at TME are so grateful for the time Dr. Ellingsen made to write down her recommendations and find us the non-fiction resources for helping our kids cope and managing the news. Those of us in Philadelphia are also thankful for the sessions that Dr. Burke and Dr. Vail presented at our neighborhood school. We truly hope this will be useful to parents and grown-up loved ones everywhere.

Hugs,

Alexis

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About Author

Alexis is our resident nerd and watchful editor. In addition to styling our syntax and fact-checking brand capitalization (ahem, rag & bone, and [BLANKNYC]), she’s also whipping up editorial guidelines, strategizing social media and conjuring up new projects. With her own personal style (boots, dresses, scarves), she doesn’t consider herself a fashionista, but she is keeping us #well #woke #sustainable #empathetic #inclusive #current, #down-to-earth and #open-minded; her wisdom ranges from yoga home practice and Feng Shui-ing an apartment, to living overseas and momming while black. As the single mother of an extrovert, she, like Julieta, often ‘forgets’ to come out of the bathroom.

29 Comments

  1. I love you guys. I have been a reader for over nine years. It is my respectful opinion that it would be better to not post about hotly debated political/social issues. It continues to divide women, the awesome women who read your blog. Not everyone agrees on politics, and that is OK! I think it is a mistake to assume your readership agrees with you in full on these hot button topics and it can seem hurtful to be labeled “one of the bad ones” indirectly through the editorial nature of these posts.

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Hi Stacy, I’m sorry that the anecdote illustrating my own daughter’s fear distracted from the intent of the post, which is to give parents and adult caregivers evidence-based methods for handling kids’ anxieties. While the current issue of children being separated from families did initiate the post, these techniques can be applied when kids are worried about school shootings or a family member’s terminal illness or the suicide of a schoolmate or homocide in their communities….these techniques are not unique to tumultuous political issues. Many of us view child separation and asylum as a moral issue, and it’s unfortunate that the topic of helping kids has become divisive: it’s not meant to. If I was implicating anyone as being “bad” in the post, it was myself, because I did not provide the support required to my daughter in that moment, so we’re hoping to help other parents by highlighting this information at a time when many parents may find it useful. I am not accusing any woman of being bad or of having anything to do with the current humanitarian situation.

      In general, the TME team does not assume all of our readers agree with all of our posts, be they about social justice, home or fashion. But this blog is a platform and a forum for discussion, and we hope that this community will err on the side of unity as opposed to division — even if/when we disagree. I hope you were able to find something of value in this post, and I truly hope you don’t feel as though we were accusing you or any other reader of being ‘bad’ or on any other team other than Team Mom. xo,

  2. One thing you didn’t mention, but I think it’s really important, is making children feel empowered to do something about injustice. When a child is unhappy or upset about something they see on the news, they can write a letter to a politician, they can hold a bake sale or lemonade stand to raise money for the cause, and they can go to marches or protests. It’s really good for children to feel like they can make a positive impact in the world and DO something when they see injustice, not just handle the scary news.

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Hi Clare, Thank you for pointing that out. We did briefly highlight that (“Depending on the age and interest of the child, help them find ways to get involved and feel a part of positive change (raising money, writing letters, making signs, engaging in peaceful protest, etc.,”), but this is a good idea for a post on its own. Thank you for emphasizing how important taking action is/will be for some kids. xo

  3. Stacy, it seems like you’re feeling very defensive, but this post didn’t label any people as bad people! It’s dealing with a child’s fears of being separated from their parents. Many children are feeling terrified by the news right now. You’re asking that your feelings be protected on this blog, over talking about how to protect the feelings of children….

  4. I really treasure TME for its fashion and beauty knowledge, which gives me some much-needed inspiration in an area that I can so easily put off to the side while raising children. It is strange to have a political focus at all, most especially a one-sided one at that. My worldview is different. Are moms like me still welcome here?

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Hi Jennie, All moms, parents, grown-up loved ones—and all their loved ones—and anyone who finds value in TME is welcome here. I’m sorry that highlighting the current humanitarian crisis has made you feel otherwise. As I told Stacy, the post is not meant to divide—as it’s not a political post even though it uses a current political situation as its vehicle. The intent of the post is to give parents and adult caregivers evidence-based methods for handling kids’ anxieties. These techniques can be applied when kids are worried about school shootings or a family member’s terminal illness or the suicide of a schoolmate or homocide in their communities…

      In general, the TME team does not assume all of our readers agree with all of our posts, be they about economics, beauty or fashion. But this blog is a platform and a forum for discussion, and we hope that this community will err on the side of unity as opposed to division — even if/when we disagree. I hope you were able to find something of value in this post. xo,

  5. Clare- Sounds like you see yourself as some kind of “enlightened one” . Your comments on my post only prove my point, so thank you.
    I’m here for the fashion not the political and social commentary.

  6. Stacy, I understand your perspective, but I completely disagree. What’s going on with these children goes beyond politics; it isn’t an R or D issue, and it’s not a left or right issue. This is a moral issue, whether you feel what’s happening to these children is justifiable (by anything, let alone immigration concerns). Respectfully, some things are just wrong, and I hope that people everywhere will speak out, instead of thinking they should just “stay in their lanes.”

    It sucks that you feel attacked. But I don’t think that needs to be our priority right now.

  7. JS, this is absolutely a political/social issue, as well as a moral one. Liberals tend to live in a bubble because the press and Hollywood often slant their way–and they mistakenly think that everyone agrees. Break out of the bubble! Read a more conservative paper or journal. It makes you think more deeply about the problems of our time. Yes, the border problem is terrible, and we should treat immigrants with great care, but it will need a very thoughtful solution.

    Some liberals have been overreacting since President Trump was elected. It’s like a collective tantrum. Look at Antifa. They are supposed to be “anti-fascist” but they are actually behaving like fascists themselves with their violence and hate. For me, that’s much scarier.

    I think what Stacey was getting at is: we are just coming for the fashion. Can’t we just stay untied with that? We are sort of a captive audience, and it just feels like we’re being ambushed with a preachy and heavy-handed political view.

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Hi Elizabeth, As I mentioned to Stacy, I’m sorry that the anecdote illustrating my own daughter’s fear distracted from the intent of the post, which is to give parents and adult caregivers evidence-based methods for handling kids’ anxieties. While the current issue of children being separated from families did initiate the post, these techniques can be applied when kids are worried about school shootings or a family member’s terminal illness or the suicide of a schoolmate or homocide in their communities….these techniques are not unique to tumultuous political issues. Many of us view child separation and asylum as a moral issue, and it’s unfortunate that the topic of helping kids has become divisive: it’s not meant to. The post isn’t about politics. I hope that you found some value in the advice and can continue to navigate TME without feeling threatened by the variety of opinions presented here. xo

  8. The idea that in reading a fashion and style blog we are somehow in an apolitical or politically neutral space is completely naiive. There are politics in every space we enter, whether we choose to recognize it or not. This blog routinely recommends that readers purchase products from Amazon, for example, and few things could be more political right now than Amazon. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then do some research. Now one could argue that there is very little choice but to include Amazon, since it’s a monopoly, and I would basically agree with that. Still, where we shop is political, and it’s naiive to think otherwise. Also, the fact that this blog encourages continual consumption rather than trying to consume less is also political. Of course, these bloggers need to make a living, and that’s totally fair. I am not saying they should not be blogging about fashion and shopping — it’s hardly possible to avoid making money in this society without participating in some of the evils of our current economic system, and anyway, it’s entirely possble to read this blog and not necessarily condone excessive consumption habits. I really like this blog, it’s one of the best out there of its kind, and it’s really helped me figure out my style at a time when I felt like my body was changing in major ways and I literally had to replace my entire wardrobe because nothing fit or was appropriate for my new lifestyle. By helping me focus my choices, this blog has arguable helped me consume LESS, and avoid bad, wasteful purchases. While I do occasionally purchase things I see here, I tend to use this space for ideas, inspiration, and information, while making serious efforts to dial down my consumption, and be mindful of whether I really need to buy this new thing or not. I think it’s fine for the authors of this blog to be transparent about their politics — or their morals, as the case may be (i.e. family separation) — and they should do so without apology.

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Caroline. We appreciate your support, and we’re happy that you’re able to find value in this community. xo

  9. It does seem you’re projecting onto Stacy your own inner turmoil on this subject. It appears she is merely suggesting that political conversation is needlessly divisive. You must not be aware that the president has signed an executive order to keep families together while their immigration or asylum claims are evaluated. I’m not sure why you are perpetuating this narrative otherwise… especially one that as you pointed out, can frighten children.

  10. Elizabeth, I appreciate your comment, but I would note that, in the same paragraph where you claim that liberals live in a bubble and make mistaken assumptions about what people believe, you make a number of mistaken assumptions about the information I consume and the care, consideration and thought that I give to that information before arriving at my conclusions. Please be aware of that in the future.

    Regardless, I don’t see how you are captive here. You can vote with your clicks, either by skipping the posts you find uncomfortable, or by choosing another fashion blog all together. You can make (and have made) your opinions known in the comments sections. But you’re in no way captive. And I certainly don’t just come for the fashion — I come for the commentary as well, and when it makes me uncomfortable, I consider whether there is merit in what is making me uncomfortable. If not, oh well, but if so, then I’ve been able to open my mind a bit.

    One quick factual note: Antifa is a violent, anticapitalist, far-left militant organization. They would not consider themselves liberals, nor would liberals consider them to be. In fact, liberal organizations and leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, have denounced them. They also protested at President Obama’s inaugurations. I agree that unity is a necessary goal, however, I don’t think lumping Antifa in with “liberals,” or calling people’s genuine concerns and fears “tantrums” is in service of that goal.

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Hi JS,
      Thank you for your support and clear, thoughtful response. We are glad you’re able to find value, insight (and maybe even a little discomfort) in this community.xo

  11. Sammy – thanks for the updated info! I was aware of this new executive order. I can’t speak for anyone else on this site (obviously) but my narrative remains as follows: 1) while we are no longer taking children away from their parents solely to deter legal asylum seekers, the children we did take still haven’t been reunited with their parents, and I have serious concerns/fears with a) the government’s apparent lack of any kind of planning to reunite them and b) the circumstances under which these children are being cared for while they wait to be reunited; and 2) why are we putting people in jail when they are accused of a misdemeanor offense when successful programs existed to allow them to remain as a family outside of detention with a 99% return rate for their asylum hearings.

    Hope this helps!

  12. JS, it is true that Shana et al are free to write about whatever they want, but their readers are free to leave. I think that for myself and others, we just want to let them know that the left-leaning political and social posts are not appreciated by the entire audience. If I were running a blog and making money off of it, I would want to know how people are feeling so that I could maintain and build my audience.

  13. There is so much great content in this post. The suggestions for ways to respond to children who are scared and anxious are applicable to situations beyond the current political climate, and I will use them that way. (As my kids are young, we’ve shielded them from the news.) Some of these books look amazing. Since when do only liberals get to care about people from other countries? Since when do only liberals want their children to learn about the experiences of people whose worlds might seem foreign and different? I ask as a liberal (and, btw, a pretty anti-antifa liberal, like everyone I know), but I truly want to know. Isn’t it possible to be conservative and also want these things for your kids? I’m not asking sarcastically. I’m asking because I think many conservative caregviers (moms, dads, etc) DO want these things, and I think these books are a great resource for all caregivers. So, thanks!

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Thank you for your comment, Erin. I agree with you — I think we all as moms/parents/caregivers, regardless of political or ideological affiliation (I, myself, am an Independent) want to manage our children’s fears as effectively as we can — regardless of the reason that they’re upset. You make many great points. xo

  14. Erin, of course we want these things for our children! 🙂 My husband and I would take a more classical approach which relies less on emotion and more on principle. For example, we form our children’s character by teaching instilling the cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice. If your child can get these key concepts, they will always know how to choose right from wrong; good from bad. These virtues also help kids be less about themselves and more about others.

  15. Elizabeth – *fist bump* completely agree. May I recommend “Of Thee I Sing” (linked above)? It deals with a lot of those concepts, and gives really interesting historical stories to boot! I have it, and my kids loved it.

  16. I’m a moderate conservative (yes, there are still a few of us out here!) and I applaud Shana and her team for posting about these issues. For one, it makes me think of things that I may not have thought of on my own, and two, many can agree that things in our country are broken and deserve the attention necessary to fix them. Let’s face it, the solution isn’t coming from Washington where everything is tied to election polls- it’s going to come from every day people having respectful conversation amongst themselves about the issues our nation is facing.

    I also really appreciated this part of the post:

    “Let children know that negative, aggressive language about anyone is not OK.
    Focus on the behavior not the person (if relevant): the person is not bad: the person has policies that conflict with our family values; the person made a decision we don’t agree with.”

    If we want to make the world a better place for our children it has got to come down to respect and kindness, even or especially, when we disagree. That section of the post got right to the heart of it.

    • Alexis L. Richardson on

      Well said, Colleen. Thank you for your thoughtful perspective, and for highlighting a very relevant part of the advice we’ve received. xo,

  17. JS-
    I agree that the government is not likely to move forward with anything efficiently. That being said there may be a sliver lining for increased scrutiny on our part to vet migrants and asylum seekers’ actual relationship with the children they may be traveling with to thwart possible trafficking. Now that is a REALLY horrifying subject to talk to your children about. Clair- do you have any advice on that one?

  18. When my daughter was little (she’s now 21! WTF??) I told her that if we were separated, to look for a mom with kids, because a mom will ALWAYS help another mom’s child. TG it was never necessary for her to heed my advice. Wishing all young families love and safety. I will ALWAYS help a child and/or mom with kids if they look as though they need advocacy!

  19. Thank you for this post Alexis & TME team. It was truly measured, (I skew FAR left of many commenters, so believe me, this post felt pretty darn moderate to me!), and well-thought-out. I know that, as thick a skin as one tries to have, criticism is hard, so I appreciate your bravery in posting something important like this.

    There’s oodles of perfect, substanceless mom fashion blogs but this is why I visit your site daily – and frankly, the fashion is better for it!

    Also, this feels important to me: I think it’s really important for children to also understand that the fact that horrible things have happened and are still happening to other people’s children (btw folks – children are still being separated) is not an indicator of those children being loved less by their parents, those parents being worse parents, etc. It IS important for my children to understand that they are safe and it’s also important to understand that other parents also love their children as much as I love mine and want, more than anything, for their children to also be safe.

    And, finally, another book to add to the list: Pancho rabbit and the Coyote is a beautiful children’s book about the hard choices migrant families face: https://www.amazon.com/Pancho-Rabbit-Coyote-Mexican-American-Childrens/dp/1419705830.

    Thx, and keep it up.

  20. Thank you for this post and others like it. I admire The Mom Edit’s commitment to having difficult conversations in the face of a vocal minority’s discomfort. Those of us whose personal comfort has been systemically prioritized over other people’s actual liberties for so long have a hard time telling the difference between feeling uncomfortable and being unsafe. Talking about this is painful and uncomfortable for a lot of people, but necessary. I believe the majority of your readers have the emotional resilience to stick around through these feelings and I appreciate your team’s courage and grace in persisting.

  21. I just wanted to express my support for these types of posts and say thank you for this really comprehensive list of books. My sister and I are always looking for books with good representation for my niece (still a baby, so lots of time to introduce these kinds of books in the future!)

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