Questions & Answers on
Hope and Healing
with author Naomi Drew
How do we help our children through their anxieties about what's been going on in the world?
Listen and be there. Make a concerted effort to spend extra time with your children now, intimate time where you can talk and listen, and give your child your fullest individual attention. Listening is key. If your child expresses fear, don't try to talk him out of his feelings, validate what he says and encourage him to go on. Example, your child says, What if the terrorists come back. look into your childs eyes, nod your head, and say something like, Thats a scary thing to think about. Then let your child continue till he gets what he needs to off his chest, and continue validating by nodding, paraphrasing, and listening very intently. Then say something like, I understand how frightened you are, and Ive been a little anxious too, but I know our government has done a wonderful job of keeping us safe over the past year, and I really have faith that that will continue. and I will always keep you safe too.
Talk a little more and then ask, Is there something special we can do to help you feel more safe right now?
If we try to get our children to deny their feelings, they shut down. The more we can listen and validate, the more our children will open up to us. Through our empathic listening, we can soothe our children through these trying times.
Also, teach your children the process of deep abdominal breathing. Have him take a deep breath through the nose all the way down, expanding the abdomen as he breathes in. have him hold the breath in for a moment while he pictures a place hes been to where he felt safe and peaceful. Then have him release the breath through the nose, and deflate the abdomen. Repeat several times. This calms the body and clears the mind. it is an essential tool for facing any stresses that arise.
What can parents do to help their children have hope in this violent world?
Let them see their role in creating peace. Every action is like a pebble tossed into a pond. The ripples radiate out and out, even beyond where we can see. Tell your children that each time they express kindness, work out conflicts, accept differences, they are adding a little more peace to the world.
This also happens each time they perform acts of service. The care and selflessness we saw in fire fighters and rescue workers after September 11th can be our beacon. Hope is the by-product of service and compassion.
How can parents help their children feel calm when they themselves feel feel
Acknowledge your own fears. Allow them to come up, and as they do take slow deep abdominal breaths. Make a calming statement like My family is safe and well. Then ground yourself in the present moment. Feel your feet planted on the earth, notice your surroundings, and tune in to the presence of this moment instead of projecting into the future.
Try to make time to journal. Pour out your anxieties onto the page instead of carrying them around in your head. Now teach your children to do all of this too.
Journaling helps a lot too. Try pouring out your fears onto the page instead of carrying them around in your head. When youre finished writing, do some deep breathing, repeat your calming statement, and focus once again on your immediate surroundings. Then ask yourself the question, How can I become part of the solution? What can I do in my own home, my own life to make this world a little more peaceful. Our ability to reach out and make a contribution may be the most empowering thing we can do right now.
What should I do about all the media coverage of the Anniversary of 9/11? Its making my children upset all over again.
For younger children, seriously curtail all TV viewing. Sometimes snippets of the evening news come up between commercials, so your child might be seeing repeated images of the World Trade Center in flames without your even knowing it. If your child has seen these images, sit down and talk about it. Let him know that these pictures are from last year, and right now we are being well-protected. Young children sometimes cant make that distinction.
If your child 10 and over and wants to watch the news, watch it together and discuss it with him. List en to his questions and answer them as honestly as you can. Then shut the TV off. Overloading on news is stress-producing. Encourage children of all ages to talk or write about their feelings. Also, encourage more outlets for stress release: artwork, sports, dance, play acting.
What prompted you to write Hope and Healing?
For over 20 years Ive been speaking and writing about the skills of peacemaking and how we can integrate them into our lives. All of my work is based on the premise that peace starts with each individual and it is through our actions that peace will be created. Now more than ever, it is absolutely critical we each see our role. We can exercise our power through the most basic of actions: resolving conflicts nonviolently and teaching our children to do the same, accepting differences, listening with empathy, and expressing kindness and altruism toward others. Through our collective actions we can potentially change the world.
What can we do right in our own homes to have more peace?
- Always remember that you are the model. Remember that the words you say may some day come out of your childrens mouths.
- Listen with an open heart and mind and teach your children to do the same.
- Make a commitment to resolving conflicts peacefully and share this commitment with your children.
- Express compassion
- Make a difference in the lives of others. Involve your children in and make this a family value that lives in your routines.
As Gandhi said, be the change you wish to see in others.
You talk a lot about resolving conflicts nonviolently. How can we do this? Is it really possible?
Absolutely. Ive been teaching adults and kids from all walks of life to do this for over 20 years and I have seen the results first-hand. Studies have shown that when people learn strategies for resolving conflicts, they do use them. Knowledge is power, so it is essential that we learn these strategies and teach them to our children from the earliest ages.
Heres a simple 6 step approach called the Win/Win Guidelines that I developed that is used all over the world with people of all ages:
- Cool off. Dont try to resolve your conflicts in the heat of anger. Walk away, get a drink, take a breath, then come back and talk about it.
- Talk it over using I messages. You messages place blame and close doors. I messages open them.
- Say back what you heard the other person say. Listening is the key to resolving conflicts. Before giving your part, reflect back the other persons point of view . that way, theyll most likely listen to you.
- Take responsibility for your role in the conflict. In most conflicts both people have some part in its inception and escalation. be willing to look at yours.
- Brainstorm solutions together and choose one that suits both of you. Be willing to compromise to end up with a solution thats fair and equitable to both people involved.
- Affirm, forgive, or thank each other.
Are there reasons to be hopeful about the future?
Yes. For the first time since human beings have evolved, we are linked across the globe through technology. We have the ability to use this technology to communicate, learn more about each other, and create solutions to the problems that face all of us. Im in touch with people from all over the world, and one thing I know for sure is that parents everywhere want peace for their children. Now its time to use our resources to create it. That is the greatest opportunity of the new millennium.
According to Harvards Project on Preventing War, we actually have at our disposal the tools to create peace, but what most stands in the way of using them is our fatalistic belief that war is inevitable. This is a fallacy. Throughout much of our history, people have coexist in relative peace. Yes, we have had our share of wars, but there have been more years of peace than of war.
Sadly, the past 100 years have been the bloodiest in history. But we have the capacity to turn that tide. We need to look at peace as a personal issue as well as a global one, and see ourselves as part of the solution.
Who better to speak out than parents. It is our childrens future at stake, and its time for all of us to get involved.
What is the most important advice you can give to parents right now?
Live your most important priorities. Weve gotten so caught up in our busy lives that weve lost sight of the most important things: connection, peace, and compassion. The anniversary of Sept. 11th calls us to be kinder, wiser, more loving, and more involved. This is our opportunity to transform fear into positive change. Its like lighting a candle in a darkened room. We can be that candle.
We need to take better care of our internal well-being and do the same for our children. So many children and adults suffer from stress and anxiety. We must allow our kids to be kids, to have some down time, to daydream and reflect. Its time to start removing some of the tumult from our lives.
Also, express care and empathy toward others, and teach your children to do the same. There is an epidemic of cruelty in this country, and the place to start changing it is right in our own homes. 160,000 children a day miss school for fear of the way they will be treated by their peers. We must teach, model, and expect kindness and care from out kids. Then we need to reinforce it when we see it. Model, expect, reinforce - thats the key.
Lastly, make expressing altruism a family affair. Reach out and help others. Inequity, poverty, racism, and hunger are some of the roots of violence. What can your family do to address these issues? Keep in mind that each time you get involved, you expand your sense of hope and empowerment.
You write about The Race to Peace. Can you explain what that is?
The Race to Peace is the most important race well ever be in. The hard truth is that were running out of time. As we speak the arsenals of nuclear weapons are growing, and it is only a matter of time before they are used. Regular people need to link together in this common theme, one that needs to become part of every-day consciousness. Parents are the most important people to speak out on this issue, because its our childrens futures that are at stake.
The Race to Peace stands on one simple premise -- that peace will be reached through small concrete steps taken by large numbers of committed people. If each person makes a commitment to taking action steps toward peace once a day, once a week, or even once a month, the race to peace can be won.
The Race to Peace is a way for individuals to get involved through five different areas: have specific websites that I can recommend:
- Ending Hunger and Homelessness
- Ending the Production of Nuclear Weapons
- Eliminating Gun Violence
- Building Tolerance and Equity
- Local or Global Action for Peace
A guiding ethic for every family needs to be this: We have the power to create peace in our world through our actions. It starts with each of us -- right in our homes.