Every day, we see images of stress, hardship, and violence. These images come into our homes in many ways: through television, newspapers, radio reports, and magazines. What we see are more than just pictures of things that happen to other people—we feel and see the effects all around us. We see news updates on fighting and conflict; we go through increased security at buildings and airports; we feel the tensions directed at certain religious communities and ethnic groups; we hear about or experience job losses. African American communities are faced with violence, insecurity, and unemployment every day. Events around the world only add to these everyday stresses. All of these things have a great impact on our lives.
They have an even greater impact on our children.
Even if our children don’t say it, they are affected by the world around them. They may be afraid that something “bad” will happen without warning. They may fear for our safety as we go to work, or go to the store. They may not want to be away from us, or to be by themselves. Most importantly, they may never tell us that they are scared or confused.
When our children have a cut or a bruise, we know that we can respond with a bandage or an ice pack. But, if our children are scared or angry or insecure, it’s harder to know what to do. We may not be able to make everything better.
Many of us are looking for ways to help our children cope with the fears and uncertainties that are a natural part of our world and its many crisis situations. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) are working together with families, professional organizations, and leaders of national African American organizations to provide families in African American communities with the information and resources they need to comfort their children. This activity guide is part of that collaboration.
This guidebook is designed to help you and your family find different ways to help your children cope with crisis. These methods, which work well with children ages 12 and younger, include the following:
By putting these ideas into practice, the activities in this booklet can help you to communicate with your child and to strengthen your family, so that children know they are safe.
The book’s activities are designed to help you talk with your child about emotions—to find ways to express thoughts and feelings that might be hard to say out loud. By talking about these things, you and your family can begin to deal with feelings in positive, constructive ways. The activities also highlight important values, such as family, honesty, and spirituality, that can strengthen your child from within.
Many of the activities try to tap into your child’s creativity—drawing, coloring, singing, gardening. These types of tasks encourage children to let others know what’s going on inside them in a safe, controlled way. Other activities encourage your child to use what’s inside to understand something—like reading a poem or a story, or listening to a song.
As you do these activities, remember that the main goal is to get your child to communicate with you. When you finish an activity, you’ll have something you can touch or see, but that’s not what is most important. Talking and listening are the real goals of these activities.
Most of all, the activities give you the chance to be with your child and to learn about your child.
And, you may learn from your child in the process.