The news this week of Osama bin Laden’s death evokes countless emotions.  As I look back on the tragic day of September 11, 2001, I shudder with the memories of fear for our country and the immensity of how Rainbows For All Children could help the families who had loved ones die.  There’s also the generation that grew up only knowing a post 9/11 life, and as CNN said, they “learned as children that the world is a scary place where strangers with hatred in their hearts steer planes into buildings, grown-ups cry for days and everything can change in an instant.  They grew up with color-coded terror alerts and long lines at airport metal detectors.”

Plus, we have today’s youth – those who are old enough to know what 9/11 is but too young to remember the day the tragedy hit.  They didn’t see the planes crash into the World Trade Center, Pentagon or the field in Pennsylvania.  As children and teens wrestle with the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, I encourage parents to talk with them.  Following are my five tips to do so:

1.      If your child is old enough to watch the news, then sit and watch it with them.

2.      After the news, shut the newscast off and ask your child what they heard.  Ask them about what they understand and start the discussion.  Keep in mind that depending on their age, their comprehension can be far different than ours.

3.      Ask them how they feel about Osama’s leadership and death.

4.      Acknowledge their feelings and responses.

5.      Ask if they have concerns or questions about America’s safety or their own.

These moments of heartfelt and meaningful dialogue can be wonderful foundations for long term, candid conversations between you and your child.

Suzy Yehl Marta 2011

Suzy Yehl Marta

Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three sons, gave up the security of her three jobs to do something she knew in her heart had to be done for our youth who were grieving a life-changing loss. She established Rainbows, now the world’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated solely to helping families cope with loss. While growing up, Suzy dreamed of being a good wife and mother. She never considered the possibility of divorce and was devastated when her marriage ended. She was relieved when family and friends told her there was no need to worry about her kids. “They’re resilient. They’ll bounce back,” she was told. But soon Suzy realized her sons were hurting as much as she was. She searched for the type of support that she was receiving as an adult. There was no place accessible for them to talk about what they were feeling. Certainly, there was therapy available, which she tried. At the end of the counseling session, she was advised not to return. The therapist said they were just fine adjusting to their loss. But he never told them how to do it. What Suzy learned later was that they were all grieving the death of their nuclear family. In addition, her sons needed to be with other children their age going through the same experiences so they could understand their feelings. Working with other concerned single parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for children in single-parent and step-family homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. After hearing their stories, Suzy was compelled to do more. She began working on a formal curriculum- the foundation of Rainbows. Rainbows has served nearly 2 million youth throughout the U.S. and 16 countries. Now the nation’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated solely to helping families cope with loss.

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