Thoughts on our Youth Today
   The tragedy of September 11th has exacerbated the concerns of our youth. Young people who have not experienced war or catastrophic events in their lifetimes are suddenly subject to witnessing on television horrible acts of terrorism and dealing with the deaths of thousands of victims right here on American soil.
   The children are afraid even if they don't admit it outwardly. They are feeling vulnerable and uncertain about what to do. They don't know what is going to happen next.
   It is important for adults to remain calm (after dealing with the issues themselves) and to take the time to communicate and to connect with their children. The daily afternoon tea ritual when children come home after school seems like an even more important idea during these difficult times. The tea itself or the makings of it are not as important as the regularity of the ritual taking place and the time that it offers to be shared by parents and their children.
   During the next few weeks is a particularly good time to plan the simple ritual of sitting down with your children and letting them talk at your daily afternoon tea. The drink can be "milky" decaffeinated tea or any other drink such as lemonade or juice. It doesn't really matter. Sometimes the children could participate in baking cookies or something special for the occasion. Children like to do something and keep busy so an activity is helpful. Simple games could be played that allow for participation and for those shy individuals to open up. Children can chose their special cups or linens or decorate the table, as they like. Perhaps they could draw pictures for the place mats. They might want to have a moment of silence for the victims or say a prayer.
   The manner or the décor of the tea time ritual is not as important as what goes on at the tea itself. It is a quiet and peaceful time that is conducive to sharing in a secure environment. If you chose a special place in your home to have tea the child might look forward to that special place as a kind of sanctuary where he or she feels safe. The child also knows that you are stopping everything and giving him or her your undivided attention away from the TV or neighbors or other activities. This is extremely important for children. The value of this special ritual lies in the opportunity it gives for a precious connection between parent and child in a secure atmosphere away from the world outside that is quickly changing.

Marie Younkin-Waldman, MS., AAMFT 9/17/01

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