A Letter to Parents at the Year’s End

It was my intent with this, my first post on our new blog, to introduce myself to you and talk about our mission and vision here at Boston Children’s Museum. But that seems best left to another day.

We are launching our Museum blog at a time when our country is struggling to understand and confront the implications of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. As a children’s museum we are particularly challenged, as every day we see the same shining faces of 5 and 6 year olds at play in our Museum, with their curiosity, creativity, imagination, and energy. We know we have an important role to play in advocating for them, and safeguarding their healthy development and future potential.

As parents, caregivers, teachers, and health professionals we are deeply unsettled by this event. It forces us to consider what kind of society we live in and what this tragedy says about our culture, our priorities and our very humanity. The raw outpouring of grief of the parents and families of Newtown challenges us emotionally and engages our deepest fears. We can only pray that after the attention and the cameras are gone, and daily routine returns, that they will somehow make peace with their momentous loss.

We are a “can do” culture so we are quick to want an answer and a solution. I am not sure this will be a quick fix. I am heartened to see the call to action from our President, our politicians and our civic leaders and we will actively participate in this national dialogue on the critical issues affecting the safety of our children.

Over the past week there have been hundreds of useful postings about how to speak with our children about unspeakable events. But what do we do about our own anxieties and fears that, in themselves, can have a detrimental effect on our child’s healthy development?

I asked our Chairman, Dr. Michael Yogman, a pediatrician, what he would say to parents about managing their feelings in the weeks and months ahead:

“Everyone talks about how important it is for parents to reassure their kids that they are safe and that they will protect them, yet parents know that is not always the case. Children are masters at reading the unconscious messages in their parents’ faces and it is important to protect kids from their anxiety. Some parents may find concrete ways to channel their fears constructively by taking action such as advocacy for gun control, or better mental health services, or involvement in school safety precautions. Others may find meditation, exercise or counseling more helpful, or discussing their feelings with another adult family member to help keep a perspective on the risk. It is going to be a very individual solution. Ultimately, if an individual is not sleeping, is feeling depressed or overwhelmed they should seek help from their doctor.”

I hope that this is of some small help to you in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here at the Museum, we will continue to be a welcoming environment, a spark for the curiosity and creativity of our children, and a resource for all parents and families. Over the months to come I will share more about our future plans and dreams and I encourage you to share your ideas and comments on our blog, as we redouble our efforts on the behalf of our kids and families in Boston and beyond.

On behalf of the Board and staff of Boston Children’s Museum may I wish you and your family a holiday season of peace.

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