Because I fielded today a few questions on how to deal out info to children, I am giving some insights I’ve learned along the road. This is by no way and no means inclusive, but some quick thoughts.
There once was a time when Israel needed rain. The rabbis sent a delegation to Abba Chilkiyahu, a grandson of Choni Hama’agal (you can refer back to a prior post about Choni). They were surprised to see Abba Chilkiyahu ensure that his wife walked ahead of him while he lagged behind, and they questioned him later about it. His response was that there was no way he was leaving his wife out there with strangers. For safety, he watched her go in front. He didn’t assume these unknown folks were pleasant people. He took steps to ensure safety.
We are advised to have the modus operandi of “Kabdayhoo V’Chasdayhoo” (honor him but suspect him). When you invite someone into your home, the Torah outlook is to go all out and welcome him royally. But don’t for one minute trust him. Think he might be a highwayman out to rob and kill you.
Telling children kidnappings almost never happen is NOT helpful. Preparing them for what might happen is the best protection (although one has to inevitably say not everything can be prevented).
In research work done exploring lasting emotional damage for children who experience trauma, whether a shooting around them or a natural disaster, it has been underlined that children who knew what the steps to take during the danger, even if they were to witness horrific scenes, were more likely to end up resilient and more able to heal.
May no child ever go through trauma. But hiding our heads in the sand and telling them the world is a “safe place” makes the trauma far worse and makes them more likely targets than if we tell them the facts of life, the way it is – there is evil out there, but that they will survive.
Tell them that, if lost, they can tell an adult, but must stay put in a public place and not go with anyone, even if the person says they are taking them home. They just stay put and let that person call for help. It is better to go to a group rather than a lone person. And it is better to look for somebody who is a Mommy with a child. Teach them how to scream.
Children should be taught adults are not allowed to ask children for favors and help. Tell them adults should ask other adults to help them, but never turn to a child for help. Also tell children adults should be friends with adults and children with children. If an adult wants to be “their friend”, that person should be avoided.
At the Levaya for the precious little Leibby Kletzky, the first rabbi who spoke stressed that most within our community don’t teach our children the halachos of Yichud, and he called on all of us to strengthen our community in this area, to teach the young (girls from 3, boys from 9) the Halachos. No, not in 12th grade; by then it is too late. As soon as it applies to them, they must know these Halachos.
May the memory of Yehuda ben Nachman Kletzky of blessed memory guide us to better practices.
The Mental Health Division of Rockland Bikur Cholim released a wonderful and the most on-target response to the tragedy which you can read here: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/97431/Letter-From-The-Director-Of-The-Center-For-Applied-Psychology-Following-Murder-Of-Leiby-Kletzky-A%22H.html. Kudos to Yitzchok Schechter for saying truth. What a breath of fresh air especially since another agency’s inane advice was to tell children the world is safe and all is la-la fine.
For those who have suffered trauma in the past and are currently struggling with the after-effect of flashbacks, you can go to this blog: http://chavatzeles.blog.com
And I just read this wonderful piece by Yitzchok Adlerstein — awesome, must read: http://www.cross-currents.com