UWS Educators have advice and perspectives to share

The director of the JCC nursery school sent a letter to the families and alumni of the school today, as she does each Friday.  Ilana told me I could post the message here.  I know that other school have been sending around helpful messages and ideas of how to process what happened and how to talk with our kids.  I encourage parents to share these school’s letters here by adding a comment.  I have talked with many people who feel we need help figuring out how to deal with this.

We have organized some workshops for parents next week to discuss how we talk to our children about difficult moments and events with our children. Jean Schreiber will be facilitating these workshops and we encourage you to join us. Please also let friends know from our larger JCC community that they are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, October 30 at 7 pm Common Space on 2nd floor
Wednesday, October 31 at 9 am Beit Midrash on 7th floor
Thursday, November 1 at 1 pm on Mezzanine

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A Note from Ilana

October 26, 2012

Dear Families,

While many of you were together in classrooms with our amazing teachers for our fall Parent Nights, a terrible tragedy occurred just two blocks away. It is hard for any of us to wrap our minds around this tragedy or find our footing in a world that can feel so unsafe. This morning, around tables of bagels and coffee, I watched as our children and families entered the 2nd floor common space – I saw parents looking shaken, scared, and under-rested (as many were up reading blogs, articles and any other sources of information as we struggled to make sense of this senseless act of violence). I watched our wonderful nannies entering our school, also feeling sad, scared, and pained by the events of last night. I witnessed our incredible JCC staff, feeling both personally disturbed by the events and so incredibly determined to provide safe, appropriate, caring responses to all of the children and families that use our JCC each and every day.  And then, I watched our children – filled with light, and joy, as they continued to skip into the school, grabbing handfuls of Challah and enjoying the beautiful Shabbat music that we experience in our school each week. We tried to offer a hug of support through bagels and coffee knowing that while we cannot begin to address the fears that we may all carry with us today, it sure is good to have community at moments like this.

“All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to fear at all,” say the famous Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. What does it mean not to not fear at all? At moments like this we are so very aware of the narrowness of the bridge on which we walk. We are indeed vulnerable – not just when we leave our children with our nannies, but when we cross the street, when we walk into Starbucks and trust the barista, when we hop into a cab, and so much more. The events that occurred last night in the home of the Krims resonates for families across the Upper West Side because it feels so familiar: we have children, we live in neighborhoods that we perceive as safe, many of us have nannies, we take swim classes, we have partners who take business trips… and so we imagine this could happen to us. But just as we must tell our children, this is a very, very, very rare event. The odds of this happening in our own homes have not increased. The risks to our own children have not increased from yesterday to today. What has changed is only that we have a new reminder that indeed our lives are vulnerable and that we walk a narrow bridge.

When we face strong reminders that our world is vulnerable we also re-experience old losses, old vulnerabilities, and old traumas. Throughout the day I heard parents and staff share memories of how they felt at 9/11, childhood memories of traumas in their neighborhood, experiences of loss of parents, grandparents, and siblings. We all have unhealed wounds and when we experience one trauma we are reminded of the others.

So, what does it mean to follow Rabbi Nachman’s advice? How can we not fear at all? This is a tall order. However, you all already followed Nachman’s advice by bravely getting up this morning, putting on your clothing, and taking you and your child into the world. I know that many of you may have had some instinct to just stay curled under your covers and hover over your children. But we must continue to choose life over fear. We went out into the streets, we left children with teachers and caregivers, we went to work, and so much more. And this was the absolute right choice. While we may feel fear, we cannot let it immobilize us.

Today, along with fear and sadness, I also heard amazing expressions gratitude. One parent said to me, “When my 4 year old was up last night at 10 o’clock instead of being angry or frustrated I realized, I am lucky that I have this problem.” Indeed, we are all lucky to have family, friends, and so much more. Can we turn our mourning into dancing? Can we turn our fear into love? While some parents shared their hesitation leaving children with caregivers this morning, more shared the loving hugs, texts and other ways that they expressed their appreciation for their nannies. Don’t turn this event into an excuse to distrust the amazing people in your children’s lives. Our nannies, our teachers, our counselors and our coaches are among the most committed, caring people and they give to our children day in and day out. I know that it is not easy to not be afraid. But if we can ACT like we are not afraid, often our emotions begin to follow. And, if we are open to the world around us, we may discover sparks of beauty and holiness surrounding us even in this very dark moment.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ilana

PS – I know that some of you are asking. “How should I talk to my child about it?” My feeling is that you don’t need to raise it if your child doesn’t know about it. Your children are young and this may very well not need to be the moment when you want to talk about these sorts of topics. With that being said, if your child raises it, or if you do want to talk about it, I encourage you to first remember that children are far more resilient than we sometimes think. We want to acknowledge that bad things happen but also that the people in their lives are safe and trustworthy. Your children have parents, caregivers, teachers, friends and relatives who will take good care of them. You also want to reassure your child that what occurred yesterday is VERY, VERY rare and unusual. I like to say I have almost never heard of this sort of thing happening and that you do not think they need to worry. They may feel scared, they may not understand it all – neither do we! But they mostly need to hear they are safe.

We have organized some workshops for parents next week to discuss how we talk to our children about difficult moments and events with our children. Jean Schreiber will be facilitating these workshops and we encourage you to join us. Please also let friends know from our larger JCC community that they are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, October 30 at 7 pm Common Space on 2nd floor
Wednesday, October 31 at 9 am Beit Midrash on 7th floor
Thursday, November 1 at 1 pm on Mezzanine

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About valeriegerstein

A former online media professional, I am home, on the Upper West Side, with my 2 gorgeous girls, Mia and Liza and their wonderful Daddy, Mark.
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