Monday, September 24, 2001

Trauma deficient

Everywhere you turn these days, there are articles and supplements and TV shows to help you talk to your kids about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The impression one gets is of a nation of hurting children, frightened, drawing pictures, talking to school-provided counselors, imploring their parents for insight. It makes sense that the most vulnerable among us would feel most vulnerable after such a disaster.

So what does it mean that my own personal kids couldn't care less about it?

Is it because of their neurological impairments? I wonder. Certainly, they have enough work to do just to get through each school day without raising their eyes to take in disasters unrelated to their own personal universe. Abstractions are pretty impossible for my daughter to grasp, and unless I take her to ground zero, it's unlikely that planes crashing into buildings is going to be anything but. Most adults have trouble grasping the reality of it.

Maybe they would have more awareness of this terrible event if I had let them watch it on TV more. I specifically didn't, because the images were so upsetting. But that has rendered this mostly a word-of-mouth phenomenon for them, and language processing being the iffy thing it is in our house, that may have put it out into the never-never land of book plots and math story problems. Neither of them is exactly up to speed in the emotional development department, either; they have taken the death of extended family members with relative stoicism, so it may be unrealistic for them to have any response to the deaths of strangers, even thousands of them at once.

At any rate, I find myself in the awkward position of feeling that they should know more about this and feel more about this, but unsure how to make that happen without actually browbeating them. How many times can I sit down and explain it? When everybody is working to keep their kids from being upset, should I be working to upset them? Perhaps I should just shut up and count my blessings.

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