It was every working parent’s worst nightmare: innocent children slaughtered in a day-care center.
Psychologists predict that parents and children around the country will struggle to cope with feelings of fear, helplessness and even guilt stemming from Wednesday’s car bombing that killed more than a dozen children in an Oklahoma City federal building.
The children were at the building’s day care center.
“You expect certain places to be havens for our children,” says Barbara Reisman, executive director of Child Care Action Campaign. “When these kinds of things happen in places like this, it reinforces the sense of vulnerability perhaps more. This hits particularly close to home.”
Feeling helpless, parents become frightened for their children, psychologists say. They become overprotective, afraid to let them out.
But that is exactly what terrorists count on - the ability to create overwhelming fear.
“What we have to do as parents is not let our children and ourselves be intimidated where we are afraid to go outside,” says New York psychologist Harvey Schlossberg, who specializes in the effects of terrorism. “The likelihood of this occurring is really pretty slim. It is much more dangerous for a child to cross the street.”
In other words, life must go on and parents must be strong.
“Hopefully, some top investigators are going to the scene and will find out who did it and they will pay for it,” Schlossberg says. “That restores a feeling of safety.”
He advises parents not to convey to children a fear that would make them frightened. Instead, depending on the child’s age, parents should confront the incident squarely.
“Parents should talk to their children and explain what happened, not to try to disguise it,” Schlossberg says. “Parents should say this is something done by evil people and the purpose is to make us prisoners in our own country and that it is rare and unusual.”