Monday, December 17, 2012

How Do We Talk to Children About the Unspeakable?

Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families of the children, teachers, and staff of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A tragedy like this is impossible to comprehend.

Parents and caring adults can help children process information in a way that is appropriate to their age. Martha Edwards, Ph.D., Director of the Center for the Developing Child and Family, shares some ways to help children cope in these difficult times below.

Lois Braverman
President & CEO


Martha E. Edwards, Ph.D.
Director, Center for the Developing Child and Family

I was in my office this morning with parents of a 7-year-old. On the way to school, after a brief reference to the Newtown shooting on the radio which his mom turned off immediately, he broke the news to her that “something happened” and told her what he had learned from other children the day before.

This is a poignant reminder that we can’t always control the information our children receive and they can easily get the wrong idea. This boy assumed his mother’s silence about the event meant that she didn’t know about it and it was his job to tell her as gently as he could what had happened.

They went on to have a meaningful and developmentally appropriate conversation about what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.

How do we talk about the unspeakable? If we can’t make sense of it ourselves, how can we help our children make sense of it?

We don’t know why this happened, and we may never know what was in the mind and heart of the shooter, but we can help our children process their own experience and to feel they are not alone in their reactions. Here are some ways of helping children in these difficult times:
  • Put away newspapers with huge headlines of the shooting and avoid the 24 hours news cycles that focus heavily on the event. Be the main source of information for your child. Newspapers and TV are not geared toward children’s sensibilities and need to be limited as much as possible.
  • Find out what your children know already and give them opportunities to ask whatever questions they have. Answer honestly and simply. Children don’t need too much detail.
  • Children may need several very small conversations rather than one big one. An important aspect of these conversations is that they know that you know what happened and will join the adults in figuring out what to do about it. This will reassure them and contribute to their feelings of safety and security.
  • Share your own feelings with your children, which will give them a model for paying attention to their own feelings. Feelings of sadness and empathy for the children and their families will be most helpful at this point, rather than airing your own outrage, anger, and helplessness.
  • Some children may worry that they could get so mad that they might hurt someone. Acknowledge that anger is a powerful emotion that we all feel at times. Let them know that you understand and are there to talk about these feelings and help them decide what to do.
  • Let them know that the grown-ups around them are thinking hard about what to do about this and working on solutions that will make things better in the future.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tribute to Families Gala 2012

Martha Fling and Alice Netter,
Gala Co-Chairs
Our sixth annual Tribute to Families gala, was held the evening of Monday, October 22nd at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. It was a memorable event, co-chaired by our dedicated board members, Alice Netter and Martha Fling. Nearly 300 guests gathered to make the evening a great success, helping the Ackerman Institute reach and surpass the event’s fundraising goal.

Natalie Morales, host for the evening
Among our guests were members of our board of directors, our colleagues, their families and their friends. The evening was hosted by Natalie Morales, News Anchor of NBC News’ TODAY and Co-Host of the third hour. C. Hugh Hildesley, Executive Vice President of Sotheby’s, expertly presided over our live auction, and Chris Gillespie, from the renowned Carlyle Hotel, provided musical ambiance with his signature blend of classical and jazz music.

Auctioneer C. Hugh Hildesley
Several press and celebrities took a special interest in our event this year: Lori Sokol of The Huffington Post, Cheryl Wills of NY1 News, Tamsen Fadal, anchor at WPIX News, Timothy Mandala of The Ropes, Wendy Diamond, correspondent on The Today Show, and Stacey Tisdale from Need to Know, and noted photojournalist, Javier Gomez.

Martha Fling presented the Ackerman Distinguished Service Award to Baron Davis, a two-time NBA All-Star Veteran Point Guard, to honor his work with young people through his 12-year old foundation, Rising Stars of America. Read more about this honor...

Tribute to Families Gala at
the Waldorf=Astoria
Board Chair, John O’Neill, presented the Ackerman Corporate Partner Award to Gregory T. Rogers of RayLign Advisory, LLC, for the company’s commitment to helping families build solid and trusting relationships. Read more about this honor...

We are deeply grateful to our family of friends and supporters for coming together to celebrate the work of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Our 2012 Tribute to Families gala was a great deal of fun and an outstanding success.

More Gala: Honoring RayLign, LLC

Board Chair, John O'Neill presents
award to Gregory Rogers of RayLign
Board Chair, John O’Neill, presented the 2012 Ackerman Corporate Partner Award to fellow board member Gregory T. Rogers, Founder and President of RayLign, LLC, in recognition of the company’s commitment to strengthening families and its unwavering support of the Ackerman Institute for the Family.

In Greg’s words: “The day to day challenges that face families are dynamic, varied and complex. To accept an award from Ackerman is acknowledgement that our firm has met a high standard for empathy, creativity and competency helping families overcome the everyday challenges confronting family well being. My team at RayLign, and our clients, have grown tremendously through our working partnership with Ackerman. We are truly honored to accept Ackerman’s Corporate Partner Award.

Gregory Rogers of RayLign, LLC,
Recipient of the Ackerman
Corporate Partner Award
Greg joined the board of directors in 2006, serving as chairman from 2008-2011, and he continues to provide his leadership, guidance and support to benefit the families we serve at the Ackerman Institute.

More Gala: Honoring Baron Davis

Martha Fling, Gala Co-Chair, presents
award to Baron Davis
Gala co-chair and board member Martha Fling presented the 2012 Ackerman Distinguished Service Award to Baron Davis, a two-time NBA All-Star Veteran Point Guard, to honor his work with young people through the Rising Stars of America Foundation. Baron founded Rising Stars with a mission to use athletics as an entry point for young people to learn ethics, social values, and life skills.

Ackerman Distinguished Service Award
Recipient Baron Davis

In Baron’s words: “Rising Stars is about helping these kids find out who they are, teaching them skills and helping them to become young leaders in their communities. It’s also about teaching the parents how to coach their kids, how to be there for them, and when the parents are not there, that’s when we step in, and we bridge that gap. It is really an honor and a privilege to be here [accepting the Ackerman Distinguished Service Award].”