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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

The Only and Correct Way to Parent

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 10th 2011

The Only and Correct Way to Parent I had an "A Hah" moment this past week when I was reading a news article about how to discuss 9/11 with your children. Part of the advice the writer gave was to talk about it in a way that will not startle or scare them and to reassure them that they are safe. The writer was quoting supposed mental health experts with whom he discussed the issue.

I was left feeling very uncomfortable with what I read but could not figure out why. After all, I thought, what is wrong about answering questions your children may ask about this very public anniversary and what is wrong with reassuring them that they are safe?

These are not profound questions and, at another time and a different issue, I would have known what was bothering me. However, having been in Manhattan the morning of the attacks, I am not able to take an objective stand on how to cope with an event that was so traumatizing.

When Nazi bombs and V2 rockets were falling on London and families were hiding in the Tubes, our version of the subway, but much deeper and safer, parents did not assure their children that they were safe. How could they? The explosions and vibrations were heard and felt all the way underground.

When I was a boy in a Bronx elementary school, there were regular practice emergencies in preparation for a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The principle or other teachers would suddenly and unexpectedly enter the classroom and yell, "take cover." We even had to wear dog tags every day in order that we could be identified if the worst happened.

Why do we give our children so little credit for their resilience and ability to understand in their own way? How can we tell our children they are safe in an age of terrorist attacks? Even as America prepares for this tragic anniversary, there are threats of another attack on the United States. Finally, why do we give our parents and families so little credit for knowing how to handle this and other awful life events?

Please understand that I am not criticizing the information and help that mental health experts provide. I'm one of them. What I fear is that families may come to believe they cannot use their judgement in raising their children. My parents did not consult experts about how to handle having to "take cover" at school.

Families, have faith in yourselves in your ability to creatively handle crises as they come up. We are here to help when and if a crisis becomes so overwhelming that people feel helpless, scared and in need of help. Other that, use your own good judgement. I have a feeling you do, anyway.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

My Thoughts - Cathy - Sep 12th 2011

I think that it is unfortunate that every year for ten years, the horror of 9/11 is replayed for one thing.  They even start a couple of weeks before and continue after that date.   While I can see remembering it, I cannot see replaying the horrible images.  Most children don't understand and many seeing it would not realize it was 10 years ago.  Then, we go on to tell the children how "safe" they are.  News flash!  The world is not a "safe" place and never was but is worse shape now.  As I remarked in a couple of other articles on this main page, trying to pretend that nothing is wrong, doesn't make it so.  You are much better off if you teach your children the realities of life and how to deal with them to the best of their abilities.  We can be "safer" and this is how it is done but no one is ever "safe" from everything.  A best bet is limit television and internet because they do tend to present the world in the most negative way that they can.  Talk to your kids like you are preparing them to become independent, confident and realistic because that is what a parenting is all about.

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