We are in a new world of international security, and these days Americans are feeling the daily terror that so many families in other countries have felt most of their lives. So how do we prepare our kids?
Dr. Wendy Walsh: Over the holidays, my kids and I returned from a family vacation in Canada. When we arrived at the airport in Ottawa, a week after the Christmas Day terror attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight, I expected long security lines. What I was not so prepared for was the sight of babies in diapers being pawed by security personnel in latex gloves. I thought the biggest inconvenience this traveling mom would experience was a new rule banning all carry-on bags on international flights coming into the U.S. Yep, if you couldn't carry your items separately in your hands, they weren't going on the plane. Imagine traveling for eight hours with two kids and no toys or art supplies! I was braced for that inconvenience.
But not the other new thing. Once through the scanners, I found myself standing with legs apart and arms straight out to the sides while a burly, female agent pressed her hands in between my breasts, along my inner thighs, and down my back to my buttocks -- all while my little girls gawked. It was their turn next. As the security employee did her duty with my 11- and 6-year-old daughters, I distracted things by chatting lightly with the agent. She told me she felt as embarrassed as I about having to do this. She even divulged that she felt the new "pat-downs" were useless because the genital area could not be touched, and that's exactly where the Christmas Day terrorist had hidden his lethal chemicals. Great.
We are in a new world of international security, and these days Americans are feeling the daily terror that so many families in other countries have felt most of their lives. So how do we prepare our kids? How do we attempt to mitigate the fear that they might feel?
Before you head to the airport, explain to your children what might happen. Go back to that conversation you once had about good touch / bad touch, and now extend permission that you give medical doctors to security personnel. So, just as it is okay for a pediatrician to touch your kids, now you have a new kind of touch to allow.
Then explain that to be fair, every passenger must be searched, even kids. And put things in perspective. Stress how rare it might ever be that someone would bring a dangerous thing onto the plane. The most important thing is to emphasize how much safer these new security measures make you feel. Children look to adults for cues on how to feel, and if you exhibit anger or fear, they are sure to pick up on that. Always ask the agent to frisk you first, and keep a smile on your face while the kids watch. This kind of modeling will help them see that it is painless and purposeful.
Finally, as a courtesy to your kids and all the other inconvenienced passengers, be patient, kind, and cooperative. The security agents are merely someone else's kid or mommy doing their job in a recession. Have compassion for their experience. They didn't ask for the Christmas Day scare any more than you did. Thank them for doing their jobs so thoroughly. And move along quickly if asked.
We are all in this together. And the biggest lesson for our children is to show grace in even the most uncomfortable of circumstances. This is how we shape the minds of our tender angels.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|