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Hold Them Close and Tell Them a Story

By Jack Petrash


I was simply greeting a friend’s child who was sitting and reading. But this time something had changed: his eyes weren’t bright and his smile was missing. There was a noticeable sadness and seriousness in this young fellow. For sure he was several months older than the last time I saw him, but this was different. His mother is Ukrainian and her family lives in that tragically war-torn country.


This child’s situation is, of course, unique. Yet how many young people are burdened by the past two years of the pandemic with its deaths and hospitalizations, disruption of schooling, “social” distancing from loved ones, masks and mandates? Our children are surrounded by anxiety, worry and fear, and these may be heightened as we see the effects of climate change with extreme storms and the wildfires in California, Oregon and Colorado. The burdens that children carry nowadays are not always apparent, but they’re there! The question we are left with is, “How can we help?”


Children have essential needs: to be loved, provided for, and protected. These are the basic ways in which parents engage their children. And this engagement is fundamental because it establishes the framework of our home life— bedtime, mealtimes, play, and time together. These rituals become the cornerstones of our children’s young lives. They are foundational activities that support them the way the bedrock beneath our feet supports us. What makes these routines so necessary is that the rhythmical repetition of being cared for— carried, held, sung to, and tucked into bed—are experiences children come to count on. They become known points of important physical connection. They seem so basic that they are easy to overlook. But the truth is that the families in which these routines take place in a loving way provide children with a deep sense of security and a feeling of safety. That is a wonderful place to start but today it is not enough.


Our children also have significant emotional needs, ways in which their souls need tending. For children this tending can come through stories. The quiet connection of storytime is so good for children. When a parent sits next to their child on the couch or in bed, the physical closeness in a softly lit room fosters intimacy and safety. When we read to our children they know us in different ways —through our voice, our smell, our warmth, and by looking up at us as we look down at the page. In short, they know us deeply....

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