QUESTION: As the parents of an 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, we’re finding out that children are much more aware of world events than we thought they were. After the events in Boston, both our children came home from school filled with fear from what they had heard from other children. Their main concern was that our community would be attacked.

Our children do not watch the news, and the only discussion we had about the Boston situation was to pray as a family for everyone in Boston. We didn’t have a lengthy discussion. We only told the children that it’s important that we care for others when they are hurting. We’re telling our children they are safe, and our intention is to keep them safe. Is there something else we should tell them?
~ Caring Parents

Dear Caring Parents,
Given the age of your children I believe your response was excellent. Your children needed to hear you tell them that they are safe and that they should have the desire to care for others when they are hurting. Although we live in an advanced world of communications with seemingly virtual access to information you will agree that the minds of an 8- and a 10-year-old are not ready to process adult levels of something like the Boston tragedy. Also, unless guessing or influenced, they would be unlikely to conclude for themselves that they should be fearful about something that occurred on the other side of the country especially with no indication that that event will reoccur here. Most children make sense of things and take their cues from adults who form their responses from the natural trauma of hearing or seeing this type of tragedy. Nonetheless, the fear your children was experiencing was real to them. The comforting words combined with special attention was exactly what your children needed and will continue to need until their fear has subsided.

“The Free Dictionary by Farlex,” found online, states the following about your children’s age of concrete thinking: “[it is] a stage in the development of the cognitive thought processes in the child. During this phase thought becomes increasingly logical and coherent so that the child is able to classify, sort, order and organize facts while still being incapable of generalizing or dealing in abstractions.”

The truth about the facts of any tragedy should be age appropriate and sometimes our children obtain facts that are beyond appropriate. When this occurs, the re-enforcement of a loving parent should be enough to dissuade unhealthy thoughts and feelings and provide for re-establishing healthy thoughts and feeling.

The best part of your response to me was that you and your children were able to provide opportunity to release your thoughts and feelings through faith in praying for those in Boston. The mind, body and spirit all need healthy response when processing what you all experienced together. I encourage your continued prayers, love and affection be given daily to your children and this should be enough  to shape, form and sustain their security in feeling safe with you and in the world in which we live. Prayer strengthens our resolve and nourishes the hope that frees us from those who would have us live in fear. Well done, “Caring Parents.”
Pastor Mark Yeager WEB
Pastor Mark Yeager, Senior Chaplain
Director, Chaplain Services
YMCA of the Foothills
Senior Lead Pastor
Verdugo Hills Church

Dear Caring Parents,
We live in an often scary time, a time when violence in the news seems to be a regular part of life. And, as much as we would like to do so, we cannot protect our children from hearing about frightening events. Trying to do that is likely to make children even more fearful and less trusting of their parents when they feel they are being kept in the dark. It is better for parents to share difficult news with their children in a caring way rather than to have them hear it from other, less compassionate and informed, sources.

It sounds as though you have addressed your children’s fears about the Boston attack in a very positive way, letting them know that they are safe and will be kept safe to the best of your ability. Your encouragement for them to pray with you for those who were hurt in the bombing also allowed them to feel that they were able to do something to help. Please continue to do those things and to provide them with reassurance of your love and care.

Just be aware that they may have other questions and concerns in the coming weeks as news continues to unfold and that you will need to provide appropriate information for them. In fact, you might even need to ask them how they are feeling about the situation if they don’t ask you. They may have unexpressed worries, and you certainly don’t want them to bury their fears and become even more anxious.

Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers as you continue your precious task.

Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford, Minister
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills

QUESTION: I’m a volunteer on the board of a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. Our board members have, for the most part, worked as a team until recently when a new member joined the organization. Whenever a sensitive subject arises that requires insight and thought, we appoint a committee to do in-depth research and ask them to report back to the board with their findings.

The new member wants to discuss the various situations during the meeting and that takes up valuable meeting time. Once he has the floor, he’s like a dog with a bone and he won’t let go. His expertise is a valuable asset; however, many board members have threatened to quit because of this individual.

What can be done to ensure harmony among and between the board members?
~Frustrated Board Member

Dear Frustrated Board Member,
You are right that this is both a management and a ministry issue. Board chairs that are relatively new to facilitation often don’t know the techniques of managing a good meeting, but are willing to learn. Board chairs who fear conflict will continue to do whatever is necessary to maintain a surface peace, unable or unwilling to see that this tact simply creates new conflicts under the surface. You and maybe one other person will want to invite your chair out for lunch and quietly share your concerns, insight and support. That support might involve yet another lunch, this time with the new board member who is missing the social cues.

We assume that people who serve on nonprofit boards do so to be useful. This person sounds like he hasn’t quite figured out yet how to be effectively useful, particularly if the main interaction he has with your organization is at board meetings. I’d say pull him in from the outer circle as quickly as possible, get him on event teams, affirm his gifts, develop trust, put him on an in-depth research team that uses his expertise, and employ every polite sentence you know that sounds like, “Thank you for your valuable input. We’re moving on to the next item on our agenda now, but that doesn’t mean the conversation can’t continue as we decide what to do.”

The upside is that you clearly have a new member who is passionate about your organization! Congratulations – may you accomplish great things.
Paige Eaves WEB
Pastor Paige Eaves

Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church


Dear Frustrated Board Member,
Here is what I would do. Have a meeting with the new board member. Include the president and vice-president of the board and maybe one other officer or person beside yourself. Tell the new board member that you’re glad that he has come on board, and you appreciate his new ideas and enthusiasm. However, the board has certain established procedures as to how it handles issues, and the new guy is not helping but impeding the process. So, if possible, gently nudge him to keep his comments to himself unless, of course, he is on one of the sub-groups assigned to look into an issue.

Again, tell him that you appreciate all he has brought to your board, but it is a board after all consisting of more than one person, and one person should not bully the rest of the people into listening to his ideas. Assure him that you want him to stay because he has valuable insights – but you might suggest that others on the board may be considering stepping down because the established procedures with which they are comfortable are not being followed because of the selfishness of one self-centered member.

And I wish you good luck!
CROPPEDSkip Lindeman
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church