Tag Archives: children

Helping children after the storm

Dear Readers,

I hope you’re all safe and sound after the storm. We’re OK.

I  just started writing a post about the storm and after the storm. Then I saw a post and pic (see below) on Sesame Street’s Facebook page today. Since this show airs tomorrow –in the NY area, on WNET-13, it’s on at 7:00am—I’m sending this out now.

I highly recommend it for  anyone with young children; anyone who may have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy or who knows someone who’s been affected; or for anyone who’s human with access to power and a TV.

As with everything Sesame Street produces, this special episode is helpful for children and grown ups alike. It touches on a range of emotions experienced by so many, but that are often difficult to express, understand, or cope with.

Info and activities for parents and children:


And more resources:


More soon-ish.

Stay well and warm,


From Sesame Street’s Facebook Page: 

From Sesame Street’s Facebook Page

“On Friday, we’ll be airing a very special episode of Sesame Street.

A hurricane has swept through Sesame Street and everyone is working together to clean up the neighborhood. When Big Bird checks on his home, he is heartbroken to find that the storm has destroyed his nest. Big Bird’s friends and neighbors gather to show their support and let him know they can fix his home, but it will take time. While everyone on Sesame Street spends the next few days cleaning up and making repairs, Big Bird still has moments where he is sad, angry, and confused. His friends help him cope with his emotions by talking about what happened, drawing pictures together, and giving him lots of hugs. They also comfort Big Bird by offering him temporary places he can eat, sleep, and play. Big Bird remembers all the good times he had at his nest and realizes that once it is rebuilt, there are more good times and memories to come. Finally the day has come where most of the repairs to Big Bird’s home are done and his nest is complete. As he is about to try it out, though, the city nest inspector says it not safe, yet, because the mud isn’t dry. Big Bird is sad that he has to wait another day, but Snuffy comes to the rescue and blows the nest dry and he passes the test! Big Bird thanks everyone for being his friend and helping to rebuild his nest and his home.”

Please check your local listings to see what time the episode “Sesame Street Gets Through a Storm” will air on PBS, at


I Will Not Buy My Son a Toy Gun

On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2011

For those left behind

Hawkeye, Photo credit: Lisa Pembleton

I am a veteran of the Israeli army. I feel strange using the word veteran, because to me, a veteran is someone who fought in combat and either was killed,  injured, or survived. But the dictionary gives the definition as “a former member of the armed services.” So, I suppose it’s OK to say that in this context. But this post is not about me. I use the word only because as someone who did serve her country in Israel, I know a little bit about what it is like to be a soldier. Even though I never fought in combat. And all political things aside, I can tell you that your life is not yours when you are a soldier. You are in service to your country. You wear a uniform. There are rules. You take orders. You learn to use a gun. It can be dangerous.

I mention this also because from an early age, I have seen up close what the effects of losing a family member, friend, or even an aquaintance to war, terror or the military, can be. Grief that comes from the loss of a beloved person in your life is a human, universal experience. But each loss is specific and personal. No two stories are the same, but they are all heartbreaking.

If you are a mother of a soldier, you might end up burying your child, your soldier. If you are a child, you might bury your parent soldier, a father or mother. If you are a husband, wife or fiance, brother or sister, or in any way related to a soldier, you are part of a world that is slightly less known here. Because here in the US, we have a volunteer army, and in Israel, there is a draft. It is required.

So, here we have a much bigger country, and the military families are their own sub set in our culture. In America it is not common practice for all 18 year olds to go to the army following high school. Here, if one is lucky, there is college. Then there are those who volunteer to be soldiers in the US armed services. People who do this, should be afforded rights and services when (and if) they return from their missions here or abroad. If they are injured, they should be given the best medical attention that exists. They should be supported in every possible way: emotionally, financially, and physically. Because they have given of their lives in service and they have put themselves in harm’s way. Whether the war (or wars) are justified or not, I think soldiers returning from war, or combat missions, or service of any kind should be treated with the utmost respect. Their families should be well cared for (in perpetuity) if they are killed in action or cannot work due to injuries (physical or mental). There shouldn’t be even one homeless veteran. It is shameful and outrageous there are so many.

I have not held a gun in my hands since I returned mine when I completed my two-year service in 1987.  I don’t want my son Max to play with toy guns. I will not buy them. I will not allow them as gifts. Yes, he is only (almost) five. I have no idea what he may ask for or want in the future. Saying never is tricky, but thankfully, lately he’s all about cars and Hot Wheels and cats and such. I teach him to use his words when he’s angry. I hope he grows up to be just about anything but a soldier.

When a family has their son or daughter volunteer to go into the army, as is the case these days here in the US, I think that is worthy of something. At minimum, respect. And respect should mean that veterans are treated well. Period. And there should not have to be a discussion about whether the war is right or wrong so as to justify whether they deserve to be treated with respect, compassion, understanding and real tangible help when they return home. They do deserve it. Yes. They do. Every bit of it and more.

And I don’t understand the concept of Veteran’s Day sales. It makes no sense to me. People have died, or are injured; is let’s go buy stuff really the answer?!  I don’t understand it. More people need to be aware of what the veterans experiences are, what the history is here, not what the best deal on furniture, electronics, or toys is (today, hurry, get great deals, 30% off!).

The toy guns. I hate them. I hate them and I won’t buy them for Max. Instead, I buy him colors, paints, pens and notebooks he can fill with words, drawings, and stories. I give him things he can build (or knock down) without hurting anyone. I teach gentle hands (with people, animals, and places). I want to believe my intentions and actions will give Max a place where peace has a chance to happen.

I dedicate this post to all the brave men and women, past, present and future who have served or will serve this country at war or at peace. Thank you. 

Here is a collection of websites and articles:

John Moore and a photo of grief from Arlington National Cemetary


A dog keeps watch


The first woman from the Oklahoma National Guard killed in combat will be laid to rest: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=511&articleid=20111110_11_A4_CUTLIN331370

At War: Notes from the Front Lines (about homeless veterans): http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/study-finds-homeless-veterans-stay-homeless-longer-than-others/

100K Homes: http://100khomes.org/

From Sesame Workshop and Sesame Street:Talk, Listen, Connect –Toolkit for Military Families: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/tlc

Families Near and Far: http://www.familiesnearandfar.org/resources/grief/coviewing/

Fantastic info about grief and the grieving process on their resources page –Good Grief: http://www.good-grief.org/

Talking with Kids About News: http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/

Courage to Talk (regarding war injuries): http://www.couragetotalk.org/talking.children.php

Coming Home: Veterans Readjusting to Civilian Life: http://www.pbs.org/pov/regardingwar/conversations/coming-home/

The Bob Woodruff Foundation: helping to heal the physical and psychological wounds of war. http://www.reMIND.org

National Veterans Art Museum: http://www.nvvam.org/

International Art Therapy Organization: http://www.internationalarttherapy.org/militarytrauma.html

Women, War & Peace: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/women-war-and-peace/category/full-episodes/


I’m sorry I couldn’t post per usual on Friday. It’s a long story. Here’s a short post for today:

My dear friends at Sesame Street are tackling the topic of hunger.

A new special, “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” is airing tonight on PBS. Written and produced by two great friends: Christine Ferraro (super talented, multiple Emmy and WGA award winning writer) and Melissa Dino (amazing, super talented, and multiple Emmy award winning producer).

I think we can all agree that no one should have to go hungry. Especially children. It’s high time to shine a light and raise awareness. I suppose that those who know, do and help. But a lot of people are unaware. So, please pass it on, share the info, and let’s all keep doing whatever we can to help those in need. No child should go hungry. Here, overseas, or anywhere. Period.

I’ll be watching. I hope you will, too.

Love and peace,


Bullying: Sticks and Stones and Words Can Kill


Back to School is in full swing. This should be an exciting time for students. But for those who are bullied, going to school can be a terrifying or life-threatening experience.  Tonight, Friday September 16, at 8:00pm ET, CBS is airing a special 48 Hours,“Bullying….If Words Could Kill.”

Last year, we experienced what I perceived to be “beginner bullying behavior” in Max’s preschool class.  I was shocked this could even exist in children as young as 4 years old. Max was upset and angry and so was I. Like most parents would, I did everything I could to help him. I spoke with the school’s administration and teachers and asked for their intervention and help. Luckily, our situation at preschool was addressed quickly and thoughtfully. Parents got involved, teachers listened, responded, and did more to help ALL the kids who were hurting. The ones who were doing the aggressive and mean behavior (hitting, name-calling, etc), AND the ones who were on the receiving end—turns out both were hurting, and both needed more help. Everyone involved was invested in making things  better. Cooperation, listening, and working together was crucial. Things were resolved peacefully.

I think it’s never too early to begin teaching children acceptable behaviors and how we should treat each other. How to resolve conflicts with words. How to make choices to be kind, helpful, loving, and inclusive, instead of rejecting, mean and destructive. I also wrote a piece detailing our experience, Bullying Behavior for Sesame Family Newsletter. 

My friend, Courtney Knowles, Executive Director of The JED Foundation, co-founded the “Love is Louder”movement.  On September 30, they are celebrating their one year anniversary. Here’s a few pictures we had uploaded to their campaign last year. A reminder that love is louder. Love is the answer. Empathy is the answer. It really is.  Good laws and enforcing them will also help. If we don’t do what we can to combat bullying, we are diminishing ourselves. All children deserve better.

I was bullied as a child. Several times, both here in the US when I was around six or seven years-old, and then in Israel, soon after we moved there when I was ten. In one case, I was pushed into a bee’s nest. In another, my long hair was chopped off. I remember those incidents (and there were others) as if they happened yesterday. Since then, I learned how to get help and stand up for myself. All kinds of bullies have come and gone over the years. Each time I encountered one, I learned something. How to stand up, walk away, and let go. But I was an adult who had learned to cope. I had language, comprehension, and experiences to draw on to remind me, “it gets better.” I finally learned how to spot bullying behavior a mile away, and can better avoid it now.

I want Max to stay true to himself, be healthy, live a happy life, and continue to be a kind person who cares for others. I don’t want him to be bullied. I’m trying to teach him that while sometimes people might say and do terrible things, he has a choice of how to respond. I don’t want him to become a bully, either. We don’t tolerate name-calling, and even as he’s still learning, and I have to repeat myself over and over, Max is not allowed to call other people hurtful names. Period. When he does, I remind him how he felt when he was called something mean or hurtful. I don’t let it slide. I say something about what is acceptable to me, and what isn’t. I show him another way to express his feelings. Max gets mad at me, and that’s OK. I show him how to tolerate and express anger constructively. He’s learning. I’m learning.

These days, cyber-bullying can be non-stop, 24/7. And children are killing themselves. There are sufficient horror stories of young kids, teens and college students who were (or are) terrorized in their schools, on buses, or online. Each story of bullying is heartbreaking; each one is one too many. I want to  help make it better. I believe that each one of us can make a difference in our own homes, schools, communities. All those little moments will add up. And then we’ll see bigger changes. But we have to start where we are, and at home. We need to standup for each other and for those who cannot speak up for themselves. We need to do this for the children who are gone and their parents who suffer from their loss. We need to make this problem obsolete. It should become a thing of the past, not something we accept as an inevitable part of life.

There are many excellent resources out there about bullying, but here’s a few I recommend today:  Author, Trudy  Ludwig has written great books addressing the topic of bullying and her insights and resources are excellent. Empathy is key! Susan Raisch, the creator of Tangled Ball is a friend and former colleague of mine from Sesame Workshop. She works on bullying prevention and has also joined forces with Kathryn Otoshi, author of the book ONE (which is wonderful).  The Human Rights Campaign has a long list of resources and this useful information about Cyber Bullying in the LGBT community.

Until every child can go to school without fear of bullying, we have a lot of work to do. I hope there is not one more child, or teenager or college student who takes his or her own life because suicide seemed like their only way to escape their horrible pain and suffering caused by bullying. As a parent it’s unthinkable. But it is happening, and we all have a role to play to make it better. We have to teach ourselves and our kids how to be kinder to each other. Yes, it starts at home, in the sandbox, on the playground, and then at school. The good news is, we can change this, but we all have to be willing to see what is happening now.

As Kathryn Otoshi writes:

Sometimes it just takes One.

When We Say The Missing

An excerpt from a poem, “A Lament for the Missing” written at 441 West 49th Street, Apartment 13, New York, NY 10019
on 9/18/2001 ©Elana A. Halberstadt

When we say the missing, we mean everything we have lost.
Everything that was supposed to be.
Everything we’ll never have.
Weddings and anniversary celebrations. Birthdays. Descendants.
Beyond the monumental life events, it is the mundane, everyday moments we
will miss the most.
The moments of the missing.
A dinner table with an empty seat.
A car parked without an owner to claim it.
When we say the missing, we mean the ones left behind have been deprived a
lifetime of
One more kiss.
A phone call to remind them to buy milk on the way home.
We mean children whose parents will never tuck them into bed, or tell them a
story, or
hold them to reassure them that the world can be a beautiful place.
We mean the photos and mementos covered in dust.
When we say dust and ashes,
We mean the concrete, the documents, and the souls devoured in flames.

When we say the missing, we mean what a miracle to survive.
We mean the near-misses.
The missing of being there that morning.
I was late that morning. I went to vote. I took my kid to school. I was on vacation.
I took a different flight.
That morning,
I wasn’t there, but I could have been.
The lucky ones who escaped down countless floors that we cannot stop
ask themselves, How did I get out? Why me?
We all ask ourselves,
Why am I saved and not the others?