Parenting Isn’t for Sissies | Terrorism, airports and your kids

Jennifer_DuBoseEighteen months after 9/11, my then-2-year-old daughter, Holly, was asked to take off her Winnie the Pooh sneakers and stand spread eagle for a female TSA screener at the airport. She was patted down and scanned with a wand. (Most 2-year-olds aren’t terrorists, though I know some parents who would beg to differ.) We were surprised our family had been selected for extra screening, but grateful security was tight and happy to do our part.

I’d all but forgotten about this incident until recently when it became clear that airport security would be ramped-up again.

The Christmas bomber’s shredded underwear every time I turned on the news was a disturbing visual I tried to ignore. What I can’t ignore is the inevitability of full body scans at airport security checkpoints. In my opinion, the availability of this screening device in every airport is way overdue.

Not that I relish the idea.

TIPS FOR PARENTS

  • Allow extra time to get through security and proceed with any screenings with a spirit of adventure. Cooperate, and consider thanking the agents who screen you, which can be very reassuring for your children.
  • Calmly answer kids’ questions about terrorism in age-appropriate, concrete terms. Avoid offering information about specific details they haven’t requested. As with most subjects, when kids do request specific details it generally means that they’re ready to hear them.
  • Fear and anxiety can be paralyzing, so consider taking time to be in an ‘attitude of gratitude’ about other aspects of your life, too, every now and then. This can have a grounding effect, no matter the circumstance inspiring your anxiety. Model this way of coping, for your kids’ sakes.

As long as people exist who would do us harm-like the young man suspected of terrorist ties who managed to board a plane bound for Detroit and then allegedly tried to blow it up on Christmas Day by detonating explosives sewn into his underwear-it seems to me we must do whatever it takes to foil their plans.

Body scanning equipment will likely be available by this spring in select airports, including O’Hare, which has announced plans to begin using them by March or April-perhaps just in time for your family’s spring break trip. Each scan will take about 15 to 20 seconds, but otherwise, should pose no greater inconvenience than the traditional metal detectors we already pass through.

These body scans may be ‘virtual’ strip searches but I don’t think we’re quite at the point where we need to edit our ‘good-touch/bad-touch’ lectures and tell our children that no one’s allowed to touch you ‘there’ but Mommy, Daddy, the doctor and the TSA agents at the airport.

If you do decide to fly with your kids, remember this: they’ll follow your lead and take your cues about how to respond to and cope with whatever new security measures are initiated.

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