By Dr. Robin F. Goodman, VOICES Director of Family Programs
Another holiday is upon us. The 4th of July is meant to celebrate our independence as a nation. But in the years since September 11th, it has taken on new meaning for many Americans. Especially for families affected by September 11th, the holiday is likely to cause complicated thoughts and feelings.
Hardly a day goes by or sometimes hardly an hour goes by without seeing at least one reference to 9/11. The event has infiltrated what used to be routine events such as an airplane ride to visit relatives as well as serious world news such as the current situation in Iraq. And on the 4th of July, 9/11 is likely to be front and center. There will be flags, and fireworks, and talk of freedom. Families for whom September 11th has special meaning may find themselves yet again feeling different than those around them at the sights and sounds of such reminders. But even among the September 11th families, survivors, rescue workers and others, there is great variety. Some may have turned their attention elsewhere to new projects, children or work some are still troubled by events of the day, and some may have put their energy into causes related to September 11th. Keep in mind that independence means you should feel free to remember people and participate in events in your own personal way. The following are some suggestions for dealing with the holiday:
Plan ahead. Think about what made for a successful holiday in the past. Consider doing something similar or making changes according to where people are now.
Consider different preferences. Children, adults, family, and friends often have different ideas (and advice) about what they think is best. Try to accommodate some of what each wants while realizing its impossible to please everyone.
Have realistic expectations. No matter what your situation, the reality of a celebration does not usually match what is portrayed in glossy magazines or storefronts.
Be flexible. There is no right or wrong way to mark the holiday. Whether you keep to a routine or decide to try something new this year, you and your family are the best judge of the right fit. And if things dont work out as planned, recognize that life will continue to evolve, file away the experience to help plan for the next event.
Be sensitive to the fact that for some adults and children loud noises or crowds can be overwhelming rather than fun. Smaller gatherings may feel more manageable.
Some children and adults may want and enjoy a carefree day engaged in lots of festivities. Supporting and encouraging kids to have fun can be an especially important life affirming message.
You may want to take a moment to have a discussion with close friends, children, or as a family about what freedom means to each individual.