A Muslim-American mother explains what it's like to talk to her kids about terrorism.

The other day, I was watching CNN when a picture of San Bernardino's female terrorist, Tashfeen Malik, flashed onto the screen.

My 6-year-old daughter immediately turned to me and exclaimed, "Mom, that bad girl is a Muslim!"

My heart stopped for a second. As a mother, I've tried shielding my children from news of ISIS and American terrorists — whether they shoot innocent people at an office party or a Planned Parenthood clinic. Isn't that a natural instinct for most parents, wanting to shield your young ones from life's ugly realities as much as possible?


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Except there's only so much shielding you can do. Especially when you're a Muslim.

"Mom, that bad girl is a Muslim!" my daughter said. "Look, she's wearing a scarf on her head just like you do!" I'm not only a Muslim mother who wears a headscarf. I'm also a writer and public speaker, focusing on stories of Muslims and training law enforcement on cultural sensitivity. I often appear on radio and television to talk about the effects of these media stories on the average, law-abiding Muslim American. That means my 6-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son know a little too much about how ugly this world can be.

Image via iStock.

I want my children to feel safe and loved. But what do you tell your children when the news is full of people "of your tribe" doing something horrible and evil?

I've been digging into that question, searching for suggestions and insights from experts. And while I've found a lot of good advice for post-terrorism parenting making the rounds online, not all of it addresses the specific challenges my family, and so many others, are facing.

Here are some key pieces of advice most commonly shared by experts and how I've made them work for our family:

1. "Assure children that these attacks are rare and the chances of anything ever happening to them are next to nothing."

A friend recently told me that every time her high school son passes someone in the hallway, people yell, "Bomb!" Another friend told me her 7-year-old daughter was nicknamed "ISIS" by her classmates.

Even more than terrorist attacks, my children are scared about how others will view them because they look like some of the terrorists they're seeing on the news.

Image via iStock.

While President Obama has repeatedly cautioned us not to lump all Muslims into the same box, Muslims are still regularly on the receiving end of hate speech and threats.

Which is why we need to talk to our kids — all of them — about bullying.

In a world already hurting, we all need to work together to help Muslim children understand that they are not any less loved or valued because of their faith. (It's worth pointing out that many brown-skinned people like Sikhs and Hindus are mistaken for Muslim, too.)

Teachers, principals, and school administrators should do the same by reminding their staff and students that faith-based teasing is not acceptable.

Image by nick chapman/Flickr.

2. "Talk about how the child feels rather than giving information about the who, why, what, and where."

For my family, it's impossible to escape the "who." And it's (naturally) always followed by questions about why. The day after the San Bernardino attack, my son, listening to the news in the car on the way to school, asked me, "Mommy, if those people were Muslim, why did they kill someone? Don't they know Islam means peace?" These aren't easy questions, and I don't have all the answers.

But I take this opportunity to talk to my children about Islam and its inherently peaceful teachings.

We looked through the Quran and found the verse, "Whoever kills a soul … it is as if he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a soul, it is as if he has saved all mankind" (5:32).

I show them all the commandments about being peaceful, kind, loving, and just. That's the reaffirmation of faith I and my family need in times like these.

Image by Tarang hirani/Flickr.

3. "Shut off the television and radio and spend time with the family."

I want to be able to shut it all off. Yet I need to stay connected — not just for work, but for my sense of my family's safety. Switching off the television means not knowing what presidential candidates are saying, how Muslims are responding, what the latest advisories by Muslim civil rights groups are, and so much more.

That's why I'm trying to focus on listening to unbiased news reports instead of talk shows full of hateful rhetoric when my kids are around.

After my son casually told his sister that the word Islamic is actually a code word for evil, I stopped listening to the radio in the car when I drop my kids off at school. I find websites like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and some NPR programs to be more balanced than the main cable news channels.

Ultimately, that's the best way I know to protect my children from the painful words others are using against their faith, and I'm hoping other parents do the same so that we don't promote intolerance in future generations.

Image via iStock.

4. "Remind children that many people in the government and the community are working hard to keep them safe."

While that's certainly true of terrorist attacks, it's harder to make the case for Muslims right now. Adults and children are being harassed in the street, spit on in buses, and so much more. My children can see what the American Muslim community is going through, and it's almost impossible to shield them from it.

Last week, the father of my daughter's friend was escorted off a plane for looking suspicious and then detained by the police for hours. His face on the news was recognizable and she cried, "Mom, why did the police catch Amna's dad?" It's so heartbreaking and frustrating to watch my children grow wary and afraid.

I told her that loving other people, taking care of them, and making sure we help them when they're in need is what makes a Muslim.

That's why it's so important to get involved in showcasing a positive side of Islam and Muslims.

Whether you're a Muslim or not, getting to know your Muslim neighbors, visiting Islamic organizations, and learning about the positive contributions Muslims make in their communities can change the narrative and counter stereotypes. Virtually every city with a Muslim presence has a charitable or social service arm.

This week, my kids and I are buying holiday gifts as part of a mosque project to give to sick children in our local cancer hospital. You can also contact your nearest charity or two of the largest national charitable organizations — Islamic Relief USA and ICNA Relief — for projects to help with.

Image via iStock.

At the end of the day, keeping communication open is key. Sometimes only an honest heart-to-heart talk with your child will do.

When my daughter was so upset about seeing a terrorist wearing the same head covering as her mother, I told her to remember there are bad people in the world, no matter their religion.

I told her that loving other people, taking care of them, and making sure we help them when they're in need is what makes a Muslim.

I told her we are in this world to be kind and good.

I coaxed her into a better mood by telling her stories of the Prophet Muhammad who gave up everything he had for others. I'm an author after all, and I know the power of storytelling.

My daughter was silent for a long time, which means she was thinking about what I said.

At her age, I know I'll have likely have to repeat the message many times. But at least she was thinking about it, and today, that's all I can pray for.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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