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Interview With Nadine Kaslow

Aired November 20, 2003 - 15:48   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm already thinking about the dinnertime conversation we're probably going to have at our house tonight with an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old. And they'll probably ask, what is the accusation against Michael Jackson? They may not put it exactly that way, but nevertheless, Nadine Kaslow, chief of psychology at Emory University is here to guide us through those questions, those parental minefields.
I guess the first thing is, you have to remember that Michael Jackson may not be on the radar screen for a lot of younger kids these days, so maybe they don't know much about it. Or will they?

NADINE KASLOW, ADOLESCENT PSYCHOLOGIST: I think that children will know, because you're going to see it over and over again on the television. And even if they don't know exactly who Michael Jackson is, they'll get the idea that this is somebody really famous and that something bad happened. At least they're not going to be able to separate, particularly younger kids, allegations from what may be fact.

O'BRIEN: So what is a parent to do? Be proactive and say here's the story, or wait to be asked?

KASLOW: Well, I think that it depends on the age of the child. But I think if parents are going to be proactive, they need to tell kids that, we don't know exactly what the story is, but that we need to take these kinds of concerns very seriously. And it's important not to blame the victims in these kinds of situations and to answer your children's questions and watch television with them.

O'BRIEN: When the allegations involve children as being the victim, that gets particularly difficult, doesn't it?

KASLOW: Absolutely. It's very difficult when children are involved.

O'BRIEN: What do you tell a child about the possibility that there are people in the world like this, like the accusation would have you to believe, and yet make them feel secure in their own little world. There's a fine line there between scaring them too much and not telling them enough.

KASLOW: You're absolutely right. And I think what you need to do is convey to your children that most people are nice and kind and take good care of children and don't hurt people. But that there are some people in the world who sometimes do bad things. And that they need to be careful. And if they ever feel like somebody is doing something bad to them or somebody that they know, that their family is a safe place to talk about that.

O'BRIEN: I can just see the eyes turning to saucers when saying that. You really have to watch it, don't you?

KASLOW: You really do have to watch it. But I think children these days have been exposed to lots of difficulties and problems. And they have a sense that not everybody is as nice as they should be.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And I think really ever since 9/11, this conversation has been a much more important part of a lot of families' lives, because there is that tangible sense of evil that children are picking up on. And we're just talking about everything in the world right now, not just isolated stories like this, right?

KASLOW: I think that's really true. And one of the things that we are seeing about children, say, post 9/11, is that if they were six when 9/11 happened, they had one understanding of it. And now that they're eight, they have a different understanding, and a different set of questions. And they need to keep having the conversations, but it's at a different level.

O'BRIEN: Oh, thanks a lot. So as they grow older, we're going to re-invent the wheel and keep having these conversations with them, don't we?

KASLOW: I think we certainly do, because they understand different things. And for children, for example, who have been molested themselves, this is going to be very, very frightening to them.

O'BRIEN: Or I suppose adults who have been through this, there might be some issues there as well.

KASLOW: Absolutely. We are certainly seeing that with other situations.

O'BRIEN: So, just to sum it up for parents who are anticipating, probably with some dread, this conversation, wait for somebody to ask a question or maybe bring it up?

KASLOW: Well, I guess I would recommend, given how much news coverage it's getting, that it's reasonable for parents to bring it up if their kids have been watching television. I think everybody is going to be talking about this.

Some people are going to be cheering when he gets picked up, and other people are going to be very concerned. And kids are going to have all sorts of reactions. At this point, I'd say parents ought to bring it up.

O'BRIEN: And as far as the specific nature of the accusation here, is it good touch, bad touch? How do you describe that to an inquiring mind of a child without glossing it over too much? KASLOW: I think that's an important way to put it, there's good touch and there's bad touch. And good touch is wonderful, and bad touch isn't OK. And if you ever feel like you're experiencing it, you need to let people know who can protect you.

O'BRIEN: Have you detected, have you heard from more parents, more children, post-9/11, that there's a general sense of unease that children have right now? Or is it hard to tell?

KASLOW: I think there's absolutely a general sense of unease that children have. They're worried about what bad is going to happen in the world. They see more and more things. Whether it's in the family or in the community, or more nationally and globally, children are much more afraid overall than they used to be.

O'BRIEN: And I'm going to commit a bit of heresy here, given what I do for a living, but maybe there might be -- a good idea in some cases would be to turn off the TV a little bit?

KASLOW: I think particularly for younger kids or for children that this seems to really overwhelm them, tving off the TV is a reasonable idea. But the other option is to sit with your children and watch television with them, so you can process it with them.

O'BRIEN: And I can imagine probably the worst case scenario is them being in a separate room watching something like this unfold, not having the questions answered.

KASLOW: Absolutely. That's the worst case scenario.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much. Nadine Kaslow, who is head of the department of psychology at Emory University, thanks very much for your insights. We do appreciate it.

KASLOW: Thank you.


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