Experts: Balloon Boy kids will bear hoax scars
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – A plea deal by the Colorado parents accused of perpetrating the balloon hoax may serve their three young children by keeping the family intact. But the boys’ scars from the ordeal will take time to heal, parenting experts say.
Larimer County authorities allege Richard and Mayumi Heene told their boys to lie about the alleged hoax and had 6-year-old Falcon Heene hide during the Oct. 15 drama. The children appeared on national talk shows and have been under intense media scrutiny ever since.
They’d also participated in TV reality shows, storm chases with their father and even a homemade rap video posted online.
“It’s something that will stick,” said Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of the parenting book, “Little Things Long Remembered.”
“Young people remember these things. Kids will always remember the day their house was robbed, even if no one was home,” Newman said. “This is the same kind of thing. It’s a trauma.”
Richard and Mayumi Heene were due in court Friday to plead guilty to charges relating to the balloon chase. Richard Heene’s lawyer, David Lane, told The Associated Press that the children won’t be removed from their parents.
A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services wouldn’t comment Thursday on whether child protective services were investigating the Heenes or planned to recommend any state intervention with the family.
Lawrence Balter, a child psychologist at New York University, said some counseling is crucial for the Heenes.
“There should some sort of parenting training, clearly,” Balter said.
“Parents are supposed to represent the ideal for how kids are to behave,” Balter said. “In this case, they discovered their parents were liars, and the double whammy is, they asked them to lie, too.”
The balloon case alarmed parents nationwide and launched a debate about parental exploitation of children for public attention. Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden claims – and Mayumi Heene allegedly confessed – that the balloon stunt, two weeks in the making, was intended to make the Heenes more marketable to the media.
Business associates have said Richard Heene was trying to launch a TV series about science.
Parenting experts pointed out that the Heene children don’t appear to be mistreated and are better off with the family intact.
“Breaking up a family is never a good idea if you don’t have to,” Newman said. “Taking the kids, that always seemed extreme to me.”
A lawyer for Mayumi Heene, Lee Christian, said that fears for the Heene children’s welfare are misplaced.
“They’re looking forward to having this episode behind them,” Christian said.
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