There was a resounding theme on my Facebook newsfeed in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy this week. In a time of hurt we were all trying to process why this world has hate and how we would explain it to our kids. As a mom of three kids there is a guttural reaction to put our kids in a bubble but the truth is that we can’t shelter kids from bad news.
There are a lot of reasons why we want to throw blinders on our kids and cover their ears to so much of this world right now. We fear how they will cope with emotions that as adults we don’t know how to deal with. But, just because we can’t explain the motives of evil and tragedy that doesn’t give us clearance to proceed in parenting like it doesn’t exist.
We worry about sensitivity and while there is concern of how a developing mind and soul can process bad news it is better to expose kids to truths so that kids can learn and exercise empathy and compassion. That does not mean they need to be intimately aquatinted with chilling details and facts. But, an appropriate overview and the ability for them to ask questions is vital.
Your kids are taking in information from around them that you are not aware of. On Monday morning I was up early watching the horrific details come out on the shooting and the fatality number was rising by the minute. My 8 year old son climbed in my bed and looked at me and said why would anyone want to hurt people like that.
My gut reaction was to quickly turn the tv off and distract because the truth is that I wish this was not part of our world. How easy would it be to just change the channel and deflect! But, what he wanted to answers.
So how do we do this?
- Be honest and concise. No young child needs scary details but they need to know that scary stuff is happening.
- Be open to questions. Sometimes this means I don’t know, but I will find out or we will work through this together. We can’t share and then shut down. Communication is key and needs to remain open.
- Have a safety plan and make sure your kids know it. We have a family meeting place and a safe word to text in case of emergency. Scary stuff can cause anxiety for adults and kids, whatever we can do to alleviate the unknown to make them feel prepared for the “just in case” can help.
- When disaster strikes come up with tangible solutions that can help. Whether it’s sending supplies, monetary donations giving blood or simply prayer make sure that your kids are involved. In times of distress they can feel unhelpful on top of being confused, give them a chance to be a part of solutions to change that.
- Focus on the good. As Mr. Rogers put it best in every tragedy we have to look for the helpers. In every ugly situation, there is a reminder that good outweighs the bad. Remind kids that they have the ability to be change makers for bettering themselves and others both in crisis and calm.
The way our world is headed the natural and unimaginable disasters are not over. But, as parents we have an opportunity to present our kids with compassion and honesty. When the bad news is inevitable we have the responsibility to arm our kids with knowledge to move their concerns to a place where they feel they can make a difference. Friends, we can make a difference from the littlest on up we don’t have to settle for an unkind world, we get to be the people who change that.