“Daddy, what happened in Boston?”
“Did anyone at school talk about Boston today?”
“About our Boston Red Sox Dad?”
“No son, Boston the City. Did anyone talk about Boston or the marathon running race?”
“No, Dad….Did the Red Sox win last night?”
Whew. Safe again. I do not need to have THAT tough talk yet. The talk that revolves around me shattering my oldest son’s belief that everything in the world is perfect and all humans love each other.
Truthfully, I was expecting the worst this time. I was expecting a barrage of questions that I would struggle to answer honestly.
What was that explosion Dad? Was that a movie? Was that like a Super Mario brothers bomb?
Did you know an 8 year old kid died Dad? I will be 8 in August.
Was all that blood real?
What happened to those runners Dad? Did they get hurt?
People got legs and arms blown off Dad. People got hit with nails dad. Why would someone do that? Why? Why? Why?
I don’t know Son.
I don’t know why 2 young brothers would blow up innocent people watching a running race.
I also don’t why someone would walk into an elementary school and shoot little children and teachers.
I don’t know why someone would make planes fly into buildings in New York City and kill lots of people.
I don’t know son. I just don’t know.
How do you make something make sense to your children when it barely makes any sense to you? I always want to be real and authentic with my children, but how can you even breach such a senseless act?
My unaware children are safe and living in a blissful bubble; oblivious to school shootings, bombings, wars, and so far, oblivious to basically anything bad going on in the world. This will not be for long; I know there are tough talks ahead full of fear and worry.
With technology delivering news so fast, children are much more likely to be exposed to our world’s sad underbelly soon enough.
One of our primary jobs as a parent is to keep our children safe; physically AND mentally.
Safe from strangers…
Safe from the dangers of the outside world…
Safe in our little suburban, “Pleasantville” neighbourhoods…
Safe from the fear and anxiety that can penetrate their fragile minds…
If you have children, then you know fear. From toddlers to teenagers, fear remains. If fear is learned, then why would I want to teach my children fear?
My son is afraid of many things – he hates the dark and needs to sleep with closed closet doors… How do I tell him about Boston or Sandy Hook elementary school?
From children being shot in an elementary school to mommy’s and daddy’s dying on 9/11, bad things happen. Bad people make bad choices. What do our children need to know about these bad choices? Nothing? Everything? Or somewhere in the middle? You know your children best. What can they handle?
Am I doing my son a disservice the longer he believes that the world is a beautiful place free of bad things?
From the research I did, experts vary on what exactly to do when discussing scary topics – some advise to say very little unless your child asks or seems afraid. I agree with the psychologists that think you should start the conversation, check in with your children. Ask them probing questions to see where they are at.
Here are a few other tips when talking about disasters and scary events…
Be honest, telling the truth in their language. Keep in mind your child’s age, and what they can understand. “Yes, there was a shooting at a school, that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often at all. I am confident and comfortable with your school and I know it’s safe.”
Resist the urge to over share. There is not need to go into extraneous detail. Act like the dispassionate cop – share the facts with little or no emotion.
Turn off the rabid fear inducing 24 hour news channels.
And try not to have in-depth “grown-up” conversations with kids present. They are always listening and if they ‘half’ hear something, there could be more anxiety and misunderstanding.
Your children need to see you as the ROCK – strong and steady. If you are cool, then life is good and they are cool. If you are uneasy or emotional, fear and anxiety will creep into your children.
Children need to know that they are safe. Period.
As parents, we act as the primary filter from all bad things in this world. Believe me; I would love to continue to shelter my children from all the crappy things in this world – senseless tragedies, prejudice, racisms etc. but I cannot. I am doing a disservice to their character and resiliency if I candy coat the world for too long.
But what I can do is slowly take the lid of the ‘crappy world’ jar, and let them carefully digest things slowly with me right there to provide guidance and reassurance…
As I touched on a few articles back, I am constantly struggling to teach my children about how lucky they (we) are… with the events in Boston and the senseless loss of life, including a little boy my son’s age, I KNOW how lucky I am. I was in Boston last year, to watch my Red Sox, and we watched the marathon, a few blocks from where the bombs went off. It’s scary to think about.
The day after the Boston bombs this week and likely for weeks after the school shootings in Connecticut, I am sure many children got extra hugs and kisses from teary eyed parents, tears that the children didn’t understand, that stemmed from a profound sense of gratitude and relief that our kids are safe.
Until next time…
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