This is stemming from a friend of mine on FB regarding a question about whether or not to tell their young children about the tragedy yesterday. I wrote this fast and don’t want to edit…bc I’m tired. Just mosey on past any grammatical errors you might see. Gracias. :)
Here is my two cents:
I think that it all depends on whether you have always been forthcoming with the reality of the world or if you’ve tried to keep your children from knowing about certain tough topics; sheltering if you will.
Tom and I have always been pretty straightforward with the kids. We have discussed drugs, drinking and driving, gambling, smoking and day to day things we see that might need explaining. We don’t shield them from hearing the truth. A limited truth, of course, but as truthful as we feel necessary.
As for the horror from yesterday, how do you even begin to explain to your children what happened when you as a parent can’t quite wrap your brain around it? I was among all of you, crying the moment I read about the details. It was horrifying to imagine what happened and how that town must be feeling. The shock and grief is unfathomable, but in deciding whether to tell my kids or not, I knew what I was going to do. If I didn’t tell them, they would hear some true, but probably a lot more false information from other kids at school. I told both of them what happened and then we said a long prayer with more prayers today. They were sad, shocked and not fully understanding, nor do I expect them to be at these ages, but what I wanted them to feel from me telling them was compassion, sadness for the victims and their families and to understand that there are some bad people out there; strangers. To be aware and careful, always.
I got a few questions and answered to the point where I felt they might understand what I was saying, but didn’t give too many details. I did NOT mention the gunman killed himself. No really necessary information for this age.
Neither Tom or I had a cushy life growing up. Not that it wasn’t intended to be that way in the beginning, but life happened. And ups and downs occurred throughout our childhood, in to early adulthood and that uncertainty still seems to rear its ugly head in to our lives to this day. We weren’t sheltered and I guess that’s why we think it’s absolutely appropriate for us to gradually expose our children to the truths about the world in which we live in. Many adults who were sheltered from the truth tend to have a hard time when things don’t go wonderful in their lives. When little things pop up out of nowhere it tends to send them in to a tailspin of anxiety and they just can’t get a grip.
Little things happen so that it can prepare us for if/when something HUGE happens.
For instance, today something awful occurred after our super fun 5K that we ran together. As we were walking to our car, 3 police officers detained a homeless man right in front of us. We saw the casual talk between the officers and the man. He was extremely inebriated, but didn’t move. The female cop pushed the man in to the wall three times. He still didn’t move or resist arrest. Then a very large male officer came up from behind him, tripped him and the man fell headfirst in to the concrete, with the officers weight also falling down on him. With a loud thud (that keeps replaying in my head) we all watched in horror. It was awful. The other moms and I scurried away to shield the children from what was happening so fast in front of us. I wanted to go back, get their badge numbers, raise some hell…SOMETHING…but I had Carissa and I didn’t want her to see any more than what we had already witnessed. Once we crossed the street the firetruck and paramedics came. I am still sick over it and called in to find out what I can do to file a complaint on those officers. Apparently this is only something I can handle during business hours. I don’t know who they are, but I can identify them if I saw them.
When Carissa was asking why I was crying (about an hour later) I told her the truth. I didn’t say it was nothing. I didn’t tell her to give me a few minutes hoping that she would forget. I wanted her to know why I was crying, just like I want her to share with me if she ever feels sad. I told her that the man who was taken down by the cops hadn’t done anything wrong. They didn’t need to use that kind of force; he wasn’t fighting with them. In fact, he was so drunk they probably could have put handcuffs on him and made him their puppet, but instead they chose to hurt him…really badly. I also told her that I was going to do something about it, but just not sure what. I’m not going to say that the officers were just trying to protect us or that the homeless man was doing something wrong because he wasn’t!! I’m so appalled at their actions and don’t plan on letting this go….
My point, I was honest with her.
However, if you have always sheltered them from these things, then you should take your child’s ability to cope in to consideration. You know your own kids and know if they are easy to worry, have nightmares over little things, are anxious, tend to be fearful of the outside world. These are all the reasons why I think it’s important to gradually give these explanations throughout their little lives. I don’t believe it ruins their innocence or keeps them from just being a child with a pure heart. Our world can suck. Life is hard. Shit happens. I want my kids to roll with the punches when they get sucker punched by life.
But also show a thousand times more that life can be good; VERY good.