I am obsessed with being the first to tell my kids about any important events in life. Tragedies, like this week’s horrific massacre in Aurora, Colorado, are the kinds of important topics to which I’m referring, and I feel strongly that my kids must hear about them from me. Similar to Kelly Wickham, I need to discuss it with my kids because they are out there. Here are my main three reasons why I decided to tell them:
1) I must be the first one to tell my kids. Inevitably someone else will break the news, and I hate the idea of not equipping them with the right tools to deal with it. I don’t want them to be asking their questions of the wrong person. Wrong answers could increase their fears, instill a wrong prejudice, or have some other harmful impact.
2) Discussing tragic events offers a good opportunity to talk about our family values. We always pray together for all those who have suffered in the tragedy. We even include the offenders and their families in our prayers. Prayer gives my kids a deeper sense of compassion and provides them a way to calm some of their fears and avoid feeling helpless. We may be able, if even in a small way, to change the world. Every time something tragic happens, we talk about the big “whys” and how things like this could be prevented in their future. We have talked about alcoholism, drug addiction, gun laws, anger management, and other such big topics. The kids, in turn, proclaimed their intentions to change the laws, find cures for diseases, invent weapon detectors, etc. when they grow up. It gives me a great sense of hope when I hear them elaborate their solutions.
3) We will be able, if even in a small way, to change the world. Every time something tragic happens, we talk about the big “whys” and how things like this could be prevented in their future. We have talked about alcoholism, drug addiction, gun laws, anger management, and other such big topics. The kids, in turn, proclaimed their intentions to change the laws, find cures for diseases, invent weapon detectors, etc. when they grow up. It gives me a great sense of hope when I hear them elaborate their solutions
Often we think that shielding our kids from these realities is the right thing to do. Ana Flores for example wants to keep her child’s memories as joyful as possible. Kristen Howerton also chooses to protect her kids from the news. Reading Ellen’s post on how she wished she could share her story with Max gave me a sense of gratitude because I can share the story with all my kids. Ellen made me realize that it was actually a gift to have that choice. I’ve also heard many moms talk about their fears an uncertainties to touch these types of topics because they don’t know how the kids will react. I’ve also heard many people talk about their fears about broaching these topics because they don’t know how the kids will react. Here is my three cents worth on how you can do it:
1) Let your kids drive the conversation. There’s no need to volunteer more than what they are willing to hear. Answer all their questions and let them feel comfortable that they can ask you anything that comes to their minds. Even silly things. My kids are very inquisitive. They wanted to know details about the Aurora offender, the place, the victims, etc.
2) Let them offer solutions. If you have boys, you’ll be amazed at how they bring their inner super heroes to life. My boys fantasized how they would have grabbed the gunman and saved the crowd. That’s the core of every fairly tale where good overpowers evil, and it’s more active in a child’s mind. So it’s OK to let them tell you how they could literally avoid such a tragedy if it ever happens to them.
3) Accept all the emotions. My boys went through all kinds of emotions to cope with the news from Colorado. At first, they were curious and wanted to hear all the details. Then they were angry and almost wanted to hear the worst about the offender, even hoping that he wasn’t human. Once they realized that he was human, they were filled with courage and they spelled out the moves they’d have made to grab the guy’s gun or even become invisible. Then they became sad when we prayed for the victims and their families. They were also grateful that it didn’t happen in our town, and hopeful because they have a clear plan to prevent this from happening when they grow up.
I strongly encourage you to share the Aurora tragedy with your kids if you have any idea that he/she will be exposed to the news from T.V. or in school, summer camp, their neighbors, or even from extended family members. Don’t be naive to think that you live in a bubble. If you have an only child who doesn’t go to school or doesn’t go out to play with friends, then you’re good to go. But if you are like me, get there first. My kids are in all kinds of summer activities, and they spend entire afternoons playing outside with a bunch of kids. I’m sure they’ll be exposed to this sad tragedy by others, and now they’ll be the experts in the topic. They’ll answer questions, write about it, argue about gun control laws, and so forth. My way of protecting my kids is by equipping them with the information they need to handle this sad situation. And yes, the praying will go on.