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At What Point Do We Let Our Kids Know the World Can Be a Scary Place?

On Saturday we were sitting at a red light when my 7 year old son read a flyer that was posted on a light pole.  “K….oh…neee.  Kony,”  he said.  “Mom what’s Kony?”  I turned to see what he was looking at and saw the KONY 2012 flyer.  Great, I thought.

“He’s a bad man,” I replied.  Hoping he’d leave it at that.

“Why is his name on the poster?” Gomer asked.  Gomer never just asks one question.

“Well, like I said, he’s a bad man.  And there is a group of people who want Kony brought to justice and so they’re putting flyers up and educating people about him so that we’ll know how bad he is and want to help them catch him.”

“What did he do?  Is he a bank robber?”

Huh.  I wish he was a bank robber.  That would be an easy answer to give.  Gomer knows what a bank robber is and why that’s a crime.

“Not exactly.  He’s just really bad.”

“Is he like Osama bin Laden?”  Gomer asked.

“What do you know about Osama bin Laden?” I asked.

“Nothing, really.  I’ve just heard his name and I know he’s bad.  Is he with Kony?”

Oh great.  Now we’ve brought bin Laden into the conversation too??  Honestly, at this point, I would rather talk about sex with Gomer.

“I’ve never heard of Osama bin Laden,” piped up my 5 year old.  “Is he the same as Barack Obama?  I’ve heard of him.”

OK, OK.  Put the brakes on everyone.

“No!  You know who Barack Obama is, Adolpha,” said Gomer.  “He’s the President.”

“Oh yeah.  So who are the other guys?” she asked.

Ugh.  If I wasn’t prepared to tell Gomer about Kony and bin Laden, I definitely wasn’t prepared to tell Adolpha.  But then I thought, Why not?  Shouldn’t they know?

I glanced at the Hubs for support and he just said, “Bad idea, Jen.  You’ll scare the crap out of them.”

He was right, of course, but at what point do you tell them about people like Kony and bin Laden?  If I wait until they’re not scary anymore, I’ll never tell.  Those guys scare the crap out of me.

The Hubs and I have talked to the kids in broad strokes about how “lucky” they are to live in a place where they have freedom, clean water, education and peace.  We talk to them about how there are adults and children, even in this country, who don’t have a place to live or enough to eat or toys on their birthdays.  We’ve covered these bases pretty easily and the kids get sad, but not too scared.

What we haven’t talked to them about is the rest of the world outside their bubble we’ve created and how there are some scary places and some scary people out there.  The Hubs and I lived in New York City on September 11.  We’ve never talked to our kids about our experiences that day.  We’ve never told them about terrorists or school shooters or people like Kony who force children to be soldiers and sex slaves.

Up until this point, we’ve been able to shelter our kids from this sort of stuff.  The problem is they’ve been raised in such a shiny, happy place up until now that they have no idea that there are people in the world living in war zones and dying of hunger.  At what point do I burst their bubble and tell them this stuff?  I don’t want to scare them, but on the other hand, I want them to be aware of what’s happening in the world and I want them to be thankful and grateful for they have.  I want them to want to help people who have less than them.

In the end I just said, “They’re bad men and I’m not really ready to talk to you about them yet.  Someday soon we’ll sit down and talk, but just not right now.  I’m not ready. ”  They didn’t ask again.

When that day comes again, how do I tell them that there are people in the world who are not just bad, but Evil with a capital e?

How do you talk to your kids about this stuff?

Be sure to read my daily rants at People I Want to Punch in the Throat where you’re sure to laugh and/or might be offended (it’s where you can find my R-rated rants).

Follow People I Want to Punch in the Throat on Facebook and Twitter.

Read more of Jen at PIWTPITT — Why Can’t Boys Be Boys? and Open Letter to Silly Celebrity Moms and Are You Raising Free Range Kids?

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