Strange things are happening in Arkansas. Over 3,000 red-winged blackbirds mysteriously fell dead from the sky on New Year’s Eve in the town of Beebe. Experts believe they may have been electrocuted or hit by lightning. Tests for disease were negative and they died in mid-air, not from impact. Dogs and cats on the ground ate some of the fallen birds and suffered no ill effects so poison has also been ruled out. Stress from New Year’s Eve fireworks may also be a direct cause of the deaths.
Today, reports have surfaced of at least 100,000 drum fish washing up and floating along the Arkansas River, only 100 miles away from where the birds fell. Population boom combined with competition for natural resources is a suspected cause, and again toxins have been ruled out. All agree that the large number of dead fish is quite unusual.
Have your kids have heard in school or through friends that Harold Camping is warning people that the world will end May 21, 2011?
Sounds like it’s all straight from a Stephen King novel, doesn’t it?
Adults have the ability to shake off frightening or disturbing news. We also have a perspective that comes from the experience of living through war, crime, death, and other gloom and doom dates like Y2K, but kids don’t have that point of view.
Older kids, like my daughter remember 9/11. She was 4 years old when it happened and as a 13-year-old now, she can tell you how traumatizing it was for her to see the adults in her school crying and leaving school under a cloud of smoke and fumes. I covered her head with a sweater and ushered her quickly into the car that day as dust pellets and debris from the towers reached our quiet little Brooklyn neighborhood. Study after study show that kids who were preschoolers during 9/11 have a higher incidence of worry and anxiety.
Even for kids who are sheltered from media hype and scary talk on the playground, real or made-up, every child will at some point question their death or a parent’s death and it is terrifying. I have found that for each of my kids, the approach had to be different. My middle daughter is a thinker and needs to have things explained to her so she can make sense out of them in her head. Once she does, she can better deal with the worry surrounding it. My son has a very calm nature and will ask questions but is satisfied with a very simple answer. He once was worried about my husband and me dying and I told him we were young and healthy and would live a long life, like Nanny and Grandpa. Total truth? No, but it worked. He never asked about the possibility of accidents or injuries and five minutes later he was playing with his toys. My older daughter falls somewhere between the two on the explanation spectrum.
Whether it is birds falling, fish dying, another terrorist scare or the year 2012, kids will always question death and the apocalypse (as we all do). I think the simple age appropriate facts combined with assuring their safety is helpful in most situations.
How do you handle the death question? How does the news impact your child’s worries?