You can ask my children, who are 8 and 6 right now, about the latest mass shooting that has not only paralyzed our beautiful city in the heart of Central Florida, but the world, too. Or about the horrific video of a man trying to kidnap a young girl at a Dollar store with her mother nearby. Or the latest controversy surrounding a gorilla, a gator, or mountain lion.
Or heck, you can even ask them what Brexit means and they’ll most likely tell you that it has something to do with whether or not Peppa Pig and her family will be able to afford a vacation to the south of Spain in the coming weeks.
You see, I tend to watch a lot of the news on television or listen to it in the car, and then talk about it with my husband right in front of our children. We don’t often censor ourselves in that department, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve started to wonder: Should we be?
The last few months have brought with them a string of horrific events; serious topics that might be too adult for kids to fully comprehend. I recently asked several friends of mine if they’d been talking about things with their own kids. Their answers? A unanimous no.
But as for my own kids, they haven’t said one word that indicates they’re worried about the next public shooting or how all the horrific events that happen in the world might affect them. When I asked my 8-year-old daughter how she feels about the news lately, she said she doesn’t worry because she feels safe with us at home and that whenever she thinks of “scary” thoughts, she tries to think of happy ones instead. And she said it in such a matter-of-fact way, that it left me amazed by how much more mature she is that I realized, and how she’s handling it better than most adults I know.
If that weren’t enough, when my husband and I discussed about how some of their friends might be coming over, but aren’t as aware about the recent events in Orlando as our kids, my 6-year-old son cooly intervened with: “Just don’t turn on CNN, Mommy.” (And no, I did not expect that response at all.)
My husband and I are either the luckiest parents in the world or we need to give our kids more credit than they deserve. In today’s media-saturated world, kids see and understand more than we perhaps did at their age. So maybe they’d be picking this stuff up whether or not we openly discussed it. But with so much going on around us — social unrest, racial tension, foreign and domestic terrorism — isn’t it our job to prepare them for the world they’re growing up in?
Just recently, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offered guidelines on how parents can talk to their kids about guns, mass shootings and violence in general.
“Let them know that they are welcome to ask questions and express their concerns and feeling,” the guide advises. “You should remain open to answering new questions and providing helpful information and support. You might not know all the answers and it is OK to say that.”
Now, given my children’s reactions so far, I can’t say that we are making a huge mistake by exposing them to the news and the world’s atrocities. At least not yet. So far, nothing has really affected us personally, but I would rather have them growing up knowing that they can talk to me about their feelings if they’re uneasy or worried. There’s no subject too taboo or inappropriate to talk about. What’s more, it’s an opportunity for us to talk about kindness, acceptance, and empathy.
Should they ever show signs of unrecognizable behavior or stress, we’ll seek that help when necessary, otherwise we’ll keep the dialogue going, no matter how ugly the subjects may be. I’d rather have my kids aware of their surroundings and ultimately, their safety.More On