With the tragic event that took place in Boston this week, a number of people have asked me why I didn't blog, tweet, or post my reaction to Facebook. While I understand it was a high priority news item —and remaining silent about it may have seemed odd—it was the right way for me to handle this situation. My instincts were telling me that whoever was responsible for creating this devastation was getting enough airtime. It disgusted me to think of the attacker at home watching the news or poring over social media—delighting in their sick success. I didn't want to add to the number of voices that were giving so much attention to the evil person/people who did this.
So, the irony doesn't escape me that I’m talking about it now. Mind you, I am going to speak in generalities about how to talk to your kids about difficult situations:
1) First, begin by actually talking to them. Unless your kid is living in a completely isolated world, void of media and other humans, they will hear about it. Deliver the message yourself and provide yourself and your child(ren) the opportunity to frame the delivery of information in an appropriate way. This also makes you available to receive their questions.
2) Make them feel safe. When I was a kid, we rarely traveled. Whenever I heard awful news on the radio, I would immediately ask my mother WHERE it happened. I vividly remember her response each time, “Oh, somewhere in the States.” To my young mind, the “States” was a faraway land. It made me feel like my family was safe. When it comes to my own children, we discuss how frightening events can happen anywhere; however, whenever possible, I remind them of the physical distance between them and the tragedy.
3) Empower your children to help. There is no worse feeling than helplessness. Our family donates to victims’ funds, whether there has been a natural disaster or any other kind of tragedy. We gather the children and encourage them to give something up in order to put our family in a position to donate —whether it’s allowance or paper route money, or maybe a planned trip to the movie. It makes them feel like THEY are contributing.
Have you had to field any tough questions over the last few days? How have you handled this situation?