Since I started this blog, I have taken a day out several times now to share advice about how to talk to children during a crisis. Sadly, this seems to be happening a lot. In the two years that I’ve had managedmoms.com, I wrote about discussing the Tucson shooting with the kids, the Colorado movie massacre, the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting and now this crazy week of the Boston bombings. A week that has already gone down in history.
With each tragedy, my kids become older, wiser and have more intelligent questions. It strikes me that they don’t seem fearful any longer, as they are learning that sadly, these stories are part of the world they are growing up in and now these occurrences are close to home.
So I listen, have discussions with them from everything about the anguish the families are feeling to the mechanics of how the news is covering it in my kids’ eyes. My teenager, at times, wants to discuss world politics and religions. I never imagined that these discussions would become part of my parenting and I never dreamed that it would be so often. The advice that I HATE to share, but know that I must is what to do if they are ever caught in a tragedy. I tell my son to always have his ID on him now. We talk about whether or not to play dead or to run. Having these discussions chills me to the bone, but as a parent, I feel it is part of what must be shared in today’s world, as my Mom discussed what to do in a fire or how to practice stranger danger when I was a girl.
This week was like no other, when it came to processing it with my kids. My oldest asked me if he could go in late to school to watch yesterday’s crazy coverage. I told him no to that request . My youngest, who had been very interested in watching yesterday’s events unfold, suddenly desired a sleepover with the wonderful play of water balloons and American Girl dolls. I quickly arranged that for her and I thought it was quite good that the two friends decided to break away from the TV to go outside to play. They did check in from time to time to see if the bad guy had been caught.
With a tween and a teen, I choose to let them lead me on how much they want to know. When September 11th struck, my teenager was only 4 years old at the time, so all the TVs were turned to Barney to protect him from a tragedy that he was too young to process. Now it is in his textbooks, so we have discussions and follow the news when attacks happen. But I’m keen to when it needs to be turned off and when they want to talk about it or not converse at all.
Of all of the Facebook, Twitter and other social messages that filled my computer screen as the week wore on, one spoke to me and touched my heart and I think it is great advice for parents! My mom tells me that she sat little me down to watch the first US network debut of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show on February 19, 1968. She tells me that I would watch the entire show, smile and tell the TV my answers as Mister Rogers’ would ask them to his audience of children. Well, he is definitely an image that has stuck with me and this week I was reminded why when I read on Facebook some advice Mister Rogers once gave parents during a time of crisis. He says to tell the children “to look for the helpers” and that really rang true this week from the moments after the horrible bombs went off and citizens ran into the smoke to help complete strangers to how the good people of Boston came together yesterday to work with law enforcement to get the bad guy.
What a wonderful message from Mister Rogers’, who now delivers it even after life. And what a good message for us adults to remember. The goodness in people, the bravery…the helpers far outweigh the evil and that is one message and one conversation that is good to have with your kids during these times of senseless tragedy when our nation does seem to come together and to move forward….not be set back…by these acts of terrors. We are built on a foundation of helpers, as Mister Rogers’ so eloquently said, so that is the example we set for our kids and that is the discussion to have.
I’m wishing you all a week of peace and positive energy, rest, family time and a break from the endless media coverage. Turn off the image of the bombing suspects and turn on some quality time with your family as this week now ends and goes into the history books. We, as a nation, and as families move forward as we pray and mourn for those lost, those injured and for the families who are grieving.
Great blog, Rachel, really nailed it for all of us–our kids and us, the parents and grandparents. Loved reference to the Mr. Rogers show back in the day. We all still remember many of those words of wisdom he personally directed to our little ones. They had such a comforting effect and are fondly recalled for the complex world we inhabit today. Thanks