This topic is another one requested by multiple parents. It's been a difficult one for me to write because it is so complex. This year we've had to deal with many school shootings as well as a stressful political climate. It's difficult not to let that creep into our home lives. Children are very aware of what is going on even when we don't actively talk with them about it. They hear the buzz from others around them and often overhear adult conversations. It's important to talk to them clearly about your concerns and theirs. However, you don't want to overwhelm them or make them afraid. They want to have information but it's important to give it to them at age-appropriate levels.
I was born in 1953 and grew up in a household that always talked about current events and politics. It was the Cold War, and we practiced "Duck & Cover" in school. My dad was a political reporter for our local newspaper, and our family friends were mostly politicians, lawyers and other professionals. We watched the Viet Nam war on the evening news every night as well as assasinations and riots. We even had a school shooting when I was in high school. It would have been easy to feel terrified, and I did to a certain extent, but we also talked about everything as a family easing the terror quite a bit. Watching those horrific scenes on television made a lasting mark on me and so many others. On one hand, it's good that we don't see that anymore. On the other hand, it might be making us more complacent.
When the Challenger exploded, my first two children were school age. My son was young enough that it didn't seem to make much difference to him,. but it affected my daughter very deeply. We talked about it a lot. When 911 happened, my youngest was school age. Again, we talked and talked. I tried to shield him from the news footage because it was so horrific, but he ended up seeing it anyway. That's an important thing to remember. We can't always protect our children from outside forces. What we can do is help them deal with their feelings and teach them how to be safe. We do this not by scaring them but by helping them find their power. If we are scared, we often attract negative energy and can't think clearly. If we feel powerful, we are in control and can figure out how to stay safe. In the same way that we teach our children internet safety and tell them not to go off with strangers, we can teach them how to stay safe in a school where there may be a shooter. We can teach them to be safe on the streets by being out on the streets with them, not by isolating them in a protective coccon. Some families get their children self-defense lessons. I'm not sure that's always necessary, but it doesn't hurt if it's done in the right spirit.
I think the best way to help our children feel safe is by dealing with our own feelings first. If we are afraid, our children will feel afraid no matter what we tell them. Remember, our children learn from our example. If you're feeling overwhelmed by current events, try to turn off your news sources sometimes. Take a break from the world and focus on your own family. The news will be there when you're ready to come back and take a look. I'm not suggesting putting your head in the sand, just remembering what's important personally and having a little vacation from the news. Even my dad, whose job it was to report the news, took breaks now and then and focused on his family. When we went away on vacation, it was truly a vacation. There's nothing wrong with a mini staycation. You can model feeling safe and secure by enjoying your family, laughing and playing and remembering the really important things.
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