Talking to Kids About Bad Things

American Flag, flag with snow, talking to kids about bad things, praying for Boston, talking to kids about Boston Marathon, answering kids tough questions, answering kids quesitons, flag half staffTalking to kids about bad things is difficult for parents, especially as we grapple ourselves to find meaning in the meaningless, the horrific.

Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are.” Angels among us, it’s so true.

Can we find a silver lining amidst these horrors?

I am always an optimist and am continually warmed by humanity and the generous, boundless, selfless outpourings of love and kindnesses in the face of terror and disaster. We saw it in Boston, in Newtown, in New York, in Haiti, in Sandy, in Katrina, in Texas ….

How do we find our own center to be able to talk to our kids about bad things? How is it possible to make sense of something that makes no sense? And that’s where I start with my kids.

Keeping their ages in mind is always important and knowing their personalities to be able to gauge what they are able to hear and what they need to hear.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I parent from a place of truthfulness  and openness with my kids: about where babies come from, about sex and about bad things. They see me cry, I explain; I share my emotions and disbelief, my grief and my anger. I believe in answering kids tough questions head-on and honestly. But also age-appropriately.

I am always conscious, within my honesty, that they are children and teens with undeveloped brains, with the capacity to feel deeply. The key comes in finding a balance between sharing information to satisfy their need to know and their curiosity and not burdening them with the adult weight of problems.

Kids hear things and intuit tension. Their imaginations and minds can grow things that we couldn’t know, so they need the opportunity to ask questions, to get some facts, to wonder out loud.

Why are the flags half-mast? My kids noticed. My teens sat with me and we watched some news together. I checked in that it wasn’t too much, but at their ages, they wanted to know what was going on, and so we watched side-by-side. They asked questions, and I chimed in with my explanations as the reporters fed us bits and pieces of what was known. And unknown. So much unknown.

For our third grader, she did not watch the news at all. We simply talked and prayed together. She knows that someone did something awful and inexplicable. That’s enough for her right now.

As a family, we talked at dinner, we open the topic, encourage and allow for them to talk and ask. Each night at dinner, we hold hands around the table and say a prayer. Since Monday, we have been praying for Boston.

Talking to kids about bad things is not easy.
How do you handle talking to your kids about bad things life?

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2 Responses to Talking to Kids About Bad Things

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Leah. My kids are too little to talk about any of this yet, but it’s good to be thinking ahead about how to talk to them when they’re a bit older and a tragedy strikes. Somewhat related, I just posted about how the Boston marathon bombing can help us be more empathetic with other people around the world who experience violence. It’s the only sense I can make if it all, anyway! xo.

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      There are so many questions and feelings that come out – in both adults and kids – when something terrible happens. Everyone needs to know their own kids but I always feel its good to give it some thought and have a sense of how you’ll address it.

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