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So What Do We Tell the Children?

A word before the start: Y’all come here with your own religious and political beliefs, and I think that’s marvelous. I ask you to remember, should you bring up or respond to something religious or political here, you’re sitting in my living room with my guests, and I treat all my guests with equal respect in the expectation all my guests will do the same. 🙂

TyPuppy 001
My son, age 5

My son was almost five years old on September 11, 2001. Among the gazillion concerns and fears of the ensuing days was a very important one: how do I balance my need to know what’s happening with the need to protect my son? And how do I teach my son about what’s happening with scaring him or, on the flipside, leaving him ignorant?

“Balance” is the key here. Recently, Maggie Hogarth shared her thoughts on how a sheltered childhood altered her view of the world in negative ways, and there is much there that applies to this discussion.

While I wanted to hide everything from my son—everything! Anything that would disrupt his joy and happiness!—it wasn’t at all a realistic or responsible choice. At the same time, I needed to stay informed, especially in those first few days. Remember, it wasn’t known if the attacks were isolated or, shall we say, introductory. And no one knew the extent to which our military would be mobilized, if there’d be a new draft, if the government was going to institute new restrictions, if survivors were going to be found…

Yesterday, I found myself in a vaguely similar situation with my nephews. I say, “vaguely” because the attacks in Lebanon and France happened on the other side of the ocean, so the level of reactive fear was much lower. But there remained my need to know what was happening, to stay in touch with a couple people, and so forth. It all tossed me back to parenting post-9/11.

I don’t think there is an absolute and universal “right” choice because there are so many variables. The temperament and maturity of the child. The existing knowledge base. The willingness and ability of the parent to make age-appropriate explanations. The potential impact of the event on daily life. The importance of current events to the family. On and on and on.

So I’m not coming from the perspective of some childhood expert wanting to tell everyone the One True Way to communicate with all children in the aftermath of any and all terrible events. I’m just sharing what worked for me, to the best of my memory.

Continue reading So What Do We Tell the Children?

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