Okay, I debated it.
Hubby and I discussed it.
I sought council from friends, family, clergy, psychologists, et. al.
Then I did it.
I spoke to my children this morning before school about the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.
I didn’t use gory language. I didn’t focus on the madman. I didn’t use the words shot, shoot, kill or gun. I simply told them that something sad had occurred on Friday. That a man was upset and made a poor choice when he hurt some people, including some kids their age.
I explained that kids at school might be talking about it or they may overhear teachers talking… [In fact, I wasn’t sure if the Principal might say something on the morning announcements (God forbid).] I told them I wanted them to hear it from ME.
First, I assured them they were safe. I assured them that the teachers and staff at their school knew exactly what to do. I told them these types of things have happened throughout history, but they are very, very rare, which is part of what makes them even more sad. I told them again they were safe and very much loved.
Then I shut up.
And the questions started:
“Is the bad man in jail?”
“Did people die?”
“How did they die?”
It was not a fun conversation. It’s not one a parent dreams of ever having with their brood. But, I must say, I loved their thoughtfulness and their eagerness to ask questions. And their questions were completely appropriate, which kind of surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t have.
We focused on the heroes of the day: The school’s principal, teachers, the community’s first responders, the doctors.
I kept reiterating that they were safe and they were loved and that God was in control and to be trusted… No matter how crazy it all may seem.
I advised them, if a kid starts talking about it at school, for them to hold up their hand (in a STOP sign) and say, “I’d rather not talk about that.” Now, will that happen? I doubt it. I was a kid once, I know how much – even now – I enjoy discussing stuff like this. It’s sensational. It’s bizarre. It’s exciting, especially to a child. But I am hoping they can muffle the ‘noise’ on the playground or the lunch table and help squash the gossipy mess that spills out of kids’ mouths.
So, as I go about my daily work I can’t help but wonder what the conversation will be like in the car after school.
I hope this tragedy doesn’t come up.
But, if it does, at least I know I was the one who told them first and not some smart-mouthed kid who has been allowed to watch CNN all weekend and has all the gory details memorized. That was my greatest fear. I grappled with not saying a word. But I know it can happen. Some boy told my girl IN KINDERGARTEN what sex was – in his own graphic, yet amazingly accurate way. She luckily thought it was gross and went on about her business, but to think of her hearing about this from that same child sends chills down my spine.
Why is parenting so hard? Because we know crazy and evil exist. The kids see some in movies and books, but this is very much real and they need to know it, yet not fear it. Walking the fine line between equipping our children to cope and protecting their innocence is what makes it so difficult. At least for me.
I would love your feedback on this. What did you decide to do in regard to this subject? Do you find this kind of parenting thing hard? If not, how/why? What’s your secret? We all have our own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to parenting… I’d love to hear some thoughts on this.