Telling the children about tragedy


This isn't a post about the terrible tragedy that happened in Connecticut, but it is a post about talking to your kids about these types of situations. Watching the news yesterday afternoon made me sick to my stomach, and as more details emerged I realized that there's nothing stopping this from happening again - happening at our school. I picked my kids up a little early yesterday and listened to them play upstairs with their baby sister while I continued to watch CNN downstairs, anticipating them coming down and asking what was going on at some point. 

I watch the news in the mornings and evenings, like most people, and although my kids rarely sit here and watch with me, they'll stop sometimes and watch for a moment. It's been a rough few weeks...months...years maybe for our country, and it's reflected in the news. Stories of abduction, murder, drunk driving accidents, fires, and shootings are inevitable on a weekly basis it seems. At first I shield the kids from these stories for fear of nightmares or anxiety. Then the twins started asking why they weren't allowed to walk to their cousin's house, which is two streets down in our neighborhood, or their friends house at the same distance. This would never happen. I was allowed to roam the neighborhood until dinner time as a child, but we live in a different world today, and I don't let my kids out of my sight. 
Q: When are we allowed to walk somewhere alone? 
A: When you're 16 - in the large, safe vehicle your father and I provide you, with your sister, and your cell phone that's got a GPS locator on it.
That's not an exaggeration. When they asked why I'm so over-protective I showed them the story of a recently abducted 10 yr old. She was picked up somewhere between her bus stop and home, killed, and stuffed in a box to be left on the side of a highway. I stressed that it probably took a split second for someone to grab her and throw her in a car. It was probably a few blocks from her front door, in the middle of the afternoon. They asked a few questions, but didn't say much beyond that. Sure enough, they had a nightmare or two soon after. They also haven't bothered me about walking somewhere alone since.
The shooting in CT is a bit different. There's nothing they can do, or not do to avoid a situation like that. Although I've thought hard about that for the past 48 hours, even doing the math for tuition at an all girl private school in the future. These incidents have become so common, for lack of a better word, that I decided that protecting them from it is futile. I waited until they walked downstairs and read the headline on the TV screen. I told them that a crazy man forced his way into a school and killed a lot of people, including children. When they asked why, I told them that there are bad people in the world and all we can do is pray, and take care of ourselves and each other. A few hours later they asked how old the bad man was. They haven't brought it up since. If it comes up in school, or is inadvertently discussed in front of them, then they are informed. If their school does lock down drills, they'll understand why. My hope is that there won't be a defining moment in their future when they find out that the bubble they grew up in isn't reality. Instead, they know that the world can be a scary place, and we have to do what we can to stay safe and promote peace.

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