I hate having to write this post. It makes me sad.
Back when my children were babies, I worried about war. I was concerned about whether my boys would one day join the military, with a father who had been Army National Guard. My godchild, only 19, is a Marine. I pray for him all the time. I knew that my wise, caring boys might follow his path someday.
But my kids are no longer babies, at ages 7 and 9.
So far, we've managed to avoid the topic of terrorism, violence, and war, except to assure them that the chances of my Marine godchild getting hurt in war are slim.
We don't have cable television. My kids don't get to even watch broadcast television unattended. The closest they came to knowing about terrorism was hearing a prayer for peace in Mass.
Then Paris happened.
There's no way to shield the kids from such big news. Someone will mention it to them, and I want that someone to be me.
Some of the things that I plan to do might give you ideas. I welcome ideas from you in the comments, too. After all, I'm no expert.
I'm just a mom, stumbling through parenting in a pretty scary world.
Let the kids share what they know.
As parents, we assume that our kids know more or less than they do. Sharing sheds a light on the actual extent of their knowledge and feelings about the situation.
Tell them age-appropriate truth.
You and I don't know if we will go to war. You and I don't know if America will be attacked. We just don't know.
It's okay to say that.
Say that the adults will do everything they can to keep everyone safe. Say that most people will never see violence touch their lives.
But don't promise something that you don't know.
Keep your statements honest, loving, and age-appropriate.
Have a safety plan.
Talk about safety. Review the school lock-down plan and your home safety plan. Teach them to call 911. Have them learn their addresses and phone numbers.
Having something concrete to learn helps a lot of kids feel more secure.
Give them other coping mechanisms.
Consider your kid and what helps him or her to cope with anxiety.
Escaping to entertainment? Talking about it? Not talking about it? Writing letters to soldiers or politicians? Physical exercise? Deep breathing?
Give them some ways to cope with their fears and thoughts.
Focus on the helpers.
In every emergency situation, there are helpers.
Help them see those people.
Police officers, heroes who rescued people, people who jumped into the fray to help others survive...those are the people to focus on.
In every horrible act of terrorism, there are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Help your kids find and recognize those people.
Give your kids the understanding that, at its core, humanity is loving and beautiful.
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