I stumbled upon this helpful story when I sat down to catch up on the news online last night while the pasta was boiling for dinner.
And I thought, “Do I have to?”
I’m a big believer in communicating with my kids. In fact, they beg me to stop talking about sex all the time. But must every atrocity and adult screw-up be turned into a teachable moment?
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I’m not mocking serious conversations when kids are frightened or asking questions. But I have to tell you, most kids, especially the young ones, are pretty oblivious to the latest tragic news event. They have no awareness or interest, and they feel pretty far removed from government shutdowns, shootings and natural disasters in faraway places – until we feel compelled to start talking about it.
This urge to over-explain the world around us is usually prompted by a news story that recommends how to address some of the world’s worst happenings with children.
Any parents contemplating how to have a conversation with children about tragedy are probably not in the midst of tragedy themselves. It’s a luxury for us to even entertain the thought. So why do we feel compelled to bring it all home for our kids?
My daughters were still in diapers during 9-11, but when they were very young, I felt it was important to make sure they understood the somber significance of the date. One day on the eve of the anniversary, I asked them, “Do you know what tomorrow is?”
“Of course, tomorrow is September 11th,” my 5-year-old said.
“Very good,” I smiled sadly. “How do you know that?”
“Because today is September 10th,” she said.
You know what? There is plenty of time to scare the juice out of our children. At age 5, 9-11 should just be the day after 9-10.
Some stories are better left untold. Wait until the kids are older, more mature and better equipped to deal with stress, even if that’s years away.
Until then, consider refraining from discussing the government shutdown with your toddlers, but feel free to explain it to me.