Friday, January 22, 2010

Explaining Bad Things



My 11-year-old daughter lives a plane ride away. She visited me over the Christmas holidays and we had an amazing time. During her visit, there was an attempted terrorist attack on an airplane that was flying into Detroit. It was extremely difficult attempting to explain how the world had changed in just a few days.

We watched a bit of the news about the event and I tried to explain just what had happened. I tried to explain how carry-on luggage rules had changed because of what this man had done. I tried to explain how her plane was safe because it was just a short plane ride and terrorists normally target larger planes (probably not the best explanation in the world, but I didn’t really know what else to say at the time).

So the question I have is…What should I have said to her?

And it doesn’t stop there. How do you explain the earthquake in Haiti? I mean, you can explain the science of earthquakes and explain that many people but how can you adequately explain the devastation and horror and death? Maybe the question is: should you?

One of the responsibilities of being a parent, especially in a world where EVERYTHING is at a child’s fingertips, is attempting to put all things into a certain frame of reference so that they understand. The real difficulty, I think, is trying to find a happy medium between scaring the crap out of them and making them immune to the world around them.

How do you explain a crazy person who shoots up a military base in Texas? How do you explain the war in Afghanistan? How do you explain how bad the economy is and how people are losing their jobs on a daily basis? How do you explain the situation with NBC, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien?

Okay…scratch that last one.

Seriously, though…what do you do to explain the bad things that go on in the world to your children?

12 comments:

Momma Sunshine said...

I think it depends on the age of the child. Personally, I don't expose my young girls (4 and 6) to a whole lot of world news.I just don't. I figure that they're still young enough that they simply don't need to know about these things...yet.

When they do hear about something and ask questions, I do my best to explain things in an age-appropriate way, enough to calm their fears and help them to feel that their world is still secure. For kids, particularly young ones, most of the time they're only concerned about the kind of impact this is going to have on their own little sphere.

I think there's definitely a balance between keeping our kids informed about the world, and giving them access to too much information...

T said...

Yeah, I hear you. I have an 8 year old who lives by the phrase, "What if?"

It is definitely a precarious balance. And who knows, I may have screwed up already!

TentCamper said...

Well...as you all know, we have 6 kids (5 to 18)and if something comes up at the dinner table...it tends to be hard to explain.

With the ones 10 and up we try to be as honest as possible. Kids do need to know what is happening in the world...but they also need to hear how we (parents) and other agencies are here with the sole reason of keeping them safe.

Terrorists - yes...there are very bad people out there...

Haiti - Horrible things happen and we need to pray for them all, help in any way we can and do our best to prepare for mother nature.

Missty said...

Great topic today. Depending on the age, depends on if I say anything.

Older kids - we just say it matter of factly.

Terrorists - there are bad people. One week after 9/11 we were boarding a plane from Los Angeles to Florida to take a Huge planned out extended family cruise/vacation. Our boys had to see military with machine guns at the airport! We were all nervous.

But we just said, we love you and would do everything we can to keep you safe. That really has been our motto.

Same with earthquakes. We live here in California, each year the schools have you send in your own personal "earthquake kit" In case you can't get your child. Same as above. "We will do everything we can to come get you, even if I have to walk."

As far as Haiti - I let our boys know to be sensitive. We can think about them, pray for them, maybe give mooney to them.

Each thing is huge, but kids can learn for each problem in the world.

Brandy said...

I don't live with any little kids so I can only gauge the questions one might ask by my 6 yr old nephew. And trust me, he asks a lot. And he understands a lot. Sometimes I think too much. :(

I just try to be vague; honest but vague.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They will ask when they are curious.

When they do.

You do what you do. You give them the truth but you let them know that the world is still safe and that bad things in life DO happen and even to people we love and even to us sometimes, but that there is more in life that is good and happy and worth enjoying.

It is okay to feel sorry for those that have been through those tragedies.

But to also remember that there is good.

Keith Wilcox said...

I suppose I'd just say bad things happen and people are capable of some pretty cruddy behavior. Terrorism can be explained in the same way wars are. It's perpetrated by people who don't have any problem achieving their political goals by way of whatever they think will work. I get what you're saying about whether it's a good idea to scare the crap out of a little kid with the truth. I suppose I'd say that if it's not necessary to your situation then it's probably best to ignore it. But, if it's something that needs knowing there's no sense in sugar coating it.

TentCamper said...

...then again...bad things are easy...wait til you are explaining relationships, sex, drugs, etc!!!

Daddy Geek Boy said...

It's a tough one because we want to seal our kids in bubble wrap and protect them from everything in the world. We are old enough to understand that there is random violence and hatred, but overall the world is a good place and we're happy to be living in it. But kids...all of this stuff is much harder.

I haven't had to face this yet with my young kids, but I'm not looking forward to doing so.

Joanna Cake said...

Wow, that's a tough one. With mine, I watched the news, formulated some ideas in my own mind and waited for their question. Then I would try to fit what I had planned around the answer they were seeking.

It's hard to explain terrorists and bad people doing bad things.

But it's just as hard to explain adults' bad behaviour generally.

I had an incident only yesterday where I was helping two kids do a good turn and a rude adult decided to tear a strip off us solely because she was having a bad day and we were getting in her way. I did not engage because it was obvious that to do so would just have fuelled the situation.

When she drove away, having vented her spleen, the two girls looked at me, waiting for me to give some sort of explanation as to why their pleasure at doing a good turn had been spoiled by someone totally unrelated.

I had to say that some people are just very angry and they have to get rid of that anger on someone else and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, we had just been kind and done some good in the world so we shouldnt let her bad temper spoil it.

We should enjoy our moment and hope that the rest of her day would make her feel as good about the world as we had done, prior to her arrival in our small section of it.

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professional search engine optimization said...

The problem exists when people attempt to over simplify theology they don't fully grasp. Your question makes no mention of our free will other peoples free will and the influence of Satan. So yes God may have a plan but it is our participation in that plan that is of central importance.

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