“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me; “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” -Fred Rogers
We live in an entirely different world today, and our children face challenges of feeling safe. Safety and security is something that is essential in development, and childhood. But with school lock downs, school shootings, the possibility of teachers carrying guns to the classroom, the presence of Security Guards; can our children feel safe today?
Ages 8+ Your children will now have peers, teachers, other parents that will be sharing information with your kids, and we can’t control that. As children go through elementary school they become more aware of the world around them. If bad news happens; they have a school lock-down due to some person who has the need to be famous or whatever the reason these people are harming schools, and innocence’ or they hear about a siblings school that may be under some kind of “siege” or even other schools or children in general that have been put in harms way they will more then likely learn about it pretty quickly. Here are some tips for this age group:
1) Ask your children if they’ve heard anything about a certain incident, and listen to what they have to say. Seriously listen see how disturbed they seem by it and then react accordingly. If you project your own fears, worries, and concerns of what they might be feeling that isn’t a good thing. They may not feel that disturbed by it so let it go if they seem to be nonchalant. However if they seemed concerned then ask them how they feel? What can you do to help them feel safe and secure?
2) Be factual. Don’t over dramatize things but also don’t downplay them either. It’s a balance so proceed cautiously. State the facts. For example if a child in Utah hears about a tornado in the Midwest, and is worried about it happening to them let them know that tornadoes in Utah are very rare, and give them tips on what to do in a tornado just in case. Same with any natural disaster situation. The Midwest don’t have hurricanes for example so make sure they understand that a hurricane will never, never never happen to them.
3) Man-made shootings are more difficult to handle because most children under the age of 12 still don’t have the concept that there are people out there that would do harm to each other or children. They exist in a “safe” place. When these situations arise (unfortunately it seems to be more and more frequent); let them know calmly that that was one person in a world of billions that made a very bad decision, and chose to hurt people; you don’t know why but they did. That out of billions of people there are billions that want them to be safe and will help anyone that needs it. There are police officers that will come to your aid, firefighters, and even people just like you, teachers, babysitters and or your parents. Nearly everyone in the world want you to be safe so just because this 1 person in billions did this horrible thing there are billions more out there to make sure you’re safe.
No matter what we do to protect our children from graphic pictures or news footage there will be times that they may catch a glimpse of something that is inappropriate for them. If this happens ask them what they saw and then explain it in more concrete terms like a story.
I cannot emphasize this enough: the protection you use for your children about factual events you also need to utilize to protect them from inappropriate movies and fictional events! I live in Colorado, and when the Aurora theater shooting took place at a Batman movie I was stunned to hear of the amount of children attending that were too young to be at that movie. Batman movies are violent, loud, and completely inappropriate for children younger then 12 or 13. There were babies there for Heaven’s Sake! The noise alone in those movies has got to be disturbing to an infant! Please be careful as caregivers with the choices you make for your children to watch for entertainment. Exposure to things that are hard to handle are hard no matter what context it is being delivered in; whether it be a fictional movie or news.
Resources: Real Simple Magazine/December 2013: I read the news today. Oh boy. Written by Marisa Cohen