I used to keep the car radio tuned to the local news station all the time. Then, the kids started hearing and understanding the inevitable grim reports about mass shootings and terror attacks etc. and they’d ask, “Mom, did the announcer just say that people were shot and died? Did people really die?”
Now, we listen to inane pop music. Worse, I’m starting to like it.
I would love to listen to the news and discuss these important world events with my kids. But the fact is, at four and six years old, they are not only too young to understand very much, but they are also vulnerable to be traumatized. Pediatricians advise parents to take great care when exposing children to words and images of violence.
Of course, bad things happen, and we can’t protect them from everything. In our family, the greatest loss they have experienced was the death of their beloved cat Raffy; Babyboy still cries about it. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a wonderful guide for how to help children cope with death and disaster , and for the little ones, they advocate sharing only what is necessary, and keeping it really simple.
But while I don’t plan on openly discussing mass shootings, hate crimes, domestic violence, rape, and terrorism with them anytime soon, I still want to address these issues. And we try, every day, by preparing them to face these challenges in the future.
Basically, we’re trying to raise these kids with the firm moral values, resilience, and character that they will need to survive, thrive, and lead in a world full of mass shootings, hate crimes, domestic violence, rape, and terrorism.
Yes, survive, thrive, and lead. Lead by example, and with conviction.
For example: the one overwhelming thought I had about the horrifying Stanford rape case was: God, of course I pray that my kids are never victims nor rapists; but I especially pray that they ARE the kids on the bicycles, who stop and do the right thing. (It was two randomly passing guys on bikes who saw the rape in progress and intervened, even chasing down the perpetrator, tackling him, and holding him down until the police arrived. They are real heroes.)
And so we try to raise our kids to be adults who know right from wrong, and are not afraid to stand up for a cause, and for the truth. We try, every day, in a million small ways, and then we worry that it’s not enough or that we’re screwing it up.
It helps us to be better people, knowing that the most powerful childrearing thing we can do is model who we want our children to become. Do we slip up? Hell, yeah.
But we keep trying. Because the world needs more people like the guys on the bikes.