As I watch the news from the other room on the mass shooting in Las Vegas, I tense up thinking about the kids coming in and whether I should turn it off. I mean a part of me wants to turn if off anyway. This is horrible.
My kids are eating in the kitchen and I can hear them talking about school and friends and all the things of life. I'd like to not bother them with the problems of the world and for them to go about their day as if nothing bad happened. Heck, I'd like that for myself. I'd like to believe that the world is not full of sick people, some of which have access to semi-automatic weapons.
A memory flashes through my brain of being a young adult, when one of my uncles asks me about something that happened in the news and I say, "You know I don't really like to watch because it kind of depresses me." He quickly retorts, "Well, that's life and you don't get a pass."
That has always stuck with me and I've made strides through the years to keep up with the basic news.
I do believe kids get a pass but I also don't feel it's necessary to shield them from everything.
My kids are still young so they don't have to know it all, but I also don't prevent them from hearing the news. If they don't know about the bad things, it doesn't mean that they are not happening and not going to continue to happen.
I think I'd rather them hear about it while I'm there to guide their thought process and walk them through their emotions.
Plus, I think it's healthier for them to see the real affects of violence in the real world versus what they see in movies and video games because they can begin to piece together the bigger picture.
When delivering bad news of any sort, I think it's good to be direct and just rip off the bandage. In this case I tell them as they walk in the room that there was a shooting in Las Vegas and over 50 people were killed.
I immediately prompt emotions:This is so horrible. I'm so sad for all of these people and their families.
I always remember something Mr. Rogers shared in an interview.
“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.'"
He said that his mother's words brought him great comfort and maybe even shaped how he looked at things as an adult.
So while we watch the news and hear stories about the shootings, we focus on the stories about rescue. I point out that the police were there fighting to protect people and that nurses and doctors are still working to save lives. People who don't know each other are working together to help those affected ... and that is something amazing to witness.
Boys, in my experience, will inevitably make some comment eluding to if they had a gun they would totally take out the bad guy. I try to squelch that immediately. If you had a gun nothing. All the police in Vegas had guns and they couldn't stop this from happening, so back it down John Wayne.
Plus, we are trying to focus our attention on the right things. The bad thing already happened and you can't change it. Anger is OK to feel in the moment, but it's important to let it pass and focus on what is helpful. Anger can turn into hate and hate is like acid ... it eats its container.
So we refocus and feel the other feelings.
I field all the questions to the best of my ability, only half of which I have answers to. I turn off the news, give some reassurance and, like everyone else, we try to get on with things.
So yes, I think it's OK for kids to know what's going on. We are in this together. It's OK to feel all the feelings. Maybe they will feel a little scared and sad. But then that's how we all feel. It's something that really happened and those are the real emotions. Bad things happen in this world and if you're going to live here you should know about them, so you can be part of this thing we call life. I think even kids wish to feel connected in this way.
After today though, I swear I want to move to a compound underground with solar energy and never let my babies leave me. Maybe we'll just make a blanket fort and call it a day.
Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.