Sometimes breaking news reveals terrible tragedies. Each family must use their own best judgement to decide if (and how) they expose their children to these difficult stories. These decisions can be based on your child’s age, emotional temperament, or previous family discussions on a similar topic- simply to mention a few of the factors you might consider. Even if you decide not to share certain events with your child, they may be exposed to them as they go about their daily life at school or in the community.
I will one day be faced with the difficult task of discussing headlines like that of the recent attacks in Paris with my child. What can I take away from this event that will help me be prepared for these conversations in the future? The best lessons thus far came for me through this simple, powerful image by artist Lucille Clerc:
- A picture can say a thousand words that you might not know how to say. Images or picture books can be powerful conduits for discussion. You and your child can explore a concept together through these tools versus conducting a top-down conversation from parent to child. In fact, through discussion, you may find that your child can say the thousand words you don’t know how to say.
- If you’re not sure what to say, be gentle with yourself. You may not always have the right words at every challenging moment. You may have your own emotions to process, making it harder to express yourself.
- Sometimes simplicity is best. Over-explaining might leave even more uncertainty, especially when there are no easy answers.
- Consider what your community might have to offer in helping you lead a well-rounded conversation. Are there trusted friends and family members, school personnel, or community leaders that can augment your thoughts and ideas?
- Tomorrow is another day. How can I balance each difficult concept we work through together with a more hopeful message, relieving some of the insecurity my child may feel alongside these events?
Lastly, service to others.
This is what as a parent I choose to write with my newly sharpened pencil. Volunteering is a tangible way to put pencil to paper with our children- an active way to process difficult events. The growth, teamwork, purpose, and support that is built through service- these can be the messages of hope we can write in permanent ink.