It was dinner time on Friday before I knew about the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Conn. As a home school parent, I spent the day submersed in fifth grade lessons about our solar system and completing a novel study on “A Wrinkle in Time.” Even when I went to pick up my high school daughter from her after school activities, the radio was set to a commercial free channel. I was oblivious and at peace with our busy week, thankful for the upcoming weekend. And then, my husband asked me on the way to dinner, “Can you believe what happened today?”
Like most, I cried openly, and searched the radio and Internet for more information. That night, at the high school choir program, the last song was song by all the choirs and alumni combined. The entire auditorium solemnly listened to the painful words of Horatio Spafford’s “It is Well with My Soul.” Tears burned my cheeks watching the senior students and alumni reach across the entire stage, holding hands tightly. All I could think about were the many families suffering loss.
All is not well.
Media of all types has given the world a front row seat to this tragedy and the grieving community. As an adult, I process the information quietly and I speak freely with my husband. I try my best not to let fear keep me from living or letting my children leave this house. I truly believed that not making this the focus of all conversation in our home was the right decision in order to shield my children from such horror. But I was wrong. Last night, my 14-year-old daughter came to me in tears and hugged me.
“I just needed to feel your arms around me,” she said.
It never crossed my mind to ask my kids how they were feeling. Once the conversation started, a flood of questions converged, most of which I have no answer to. I don’t have any idea how our culture has gotten to this point or how we keep things like this from happening again and again. And really, this is a time to support rather speculate. I also don’t want my children to start drawing false conclusions about people with mental health issues or autism. I want them to be advocates for those that can not help themselves, but I also hope I give them the tools and information necessary to think quick on their feet. I realize now that being honest is the only thing that makes sense when talking about such unimaginable issues. Acknowledging their feelings and letting them know I value their opinion will hopefully keep the flow of communication open.
How do you approach such topics with your family?
Here are some useful resources to help you get conversations flowing with your kids:
- Talking With Kids About News – PBS Parents
- “How to Talk to Your Kids about School Violence” by Dr. Ken Druck
- Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman