Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Advice from Fred and Kim: Talking to Kids About Tragedy

Since I posted this morning, I've found two more items that I want to share about "what to tell the kids." And both have made me feel more hopeful.

First is a helpful piece by a favorite to many of us older parents: Mr. Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. The web site for the Fred Rogers Company has an in-depth parenting section which includes an article entitled, "Fred Rogers talks about tragic events in the news." The children's television star says that his mother - a very wise woman - would encourage him to look for the helpers in times of tragedy. In retrospect, I do remember seeing video footage of people running toward the bomb blasts so they could help. Mr. Rogers also says, "What children probably need to hear most from us adults is that they can talk to us about anything and that we will do all we can to keep them safe in any scary time." What a comforting voice! The article and video are worth the time.

Second is an email of hope from Kim Lee, Director of Spiritual Formation with South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church. Her email, entitled, "Talking with children in times of tragedy" says:
Chances are, your children are seeing and hearing all about the bombings in Boston. How do we help our children process what we can barely understand ourselves? We have two choices. We can ignore the issue or we can confront it head on.

I recommend full engagement. And I have a little help from a segment I saw on Good Morning America today.

Dr. Janet Taylor, a child psychologist, was asked, “What do I tell my 10-year old who was up late crying and trying to figure out whether or not she is safe?”

Dr. Taylor calmly replied, “Well, it’s difficult.” Let’s just acknowledge that right off. It isdifficult. So first off, let’s calm ourselves. And then consider maintaining a routine that involves limiting screen time -- phones, computers, and TVs -- answering your child’s questions openly and honestly, concentrating on the good that happens in the midst of bad, and giving your children good things to do—write a letter, light a candle, say a prayer, read a story.

In addition, I have a great story to recommend, A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes...It’s about a young raccoon named Sherman who internalizes a traumatic event but, with some help from some trusted adults, begins to process his feelings. The story ends with the narrator saying, “Sherman Smith is feeling much better now. He just thought you would want to know.”
There is a temptation to feel bombarded and overwhelmed by what is wrong in the world. And yet, we Christians are confronted with a God who creates and calls that creation good. When we stop to think about it, there is a tremendous amount of good in this world—men and women who run toward bomb blasts not from them, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers. These are seemingly ordinary people who drop to their knees to tend broken limbs, broken bodies and broken lives. 
Maybe there’s a lesson in there for us. Maybe we can begin being kind to mean people, and loving our enemies, by processing our feelings, maintaining our routine, limiting our screen time, concentrating on the goodness of God’s creation and doing some good things.

Because, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Reposts: What to Tell Children About Tragedy

Once again, we're reeling from tragedy. So I'll post links to articles related to "what do you tell the kids about the [insert act of violence or disaster here].

Words of Comfort After Connecticut Shootings
What to Tell the Kids About the Connecticut Shootings
Hurricane Sandy: What to Tell the Kids
Disasters in the News: How to Help Your Family Cope

Overall, be thoughtful of what you tell your child about the Boston Marathon bombing and pay attention to how he or she is processing it.

After the Newtown shootings, I chose not to tell my eight year-old daughter about what happened, but she learned all about it from the kids at school. So this morning, before school, I told her about the Boston Marathon bombing. She didn't ask me many questions except if we knew who did it. Then she commented about how she was worried about her new unit in math.

She has her own set of worries that take center stage in her life right now. She's lucky. Others, like my sweet nephew, experience a lot of anxiety related to these huge news events. He was so concerned after the Newtown shootings that my mother found him sleeping with a knife; he was so worried about an intruder that he wanted to protect himself and his young siblings.

I'm sad today. In one year alone we've had movie shootings, school shootings, mall shootings, bombings in public places and other acts of violence. I wonder what kind of world we are living in now, and what kind of world my daughters are growing up in. If these past 12 months are indication, it will be a world in which mass violence is commonplace, something we have no choice except to tolerate and "overcome." It's hard to see an end in sight.

Most of all, I'm sad for all the children and families that have been terrorized and victimized in Boston.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Of Weddings, Basketball and Smart Phones

I attended a beautiful wedding a few weeks ago. The ceremony was lovely. The bride was crying, the groom grinning. The pastor was very eloquent. The unity candle was lit, the vows promised, the rings exchanged, and the big moment had arrived.

Precisely as the pastor was announcing that the couple was officially husband and wife, a cell phone went off. Loudly. All of the guests, the wedding party, the bride and groom, the pastors, were silenced, perplexed. Who forgot to turn off their cell phone?!?

Suddenly the groom chuckled, red and embarrassed. He reached into his suit coat pocket to turn off his own phone. Everyone in the church roared with laughter. The comedic timing of that phone call was hilarious. The bride had a great sense of humor about it all, and declared, "I love you anyway."

Rewind 45 minutes prior to the phone interrupting the high point of the wedding. My husband and I arrived at the church early and were a few of the first guests seated. My husband pulls out his phone and begins to watch the end of "his" big basketball game on his new WatchESPN app. Our friends behind us leaned forward to watch the game, too, and admired his phone. Thankfully the game ended at the exact time that the bride marched down the isle.

This isn't the first time that the phone and basketball game has clashed with me. To my annoyance, my husband watched a game during a family dinner out a few weeks ago. I guess an "important basketball game is an exception to our no-phones-at-dinner rule? A couple dining next to us saw the miniature TV and the man said he thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I foresee future games taking precedence over important moments in life. Sure, he can go with the family on any outing, but he won't really be there as long as there's a college basketball game on. I wonder what would happen if I watched an episode of Downton Abbey while eating out with my family.

I'm not passing judgment, merely musing how technology can - and does - interrupt everyday activities such as family dinners as well as monumental events such as weddings. I am a little sad about that, but others seemed to have accepted the changes comfortably.