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.”

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