Discussing Boston With Kids Of All Ages With Timely Advice From My Childhood Hero

broken heart teddy bearSince I started this blog, I have taken a day out several times now to share advice about how to talk to children during a crisis. Sadly, this seems to be happening a lot.  In the two years that I’ve had managedmoms.com, I wrote about discussing the Tucson shooting with the kids, the Colorado movie massacre, the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting and now this crazy week of the Boston bombings.  A week that has already gone down in history.

With each tragedy, my kids become older, wiser and have more intelligent questions.  It strikes me that they don’t seem fearful any longer, as they are learning that sadly, these stories are part of the world they are growing up in and now these occurrences are close to home.

So I listen, have discussions with them from everything about the anguish the families are feeling to the mechanics of how the news is covering it in my kids’ eyes.  My teenager, at times, wants to discuss world politics and religions.  I never imagined that these discussions would become part of my parenting and I never dreamed that it would be so often.  The advice that I HATE to share, but know that I must is what to do if they are ever caught in a tragedy.  I tell my son to always have his ID on him now.  We talk about whether or not to play dead or to run.  Having these discussions chills me to the bone, but as a parent, I feel it is part of what must be shared in today’s world, as my Mom discussed what to do in a fire or how to practice stranger danger when I was a girl.

This week was like no other, when it came to processing it with my kids.  My oldest asked me if he could go in late to school to watch yesterday’s crazy coverage.  I told him no to that request .  My youngest, who had been very interested in watching yesterday’s events unfold, suddenly desired a sleepover with the wonderful play of water balloons and American Girl dolls.  I quickly arranged that for her and I thought it was quite good that the two friends decided to break away from the TV to go outside to play.  They did check in from time to time to see if the bad guy had been caught.

With a tween and a teen, I choose to let them lead me on how much they want to know.  When September 11th struck, my teenager was only 4 years old at the time, so all the TVs were turned to Barney to protect him from a tragedy that he was too young to process.  Now it is in his textbooks, so we have discussions and follow the news when attacks happen.  But I’m keen to when it needs to be turned off and when they want to talk about it or not converse at all.

Of all of the Facebook, Twitter and other social messages that filled my computer screen as the week wore on, one spoke to me and touched my heart and I think it is great advice for parents!  My mom tells me that she sat little me down to watch the first US network debut of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show on February 19, 1968.  She tells me that I would watch the entire show, smile and tell the TV my answers as Mister Rogers’ would ask them to his audience of children.  Well, he is definitely an image that has stuck with me and this week I was reminded why when I read on Facebook some advice Mister Rogers once gave parents during a time of crisis.  He says to tell the children “to look for the helpers” and that really rang true this week from the moments after the horrible bombs went off and citizens ran into the smoke to help complete strangers to how the good people of Boston came together yesterday to work with law enforcement to get the bad guy. rogers advice

What a wonderful message from Mister Rogers’, who now delivers it even after life.  And what a good message for us adults to remember.  The goodness in people, the bravery…the helpers far outweigh the evil and that is one message and one conversation that is good to have with your kids during these times of senseless tragedy when our nation does seem to come together and to move forward….not be set back…by these acts of terrors.  We are built on a foundation of helpers, as Mister Rogers’ so eloquently said, so that is the example we set for our kids and that is the discussion to have.

I’m wishing you all a week of peace and positive energy, rest, family time and a break from the endless media coverage.  Turn off the image of the bombing suspects and turn on some quality time with your family as this week now ends and goes into the history books.  We, as a nation, and as families move forward as we pray and mourn for those lost, those injured and for the families who are grieving.


Colorado Aftermath: Talking with Your Kids About It

As I grapple with what to post on a day like today, a day that our nation is reeling from the horrific events in Colorado, I don’t know what to say or what angle to even write about.  I had recently thought about an event like this occurring at our local movie theatre.  I think about it when I take my kids to the mall, to a busy restaurant and yes recently, I thought about that unspeakable scenario at a movie theatre.

As a parent, it is what you do….you picture the worst, hope for the best and prepare your kids the best you can.  However, advising them on what to do if they are ever caught in a mass shooting is not something that I had imagined that I would have to include in my parenting 101 skills.  And the fact that I do have to add this conversation to my list of “be carefuls” makes me angry and heart-broken to say the least.

So as we digested the news yesterday, prayed for the victims, the survivors, the families and the first responders, we talked about our feelings.  My teenager wanted to discuss gun control and how the media was covering this huge tragedy.   So we did and I found that we even debated when it came to our opinions about gun control….that part of our discussion was a surprise to me and I had to remind myself that he is turning into a young adult now.   And it is important that I acknowledge and have the conversations that he wants to have.  I always welcome the times that my teen wants to talk with me!

Then I realized that I had to talk with my kids about what to do in this horrific situation.  I didn’t want to have that talk!  I don’t want to have to even consider that this horror-movie type of scene really happened at a family favorite place….a local neighborhood movie theatre…and that it could happen again.  But I made the choice to coach my kids on what to do.

We talked about having cell phones charged and always with them.  We discussed playing dead and when to run.  Even writing this now upsets me to the core.

I am curious how all of you amazing parents, who read this blog, are discussing this tragedy with your children.

When 9/11 happened, my oldest was 4 years old and my girl was still in utero, almost ready to be born.  So I put my boy in front of the Disney channel while the media covered the unfolding events.

I didn’t have to tell my daughter about this awful time in our history until she came home from school asking me about the dedication her class had to the 9/11 anniversary that day.  Then I told her everything and I watched the innocence she had known as a small child disappear to be replaced with a shocked and saddened expression.  Welcome to the real world, I thought.

And now several years later, I am shocked to see that my kids aren’t shocked by the news in Colorado.  Of course, they are mortified and heartbroken, but we had Tucson last year and that is fresh in our hearts and memories here in Arizona.

We should be completely shocked by the terrifying events of Thursday night in Colorado!  But we are not because this is yet another mass shooting that has occurred in their short lifetimes and that….is shocking to me.  So so sad.

So I ask you, as parents, to share how you deal with discussions of the violence and devastation that is, sadly a part of our world today.  There is so much good to be celebrated, but we also have to prepare our children for the evil that lurks in our world.  Did you do what I did?  Did you coach your kids on what to do in a similar situation?  I never imagined when I carried my babies that this type of discussion would go along with the stranger danger, crossing the street, choking and drowning conversations that I would have with them.

So share your advice in the comments section on how you help your kids to process tragedies like this one and how to prepare themselves to be as safe as possible in the world we live in today.

I send deep and heartfelt prayers to the people of Colorado.  And I, like you, squeeze my children a little tighter with every bear hug that I get and give.  I am once again reminded, as I was with our Tucson tragedy, that life is a gift and that every day we should remember to tell our families just how much we love them.