I just experienced a beautiful weekend of bonding, connection, and spiritual growth with my family. We all went to bed Sunday night feeling like all was good in our world. And then it was Monday.
“Did you hear about the mass shooting?” My husband asked me after taking the kids to school. I hadn’t. I was still reveling in my unplugged peaceful weekend and trying to squeeze every last ounce of calm before my week gets started.
We just experienced the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history and my heart aches for all those that have lost loved ones in Las Vegas.
It also leaves me thinking about my children. What will they hear at school today? How will they feel? Will they be afraid? Do they realize the locks on all their doors at school are a result of a post Sandy Hook world? How can I possibly protect them? Can I shelter them? Should I shelter them? It’s challenging being a parent in today’s world. And while I do not have all the answers, from one mom to another, I’m happy to share some of the ways I address the violent and vile current events while trying to protect my children.
- Assume that they will hear. I prefer they hear it first from me so I can set the context. But when I can’t, I plan to talk about it as a family. The feeling of safety and security should be most profound within our homes.
- Don’t let them watch the news. I have a hard time watching the news during these types of tragedies. If you are sensitive to the energy and emotions of others, watching is so much more distressing than reading. We absorb the feelings of others when we watch. The scenes, commentary, and footage are designed to sell and attract viewers. They are not always rational. They are not always accurate. But they always increase the level of stress of the watcher.
- Tell your children the facts of what happened, but not all of the details. Our children are sensitive. Give them age appropriate facts. For a 4 year old that might mean saying that a bad man hurt a lot of people. And that we need to pray for the people that were hurt and their families. For a 15 year old that might mean giving the details of how many people were killed and how many were injured. But it doesn’t mean I have to give details of the terror and evil that was unleashed on Las Vegas last night.
- Highlight the heros and the good that is being done. People come together in tragedy. It is essential that our children learn to find good in dark times. We don’t know what their world will look like as adults. But it’s safe to guess it will contain both good and bad. If we want them to learn not to be overwhelmed by the negative, we need to teach them to find the positive.
- Find ways to help. When a tragedy strikes, asking the questions, “how can our family help?” gives children a feeling of helpfulness rather than helplessness. That shift in perspective can help all of us from sinking into despair and fear.
- Teach your children about what causes a person to do violent acts. Teach them about the hard topics. Mental Illness. Addiction. Extremism. Turning away from God.
- Teach them where to turn for peace. I read a study once about living an altruistic lifestyle and the effect it has on our perspective. In the study, they laid out the argument that our world is really not more violent than it has been historically. There have always been wars. And we are statistically less likely to die at the hands of violence than we would have been in past times. But thanks to social media, we have so much more knowledge of the violence in the world that we tend to feel like it is always at our doorsteps. The study cited things like faith, belief in God, service, and having a bigger purpose as factors that increase our feelings of peace in turbulent times. I have found that it isn’t enough to speak of these things. We need to live them.
- Make your home a peaceful place. I always say that my home is full of peaceful chaos. It’s always loud. Loud bangs are a common occurance and I just listen to see if they are followed by screams in order to know if I should go to the bang, or let the person who caused the bang come to me. But our home is still peaceful. Hugs happen everyday. I love you’s are the norm. We kneel in prayer together. We laugh together. We correct with love. When we lose our tempers, we apologize. Our children can handle this world when they have somewhere safe to land.
I wish we could give our children a better world. But I know we can give our children a better shot at being happy in the world they have. Please join me in praying for our world and for our children. And while we are on our knees, let’s pray for each other as sisters that we will have the wisdom we need to raise up this next generation.