There is no question about it, parenting is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. I shouldn’t even say parenting, because it applies to all adults who are role models to children. It applies to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, social workers, and so many other people who are in a position to shape young minds every day. Do my husband and I have it down to a science? Not even close! Are we raising perfect kids? HAH! Definitely, not. Please, if you find that perfect parent, let me know because I would love to learn all about their tricks! 😉 With that being said, my husband and I do try to raise our kids to be knowledgeable about the world around them, independent thinkers who will one day turn into respectful, kindhearted adults.
MY PIVOTAL POINT IN PARENTING
Let’s go back in time for a second, to the moment I realized I was now a parent to multiple children who needed me to show them how to process difficult times. December 2012, just months after I had birthed my first child, but already had two stepchildren who were at our house at the time, and it came over the news that there had been a school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut. If you don’t recall this specific school shooting, it is the one where 26 people lost their lives, 20 of which were first graders (only 6 & 7 years old). It was all over the news, and I was at a loss.
How was I supposed to parent these three young kids, two of which were in elementary school at the time (6 & 9 years old), when I didn’t even know how to process the types of emotions I was feeling. I was scared, felt lost, felt like I was never going to let my kids out of my sight again. But, I also knew how my husband and I reacted, and how we addressed what had happened, was going to be not only a pivotal moment in how we parented during hard times; but also a pivotal moment in how these kids learned to process difficult news such as this.
We discussed what we felt was best. Do we just try to hide it from them? It was just going to scare them, plus would they really understand what we were saying? Did we just tell them the whole story? If we didn’t, it was very likely someone at school would tell them their own version of what happened. So, we sat them down together and explained what happened, using the most age appropriate version we could think of. We assured them, that their school was safe, they already had multiple safety measures in place at the time this happened. We let them know that it was okay to be scared, and I let them see me cry while I told them.
Some people think that you should hide your emotions from your kids. I’m not saying that I let my children see every time I’m upset, but when it’s something like multiple children dying because of a senseless act I think it’s totally acceptable. In fact, they should see that I’m upset. They should see that I have a heart and that I’m sad that those kids died for no reason.
INFORMING KIDS OF DIFFICULT NEWS HEADLINES
Now that we have five kids, ranging in ages from 2 to 17 years old, things look slightly different. Obviously, the 14 & 17 year old mostly get their news from social media and news sources just like the rest of us. The difference is, we make sure to talk about the items that they are reading and/or seeing. We make sure that they take certain sources with a grain of salt, and that they understand everyone tends to put their own spin on things. We want our kids to make their own decisions, and in wanting this we want them to feel empowered when they read news articles or talk to their friends about newsworthy events.
The same rings true of our 8 year old. He isn’t on social media, and we definitely don’t let him have free rein on the internet yet, but he is absolutely aware of what’s happening in the news. He certainly, needs a little more kid friendly approach than the older two when addressing the more difficult stories to digest.
We want all of our kids to be aware of what’s happening in the world around them for so many reasons. We want them to be educated, confident, and empowered to make good decisions based on factual evidence. We don’t want them hearing hard to hear stories from friends who have twisted what has happened because they interpreted something incorrectly or misunderstood what was being told to them. We just feel that sheltering our kids, doesn’t do them any favors in the long run. If we shelter our kids from what’s happening, then they turn into adults who are uninformed and don’t know how to handle difficult situations because they were never taught.
BUT, WON’T IT DAMAGE THEM OR TAKE AWAY THEIR INNOCENCE?
Listen, in most scenarios, they’re going to find out one way or another. So, instead of fearing for them to find out, just tell them, but do it in a way that they can understand and assure them that everything will be okay. Let them know that you are there for them, and that you will help them process whatever it is they need help processing.
We were made to do hard things, and so were our kids!!! Our children are unbelieveably resilient, and if we teach them how good, kind humans act, they will be good, kind kids who turn into good, kind adults!
PROCESSING HARD EMOTIONS
Now, let’s go back slightly to the part where I talked about showing the kids that I cried when I found out about Sandy Hook. Think of how you are when you are around someone who is really unhappy and just in an all around bad mood. Even if you were happy when you were first around them, your mood quickly shifts to a more negative vibe, right? (More on this in my Positive Mindset Blog). It’s just human nature to feed off of each other’s energy. This is even more true when it comes to our children. Can we show them that we are scared, frustrated, upset, and angry about what’s happening in the world? ABSOLUTELY!! In fact, I would argue that it is necessary, so that we can also show them how to begin processing those emotions in an appropriate manner.
Think about how you would like or how you expect your kids to behave as adults. Are you acting how you expect them to once they are grown? If not, then maybe it is time to look at your life and start making some adjustments. We, as parents or role models, need to lead by example for these kids so that they know what is acceptable or respectable. We can tell our kids all day long how they SHOULD act, but if we our contradicting ourselves in our day to day life then all the lecturing in the world is just going to go out of the window.
Like I said in the beginning, I’m no where near a perfect parent, and my kids aren’t perfect kids either. But, I can sleep better at night knowing that as a parent, my kids know respect, kindness, appreciation, and love for all people regardless of their differences. Our kids can get straight A’s, be the best at whatever sport they’re playing, but nothing makes me more proud as their mom then when I see that the kindness I’m instilling in them is shining through. My kids will know that the world can be a scary place, but with the tools I’m teaching them they will be as prepared as they can be for some of life’s most challenging moments.