Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When your kids find out it isn't always such a wonderful world

It's tough when they start to read beyond what we want them to see. We were still getting a daily print edition paper when Junior one day out of the blue turned around and asked "What's corruption?" And we were lucky it was as benign as that with all that's often in the papers.

After the Newtown shootings several American friends have asked me how I go about explaining this kind of evil to my children, how I protect their innocence, how I stop them from being afraid.

It's one of the toughest things about being a parent, the realisation that you can't shield them from the fact that horrorific things happen. The best you can do is try to answer their questions without getting into gory details, show them that it's OK to be upset or afraid (so many kids feel embarrased to show emotions like these) and hug them tight tight.

There are no easy answers for how to explain things to a kid, especially a bright kid who always has another "why?" or "how?" to ask.

I do think kids are more resilient than we often give them credit for. Junior knows that there are people living around us who want to kill us, I never wanted to have to explain that to her, but it's true and she picked up on it quite young, asking why we have to go through metal detectors and searches whenever we go to the shopping mall or train station, why all the schools and kindergartens have guard booths outside, why there are guards on the buses and trains. Kids notice these things, even if we unfortunately get used to taking them for granted.

I thought about fudging it but in the end I just came out with it that there are people who want to blow those places up and hurt us and the security guards are trying to keep us safe. It's a fact of life and she takes it in her stride.

When a terrorist broke into a family home and murdered almost the entire family in their beds with a knife I hid the paper, avoided news sites and the radio, but she heard the story on the radio while being given a ride by a friend's mother and came home to ask me about it. I told her the basic facts of what happened, that there were bad people in the world, but that there are also many many good people who are trying to help others, and that overall the good outnumber the bad. She seemed to accept that.

When a similar attack happened again recently, only the mother happened to be a martial arts expert and was able to protect her kids, suffering knife wounds, but forcing the attacker to run I talked about the story with my daughter. I think it was important for her to see the more positive outcome. We actually even met the woman by chance on one of our Jerusalem outings recently and Junior was excited to meet a real life heroine.

I wish she didn't have to know about such things, but I can't keep her in a cocoon. The important thing here I think is also that I answer her questions as best I can, I say I don't know when I don't know, but also I don't dwell on the news, don't let her get obsessed with it by not obsessing myself.

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