Kids and information

Here’s a question for you.  As a mother of a preschooler, and a tragedy strikes (i.e. Haiti ) do you:

  1. Not mention the catastrophe for obvious reasons.
  2. Try to explain what happened in an age-appropriate manner.
  3. Let them watch and see for themselves.

Back when I knew it all, or didn’t have children, I thought the sooner a child understands that the world is unfair the better.

Since then I have been blessed with two ultra-sensitive children.  Swiper, from Dora the Explorer, sends them shrieking from the room and shaking in terror. (On certain episodes only, strangely enough)  Most evenings they beg for us to lay with them in bed because their room is so scary.  (FYI – Gene always does cause he’s a giant teddy bear)

Naturally, I did not mention the earthquakes in Haiti to my kids.  Until….last night at snack time Elena threw a fit because I cut her bagel in half. I was mad, because somehow I produced a spoiled brat, who dared whine about the slicing of foodstuff.

            “Mom! I wanted a whole bagel. I’m not even gonna eat it because you cut it.  Why did you cut it mom? I wanted a bigger bagel.”

It was not cute whining either; it was a screeching, yelling kind of whining.  Then, I let her have it with both barrels.

            “Elena there are children far away, whose houses fell down and they do not have water!  They do not have food! They do not have houses anymore.  And I never, ever, EVER want to hear you whine about bagels again!”

  I ended my tirade by sticking my finger in her nose and shaking it vigorously.  And then we had water works.  She meekly ate her bagel while she cried, and I tried to salvage what was left of our evening.


            “Why did their houses fall down, Mom?” Will our house fall down? Mom, you shouldn’t have told me about that, now I will just cry and cry.”

I managed to leave her feeling a little secure. (Pa doesn’t have a history of earthquakes that I know of –whew) We had a simplistic little talk about how God is with us when bad things happen, and He will help us somehow.

According to a book I read recently (referenced below) the human psych was not created to handle knowledge about all the suffering going on in the world.  Thanks to technology, we now have all that information at our fingertips constantly.  Information that previously was held back for those more mature is now blasted to our children.  The day of naivety in childhood seems to be gone.  I mourn that loss.

So on the tight rope, trying to balance between isolation and over-exposure, how do we raise kids in this information age?  I want to get it right, but it’s a tall order because it seems we’re in the first generation to have this specific problem.  I bet there’s an answer to my question somewhere on the web.

11 thoughts on “Kids and information

  1. This is interesting and something I have been thinking of so much, since we really haven’t been able to keep it from our children. And my sister Lydia said her little girl was bawling last night in the bathtub because her sister was ‘making her bubbles go dead’ ( popping them) she said, “they were my people, and she is popping my people”. Today my boys are building block houses with people in them and then having a earthquake and rescue teams are digging through the blocks to find them! I used this as an opportunity about food too! ( : Let me know when you find the answer on the web! ( : Mj

  2. I have had this conversation with my 7 year old when he was complaining about some petty unfairness between him and his brother.  I said “Well, Derrick, you know what else isn’t fair?  That you have plenty to eat and drink and there are people in this world who don’t even have clean water to drink!!”  Not to shame him, but to give him some perspective. And then I told him that we should things to help and give money to those people.About how much to tell our kids…My kids are not super sensitive, so I usually tell them what’s up but don’t over dramatize and I probably wouldn’t show them videos of the earthquake, but I would tell them about it.  My boys are 7 and 4 currently.

  3. It’s so interesting that you might mention this.  Guess because it’s hard work being a parent and helping and guiding a child along the path of life.  My daughter is a little news and weather junkie and she is always asking if I’ll show her the headline news and the weather.  So many times the headline news consists of – this guy killed 4 people or this guy killed 10 people or this guy wanted to blow up an airplane.  She seems totally intrugued by this earthquake and has been dilligently praying for the people in Haiti without houses, food and water.  She wants to watch the little video clips but I haven’t let her watch very many.  I feel so many times that the headline news is rather morbid and all negative.  I’ve been finding positive pcs and making sure I mention those as well.  Hannah is quite sensitive in certain areas and other times she surprises me with her daring escapades. She is 4.  Matthew is 2 and doesn’t have a care in the world other then hunting pretend bears and playing lego.   I will be checking back to see what others say because I’m sure not saying that how I do it is the right way. 

  4. Such tough questions! I think if anything you should be grateful about your kids sensitivity. It may be unhandy right now but in the long run they will be the ones with compassionate hearts.  My kids will be cynical and calloused by comparison.  Actually haven’t gone into much detail with them about Haiti though either  because the details are hard enough for ME to handle. Good luck!

  5. As the mother of a grown daughter, I think talking about life’s tragedies and human suffering with our children is important, but I also think it’s important to not go into great depths, and I would never let my child witness something like Haiti on television. It’s just too traumatic for little eyes, and they aren’t equipped to carry the suffering of others on their small shoulders. I remember the first time my daughter saw a child with physical defects. She was only four years old but she became so disturbed and cried and could not stop talking about it. I answered her questions as best I could and we added the child to our nightly prayers, which was a good thing. However, I think the less children have to know about devastating events such as earthquakes, the better. They have a lifetime to learn of such things. Childhood should be a happy time, if at all possible.Just my two-cents worth.

  6. I did talk to Adam about it … he’s 5.  But he’s not super-sensitive.  Somehow, he doesn’t seem to really grasp it though.  How can he?  He doesn’t understand the trauma of missing a meal, much less going thirsty b/c there is no access to water.  How can he comprehend the awfulness of total deprivation and rubble?  He keeps being the “hero” and saying that when he grows up, he’s always going to keep his fireman hook with him and dig the people out (b/c I told him there are people trapped under their houses and they can’t get them out).  He really hasn’t seemed to even grasp it, much less develop fear.  But then something else, like the guy who shot at cars from an overpass on the interstate we take to my mom’s house (less then an hr from here) two years ago still has him freaked out.  I think b/c he can visualize the place.  

  7. @Sharejoy – Thanks for that reminder while I deal w/ my wheepy 4 yr old!  Part of the challenge though i think is being willing to go their w/ our kids when we don’t have the answers to the tough questions, but not being afraid of the questions.

  8. Good questions! My six year old isn’t terrible sensitive, and he watched the news with us. When things where too graphic he covered his eyes and said “ewww”. He realizes what happened but can hardly grasp it either. Recently we have had a lot of robbery happening in our neighborhood, one lady was murdered and another guy shot at. In order to warn my kids about the danger of opening doors etc to strangers etc Alex my 6 year old lost his innocence it seemed like. He had not realized that “there are bad people in this world”. Guess he assumed there were in “other” worlds. At the same time we had conversations of God’s protection, and his parents protection.  I am guessing there isn’t a right or wrong way exactly, rather each child according to his or her sensitive nature…….ya, thats even worse! lol

  9.  yea, bagels. i don’t go out of my way to let them hear things and see tragedy but i guess we do it on a mini-scale with the people we pray for (the christians in orissa, india) or when i have had it with their american mindset (i only get one granola bar?!#*&!)how’s the book? i’d love to read it. did you know he is a menno pastor? he spoke at catayst last year. great stuff!

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