Here’s a question for you. As a mother of a preschooler, and a tragedy strikes (i.e. ) do you:
- Not mention the catastrophe for obvious reasons.
- Try to explain what happened in an age-appropriate manner.
- 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.