Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Communicating with your child about recent tragedies

Major Family Services
Major Family Services
April 23, 2013
Dear Friend of Major Family Services, 
Communicating with your child about recent tragedies.

Recently, I have been contacted about ways to communicate to your children about the recent tragedies in Newtown, MIT, Boston, and Texas. Bombings and shootings are horrible tragedies.  We do not need to expose our children to such violence. However, if our children find out about such tragedies, we must communicate the truth to them.  I have been processing the information before sending out a letter to all our followers.  Here is my opinion based on the teachings the late Dr.Jayne Major: Always speak the truth.

As parents we have accepted the responsibility to be stewards to our children.  Maybe we did not expect to have that responsibility before having our children, but we have it now.  Therefore, it is we, adults, who have to control our selves from tuning into that television set 24/7 to watch a tragedy unravel over and over.  Don't get me wrong, we must stay informed, but now a days we can obtain crucial information from our cell phones, our iPads, our computers, and our radios in addition to the graphic and repetitive television news coverage.  So, my first advise is to remain informed, but do not expose your young children to tragic news if not absolutely necessary.
Jayne preached to use teachable moments to educate our children about sensitive subjects.  A mass bombing, a killing, a shooting spree is not pleasant, but it presents itself as a teachable moment.  If your child does find out about one, two or all of the tragedies, please do not lie to them.  Do not tell them it did not happen.  Do not tell them that the teacher at school was wrong or that his friends are lying.  Instead, use language appropriate to the child's age to explain the situation.  If you have a young child who asks about such a tragedy, you can explain to them that there are people in this world who are sick or who are bad and they hurt others for reasons that we cannot explain.  Explain that this is tragic. Add that you love your child very much and because you love him or her very much, you will do everything possible to protect them.  Then you can use this opportunity to give a specific example that applies to your child and your family.  
If your child is a teenager or older, you can use the same teachable moment to request that they check in with you frequently and ask your advise about going to large events.  Even if at large events that appear to be safe, advise them to keep an eye out for bags left on the ground, strangers asking them to carry things for them, vans that are parked and left unattended.  
Although we believe that times have "changed," the reality is that they have not. There have been mass tragedies as long as there have been "civilized" communities: Roman pillaging of cities, invasions by conquering armies, Aztecs invading other Mesoamerican settlers, white settlers invading native American lands, Spanish conquistadores invading the Aztecs, communist and anarchists bombings in the 20th century, etc., etc.  It is better to prepare our children for the world, than to shelter them and leave them unprepared for those moments we are not there to protect them.   

I have two very young sons, Zachary age 5 and Luke age 7.  I always tell them the truth.  I never watch the news at home.  So they are never subjected to such images or descriptions.  I am very aware of what I listen to on the radio when they are in the car.  However, if they ask me a question, like Luke did recently, "why did a bad man hurt so many people the other day?" I told them something like this, "there are people in this world who are mentally sick, they can't think straight and there are people in this world who are bad and want to hurt others.  Whether they are sick or bad, they still can hurt you.  I love you very much and I don't want you to get hurt and that is why sometimes when I ask you to stay near me in a crowded place like a mall or a park, I need your immediate cooperation because I want to protect you.  Do you understand that I love you and I want to protect you?" They both nodded.  We changed the conversation.  But I told them the truth.  Nobody lost sleep.  Nobody was upset. We then read books and went to bed. 
I hope that this helps everyone who has followed Jayne's teachings remember how important it was for Jayne to speak and teach the truth to children, while still teaching them that it is ok to protect themselves in order to have a positive and healthy self esteem.  
If you want to share anything with me, please feel free to do so by emailing me at pj@majorfamilyservices.com or posting on our Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/majorfamilyservices.  Otherwise, visit us at http://www.majorfamilyservices.com to find out about our latest books and services. 
Thank you, for staying connected to Major Family Services. 

Major Family Services, Inc.
Major Family Services

Major Family Services | 12405 Venice Blvd. #172 | Los Angeles | CA | 90066

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