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Family of 7 kidnapped: When news is bad, how to talk to your kids

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Of course our kids will have to deal with the “real world” and we do need to make them aware of certain dangers that are out there. But on days like today I tell my Quin, my youngest, age nine, “Umm, please don’t read over Mommy’s shoulder right now,” as I scan the Yahoo News stream online. After the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting my 13- and 17-year-olds both vetoed the Batman movie (that was playing at that theater) saying, “We just can’t because it feels too creepy, like we’re there enjoying a movie that got so many people killed.” The movie wasn’t the killer, but it felt like that after a while to my kids. 

I realized about 10 years ago, with my older sons, that what we read and see in the news is not the same as what our kids take away from the experience. We have years of knowledge and experience on which to gauge our reactions. For example, I stopped Quin this morning from reading over my shoulder as I looked at the Associated Press story about the French family of seven – including four children – kidnapped on Feb. 19 in northern Cameroon by what officials believe may be the work of one of Nigeria's Islamic extremist sects.  

As an adult I read it and think, “How horrible, but it’s in Cameroon and this is not something that’s likely to happen in Norfolk, Virg. today.” I grade it as non-threatening and I am down at DEFCON 5. A child, particularly one with Aspergers, reads the same story and comes away counting how many people are in our family and wondering “Is Cameroon over by the supermarket or the school?” Child is at DEFCON 2.

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