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

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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.

I read the news online in The Pueblo Chieftain about Nathan Dunlap being sentenced to death for killing four people in an Aurora, Colo. Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993. This has been almost 20 years of waiting for Colorado’s longest-serving death-row inmate when the Colorado Supreme Court rang the death toll for him this week.

As a parent I felt my guilt ease a bit over traditionally saying no to environments such as the Chuck E. Cheese franchised fun scenario.

Sadly, when my back was turned, Quin saw the newspaper and said, “No wonder you never want to go to Chuck E. Cheese if people get killed there!”

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