The conversation in our home was different last night. The usual, “ Did you do your homework, or What do you want on your taco?” seemed pointless, when you have parents that dropped their children off at school and did not have the chance to bring them home safely.
I know that when my girls walk into school today, there will be chatter in the halls of information that some have picked up on from their parent’s conversations, others will have overheard snippets on the news, some will hear the teachers talking, and they may feel the hesitation to even be on the campus.
In 2022, there is no such thing as tragic events happening in a bad place. It’s happening in our schools, our church, and the park – and as a parent, it is my job to be honest in talking to my children about things that are happening in the world.
My first discussion is about the what ifs. What do you do if you hear gunshots and you are in the bathroom? On the playground? In your classroom? As hard as it is to talk about, I feel that it is important to make sure that they are aware. What is happening around us that we have no control over?
When having tough conversations, I have this list in my head of how to carry out the conversation:
Tell the truth
Information can come from all avenues, but sugar coating it and giving them minimal information for them to piece together the rest is not something I wanted to do. I wanted to have an honest conversation, no matter how hard it may be. I would rather them get information of truth from me than from someone else who may have an influence on them.
Language for their age
My mentor always taught me that “clear is kind.” Be clear in the information that I want them to know, and then take the words and put them in language that they can understand and appropriate for their age. Make sure that things are kept simple and not a lecture that can confuse them.
Allow them to ask questions
Have kids ask as many questions as they want, and also allow them the time to process them. Know that this conversation may continue later on, and that’s okay.
Encourage expression and feelings
Make sure that they know that it’s okay to be sad or upset. Remain calm when speaking, but also give them the outlet of how they want to express their emotions. Honor their silence if they don’t want to talk about it.
For me, this conversation was an eye opener. My middle daughter has always had the heart of taking care of and befriending those who may not have had friends or were seen as different amongst their peers. I have always admired her heart. As I try to make sure that I am teaching my kids to see the good in others, I believe that kids don’t just wake up one day with the thought to hurt others. They have this lingering of not belonging and hurting mentally. As many questions as my children were asking, I have so many of my own that may never be answered. What do we do to stop our children from hurting? I ask myself that every day. As a parent, how can I make sure that I am seeing my child and providing that safe space for them? Where do we all go from here?