Trauma and tragedy are inevitable parts of life, but most parents hope to raise their children in relative safety and security, with a warm and happy sense of being safe and secure. So what do parents do when the news is everywhere and the news is not good? We do the best we can to help our tweens understand that which is impossible to understand.
First is the choice – some parents may choose to avoid speaking to their tweens on matters that don’t involve them, and that is a legitimate choice. However, between the internet, tv, and friends at school, tweens are likely to hear about the tragedy of the Connecticut school shooting and other such events. A parent may do well to prepare what they do want to discuss if their tween brings up such subjects. If the parent chooses to keep such items out of their homes, it may be helpful to discuss other avenues open to the tween – school counselors, church pastors, or legitimate websites devoted to helping children process tragedy. The parent may also choose to discuss what it means to be a careful consumer of news items and the effects news items can have on our daily lives and outlook.
Communication in the tween years is a valuable commodity, and opportunities to connect and maintain connections with our tweens should not be missed. Some parents may choose to prepare a more proactive approach to discussing tragedy with their tweens. Parents may want to consider asking a tween what they have heard, and what they think about it. They may want to mention the news item and ask the tween if they have questions or concerns. They may want to discuss facts or statistics, or philosophical or religious views to help their tweens continue to feel relative safety in a sometimes uncertain world.
Important points for parents to remember include processing their own feelings and maintaining a stance of reassurance. Tweens are often savvy enough to understand the evils of the world, but do not yet have enough life experience to make sense of it in a positive, life-affirming manner that will allow them to continue on with their own daily lives. Some tweens may want to cry or reach out with empathy for the victims’ families – and this is a positive reaction as empathy helps bond us as human beings and helps us relate to other people with compassion and respect. However, parents should attempt to keep their own feelings calm and share their own inner reassurances to help tweens find these conclusions. Some reassurances may include ideas such as: We may never fully understand the roots of such random, tragic acts, and we may not be able to prevent them – but we can, like all people, make the most of the time we do have. We might have a day or we might have decades to live – this tragic event does not change that. We can still express appreciation for all that we have, and work to build a future that fills the dreams we carry. These events do not change that.
However a parent chooses to come to terms with the tragic events of life, they may want to consider further positive steps to help their tweens. Parents can help them by: reassuring them that if they feel sad, it is OK; if they feel scared, it is OK; reassure them the world they live in is still basically safe and secure; help them think about how to make sense of the events in ways that will help them maintain or even increase their compassion, appreciation, and positive feelings about life and the future. We cannot fix it, but we can do the best we can. Peaceful parents and peaceful parenting.