A ring to rally against violence and hatred
What to do when your kids need answers
I was in New York last week and while talking to a 10-year-old girl and her mother, the mom told me that her daughter had a nightmare, the night before, that the UN building got blown up by terrorists.
This is what 10-year-olds are thinking about.
Is it only 10-year-olds in New York? Not a chance. Thanks to the global village and the online info-explosion, we all, even our young ones, know too much about the sorrows of the world. Too much to feel safe. Which creates an urgent question: How do we talk to kids about this fractured and fear-inducing world?
The first answer to that question is about what not to do. Many of us, these days, feel despair and fear. Not so great for us as adults. But imagine the turbo-charged effect of that mindset on our kids. We’re formed. Our psyches were set in a time of greater perceived global harmony and safety. Not so our children. And we hold responsibility for this in our hands — which means we have to get creative about how to talk to them about those political and global conflict matters that upset us.
If we give in to (and thus teach our children) passivity, we do them great harm. Passivity is a problem for both us and by extension our kids. Passivity breeds and models despair and paralysis in the face of events we cannot apparently control or change. Passivity is deadening. Passivity fuels anxiety and fear.
What we can do is help our kids to find a way to be instrumental in the world, because doing something is always better than feeling powerless. Start with conversations about the other. Let’s get some homework going. Probably more interesting than most homework. Maybe kids might want to do a research project on these people who are other and whom we fear. They will surely discover that the vast majority of those who are other are no threat to anyone.
At which point the conversation around your dinner table can turn to: Do we want to be an ally to those people? What would be good about that? How might we do it? Can we think of Parenting columnist Joanne Kates is an expert educator in the areas of conflict mediation, self-esteem and anti-bullying, and she is the director of Camp Arowhon in Algonquin Park.