When television networks interrupt regularly-scheduled programming with frenetic music and the words “SPECIAL REPORT” glare boldly from the screen, my heart skips a beat.
“What now?” I wonder.
If my kids are sitting with me, I turn the TV off and go to the computer. I can’t have them watching scenes of traumatized school children or storm-wrecked homes or, most recently, innocent people crumpled on sidewalks, fighting to survive.
Or news coverage of a little boy who died while cheering his father across the finish line of the Boston Marathon. A father and son in the midst of completing entirely different races.
This week, once again, we were faced with the challenge of explaining how dark and awful things in this world can hurt and destroy the innocent things.
Because the Boston Marathon wasn’t a classroom, Monday’s bombing didn’t send a hush over my kids’ school campus the way the Sandy Hook massacre did. The younger kids didn’t come home with questions.
At home my husband and I were careful to speak in whispers of media updates and theories and I kept the front page of yesterday’s newspaper folded in on itself, but my oldest– 10 next week– still knew something was wrong and asked what happened.
I considered his question carefully and in that moment I thought of our evening tradition.
Tucked between my kids’ hurried baths and their bedtime stories we each share what our mountain top (best part) and valley (worst part) of our day was.
One of my favorite quotes is by Billy Graham and it says, “The view is beautiful from the mountain tops, but the fruit is grown in the valley.”
We want our kids to take all those valleys, those things that were embarrassing, awful, hurtful, stressful and hard, and learn from them.
What’s our take-away when we go through the hard stuff? How can we do it differently next time? Can anything good come from it?
That all crossed my mind when I explained, in limited detail, that there is a famous marathon and while people were cheering for runners there were two explosions and a lot of people were injured. I told him that the good guys would find the bad guys and that he was safe.
But I wanted to share the fruit– the good that was emerging from the very, very bad.
“So many people helped though,” I explained to him. “The ones who were able to help gave the shirts of their backs and pushed wheelchairs and opened their homes to people who couldn’t get to their hotels.”
I thought of the American flags that waved en masse following 9/11. Regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, race or gender, together we were all one nation.
Again, we stand united.
That’s the fruit. The coming together of people, the laying aside of differences.
The helping, selflessly.
From chaos, unity.
I told my son that.
“Let’s just think about that part of it,” he wisely said to me.
I nodded, proud of my boy.
Suggestions from an expert:
Brent Cooper, a licensed educational psychologist in Palm Desert, Calif,. suggests shielding young children from news coverage following tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings. Be honest and sensitive, but don’t give too many details or visuals, Cooper said. Take age into account and explain in a way that’s easy to understand.
“Parents can be anxious and project their own fears on to their kids,” Cooper said. “Kids pick up on that, so make sure to reassure them that they’re safe and protected.
Kids also tend to be very resilient. We’re afraid they’re going to fall apart, but they don’t,” he added.