Your Kids: Making Sense of This Madness
We are in the midst of an unprecedented manhunt, and our kids are hearing lots of frightening things about it. Some may have no idea what is going on, and some may know way more than you would like, but one thing is certain; when they return to school, they will talk and everyone will know more than they did before. And even if you think your child remains unaffected, you may be surprised. My neighbor just told me that she thought her son was fine until he took his BB gun out in the driveway to meet his uncle “because it made him feel safe.”
So how do we talk to them in ways that will make them feel safer? I have some ideas to suggest, and I hope you might consider them and share your ideas as well.
Kids need to hear about the situation and the way adults are dealing with it in ways they can relate to, so I believe that it is helpful to find situations that they have been in to explain the actions of others.
When your children ask why they have to stay inside, ask them if they think it is easier to do some really hard homework in a quiet room or in the middle of a party. At a party, while they are reading, part of their brain is listening to the music and they are also probably watching the kids playing ball out of the corner of their eyes. They can smell the yummy food and feel the vibrations from the other children moving around. Their brain is doing a lot of things at once and can’t work completely on the studying. For the police, they need to use their whole brain and all of their senses to find this man, but they can’t do that if they also have to worry about who is playing in the yard and who is hunting in the woods and who is driving to the store. We help them do their job by staying out of the way so they can focus on keeping us all safe.
If your child wonders why the police can’t just run into the woods and grab this guy, tell them that one thing police officers have to be is really smart hunters. And really smart hunters do not just run into the lion’s den and start attacking. Ask them if they think they could close their eyes at home and still find the bathroom. Of course they could. And if a friend came over who had never been to the house before, and they also closed their eyes and your child and his friend both raced to find the bathroom, who would probably get there first? In any game of hide and seek, the person who knows all the hiding places is at an advantage. Then tell them that the very smart hunter does not go into the lion’s den without first learning all the hiding places, so the police have instead surrounded the hiding places and are moving very slowly and carefully so that they don’t miss a hiding place.
Children who are worried about returning to school need to hear that all the teachers and the principals and other adults in the building are all working on a plan to make sure that nothing bad can happen to the children when they come back. Remind them of the fire drills and weather emergency drills that we have had in the past. Those are all different kinds of plans to keep the kids safe. But this is a new situation, so the school and police are working on a plan and, until they are absolutely sure that they have a really good one, they will not open the school and when they do open the school, it is because they have done a lot of work to make it work.
The reason we have police is to stand right between all of us and the “bad guys”, and the fact that you can see them right outside the door this week only means that they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do, and we are very lucky to have such smart and brave people willing to keep us safe. They are experts in making plans and finding ways to protect us, and the very best thing we can do to help them and help keep them safe is to follow directions quickly and stay out of their way while they do the job they are so good at doing.