We sat in our cozy living room on a regular Friday night. Without warning, our social media feeds and the images of our television were flooded with the unthinkable. Tragedy is never something you expect.
Then, the voice of a 7 year old broke the silence, “What happened, Mama? What is a tragedy?”
What do you do when you feel ill equipped to answer questions of such magnitude?
As my husband and I stared blankly at each other, our own questions still loomed. But the tragedy had made its way into our home. We were now responsible to navigate this crisis. Honestly, we had no idea what to do.
How were we supposed to explain the atrocious actions that were peering into our living room and risk forever changing the perception of the world of a child?
Instead of sweeping away the opportunity to brave this as a family, it was time to lean in and be the place in which she could safely process.
Making the choice to start the conversation isn’t easy, but it is very important.
- Just Be Honest –Talk at a developmentally appropriate level and in a heart appropriate manner. Communicate to them in a way that is realistic while meeting them at their point of need. Your child may rattle off things that seem scattered or irrelevant to the moment. Realize that they are simply making new connections. Be patient and answer their questions even if it means repeating yourself. Show them your own vulnerability. Try to limit their exposure to media and be wise in the details you share while you remain truthful to their curiosity.
- Communicate Safety – When our daughter noticed the “#prayforparis” hashtag for the first time, her response revealed a deep need for reassurance in her heart. She sought this by expressing her fear through a more egocentric viewpoint. She asked me, “Mom, you know what it COULD say? It could say ‘Pray for Bullards’ because someone might get in my window at night and hurt me. They might hurt our family.” She needed us to tell her she was going to be safe and that our home was not under threat. Be aware that your child may have this need, but might not voice it in the same way ours did. Lead the way in this by sharing with your child that it is not their fault and they are safe from harm.
- Model Empathy – Have an empathic conversation to engage the heart of your child towards a greater purpose. We talked about the families in Paris and the way they might have felt. We also talked about the helpers who were risking their lives to be there to keep people as safe as possible in all the moments ahead. We thought through ways that we could remember the people of Paris. For our family, we decided to sit together and pray. We asked Gracie if she wanted to pray first so that out of her heart she could express her truest form of empathy. She prayed the sweetest, most honest prayer for people she had never met, but deeply wanted to understand.
As time seemed to drastically slow it’s pace in response to such hurt, I realized our hearts were more connected as a family than they had been all week.
It begs the question: How often are we given moments to slow down and speak into the hearts of our kids, but we miss it? Why does it take something like this to stop us in our tracks?
Let’s choose to see the needs of our kids today. Let’s remember to nurture them and to instill truth. Quiet the noise. Families, let’s not miss the moments to give our kids more of ourselves than we may think we are capable.