Hug Your Children

How will I talk to my children tonight? When they come home from school, what will I say?

As I was typing this, thinking hard about how to talk to my children in the wake of this tragedy in Newtown, CT, I saw an alert that my friend Jessica had already written a post on parenting through tragedy and a 24 hour news cycle.

Her advice, very valid, was to turn off the tv. Childhood is brief and honestly, do your children really need to know about this?

I wish I had this luxury.

We live in a wired  and connected world and for my family, with children ranging from 4 though 16, innocence is at a premium. I could, and will, turn off my television to spare the anxiety of aerial views and anxious speculation. But this is not enough. I cannot put blinders on them. Even in the third grade – their friends have smartphones. Little pitchers no longer have big ears. They have wifi.

Their siblings won’t shut their mouths. Their teachers and friends parents will let something slip. My kids will be listening.

Then they will whisper in the dark at bedtime. They will confer in the back of the car.

I’m not off the hook. Not by a longshot.

I expect that our school will send out advice, and as Jessica suggests, the web will come alive with child psychology experts and advocates all full of advice about how best to preserve your children’s sanity. They will offer reality checks to help us retain our own.  New security policies will be born, amidst much arguing and more expert opinions so we can feel safe putting our kids on the bus and yes, we’ll return to our lives and our holiday shopping with aplomb.

Everyone will agree on one thing. They will all say this.

“Hug your Children”

It’s already been a tough week around here. A dear friend lost a son last week in a senseless tragedy – the personal impact of which hasn’t paled for me in the wake of today’s news. One of my daughter’s classmates held a bittersweet sleepover last week, prior to her mom starting another round of chemo. Her father died of cancer a year ago, and her mom is really sick.

We’ve talked about this stuff some. Not too much. But some.

Death, dying, tragedy seem to be all around us this holiday season. I was already melancholy. I’m not glad for the company. I’m thinking hard about how I’ll frame my words for my kids, my words after all, help frame their world. I’m not getting out of it.

One thing for sure. I will hug my children.

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4 Responses to Hug Your Children
  1. Natalie H
    December 14, 2012 | 11:40 am

    My son Ethan is in Kindergarten. In just under an hour, I will go to his class and put on a happy face and help with the class Christmas party. We will have fun. They will sing and celebrate. And he will never know what happened this morning. I will not cry in front of him. I am so glad he is still young enough for me to not have to try to explain this senselessness to.

  2. Jennifer Miner
    December 14, 2012 | 11:45 am

    …Once your kids are a certain age, or with friends who have older siblings who talk with them, there’s no use in avoiding talking about national tragedies like this school shooting. In fact, just the opposite: instead of protecting them, it gives them the feeling that fear and devastating sadness are emotions to shove under the carpet and not talk about. It might be easier for us as parents to avoid talking about tragedies, especially emotionally fraught ones like this, but it’s a cop out. GOOD parents will talk about this with their kids.

  3. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 | 11:46 am

    You are lucky, and a good mom, to preserve this moment of childhood for him. I have such a poignant memory of my daughter’s first grade “mother’s day tea”. It was the day after three kids in our community, siblings, were killed in a tragic car accident. My daughter’s teacher was talking about how precious every moment, every day was with our kids. We all knew why and we all teared up, choked up and then clammed up. Because there was no need for our kids to know. We hugged them tight.

  4. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 | 11:48 am

    I agree Jennifer, but I’m sad that I’ll have to have a talk with my 4 yr old. I don’t want to. I know he’s not able to process it and wish he could remain ignorant. I wish my 8 yo wasn’t going to get the news secondhand. They don’t need to know at this age. But they will know and I’ll have to deal with it.

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