How do we explain it to children?

15 12 2012

worried eyes

The recent events that transpired in Newtown, Connecticut have captivated our attention. Among the many questions flooding our mind is, “What do we say to our children?”

Experts are offering wonderful advice. What to say. How many details to give.

One recommended saying, “You don’t need to worry. If anything like that happens in your school, the teachers and principal would surround you. Police officers would come to rescue you. Your father, and I would rush to get you.”

Few are emphasizing the importance of how to speak to children. If a parent speaks those reassuring words with an anxious tone, the child will mirror the adult’s stress.

Kids take their cue from parents. Throughout my 34+ yrs. as an educator, I’ve seen evidence of that fact. Kids can tell if a parent is worried. They can sense concern. It’s hard for them to believe things will be okay when the adult seems fearful.

When I told my second graders I had multiple sclerosis (MS), they read my expression. Studied my face. It was critical for me to convey the seriousness of my illness along with reassurances. My tone of voice, words, and facial expressions all had to match.

God had given me a peace about my illness. So I calmly conveyed the news. Here’s part of what I said:

“It’s not contagious. I have good doctors and I’m taking good medicine. There’s no cure. It’s no fun having MS. But, I have a choice. I can focus on the lousy parts of MS or I can think about the Truth. The Bible tells me God loves me and will help me. When I feel really sick, I get a love attack…God sends lots of people to help me. I’m thankful for my family and friends who do my chores at home when I can’t. You can help me by praying that I won’t have to absent. It makes me sad when I can’t be with you. I miss you. Sad things happen to everyone during their lives. When sad things happen, it helps to remember the promises in the Bible. Let’s all sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ very slowly so we can think about the words in the song.”

Afterwards, I had the students write about MS. It was important to know what they understood and how they felt about my illness. I asked them to finish three sentences:

MS is…

I think God allowed Mrs. Chandler to get MS because…

I learned that when things are very sad or are very hard…

Their responses revealed they understood the illness. More importantly, they reacted very calmly to the news. Just like my demeanor.

Follow the advice of experts. Remember you’re the expert about your child. So, also follow your intuition.

First, prepare yourself. You may be in desperate need to feel God’s supernatural peace which passes understanding. With His calming assurance, you can approach your child. Ready to inform and remove fears.

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One response

29 01 2013
Kris

When I first saw this tragedy on the news, one of the questions that came to mind was “How will parents explain this to their children?” Children were going to ask questions about it, and some parents interviewed on the news said that they were just going to pretend like it didn’t happen so that their child or children wouldn’t be worried. I knew that this was not the best response because the children already know what happened, so there was no use pretending as if it hadn’t. I think this post is great advice to parents in that predicament. This is a good way to acknowledge what has happened and to reassure children without worrying them further. And from my personal experience I totally agree that children can tell whether or not you are worried, even if you say you are not. This is great advice to parents who unfortunately need to address issues such as this one.

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