By Christina Forgeron, Columnist
My friend and I were walking in the beautiful Long Lake Provincial Park over the weekend. Part of our conversation was about the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It is incomprehensible. As parents, our hearts were broken for the families and the community at large.
“Did you tell Jake?” my friend asked. I replied that I did. I figured it would be discussed at his school, either by students or teachers, and we both agreed that helping kids to process this news at home first was important and felt like the right thing to do.
“I did too. I spoke to the three of them individually because they are in such different stages.”
We were both concerned that our children would feel personally unsafe in the one place where they spend the most time outside of their home – school. Wherever the discussion went, we knew it had to end with the idea of safety and that living in fear was not a healthy option.
In fairness, I don’t feel that we as parents can ever guarantee the safety of our children but rather than discuss that with my 9-year-old, I assured him that he should not feel afraid to be at school. I can’t guarantee his safety but I can guarantee that worrying does not help.
A few rules of thumb that I try to keep in mind when it comes to tough conversations with my son are:
• Be honest.
• Provide few details – only facts.
• Avoid telling him how to feel or try to ‘solve’ his sadness.
• Wait for and anticipate questions.
With these ideas in mind, I shared the news of the mass shooting of children by a teenager with my son. As always, I was worried about his big questions. Kids have a way of cutting to the essence of an issue with a broad and all-encompassing (and usually heart-breaking) question.
It’s hard to be prepared for big questions. I have learned, however, that “I’m not sure. Let me get back to you on that one,” is a perfectly valid answer. The only question he asked was, “Why did he do that?” Because no one truly knew the answer to that, I replied truthfully saying, “I didn’t know.” It was a suitable time to mention that sadness that is not talked about can often lead to anger, emphasizing how important it is to talk about your feelings.
My friend’s children are a bit older. Their conversation was more focussed upon the fact that there are students who come to school carrying a lot of stress and pain. You never know what has happened just before school, or what is going on in someone else’s life. The world needs more kindness and compassion. She also reminded her teenage daughter that her door was always open if her daughter ever needed to talk about things.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to share them with me: email@example.com or comment below. Go easy on yourself – you’re doing great.
Photo by Julia M Cameron: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-woman-tutoring-young-boy-4145354/