Trying to Process the Scary Things Happening in the News

mr_rogers_helpers_quoteThis was written before the bombings in Boston, when it felt the recent local news was scary enough. Yesterday pushed that even more, and while this addresses my concern over talking to my kids about rape, texting while driving, and social media concerns, we did talk to our 10-year-old about what happened in Boston. We wanted her to hear the facts expressed cautiously from us and not graphic half-truths told on the playground. We didn’t tell our six year old because his classmates are less likely to know and if he does hear, our son is likely to think it was a classmate telling a tale.

The local news lately has been full of items that are scary to any parent, and while my kids don’t watch or read the news, I’ve been wondering what to say to them. Obviously it’s not age appropriate to tell my six year old son that rape is never okay or to explain to my 10 year old daughter why she won’t be allowed to use public bathrooms alone until she’s older, but I want to say something, to set the groundwork that boundaries are good, and so is personal safety, but finding the right, not-scary words is really difficult.

Sure, we’ve had talks about inappropriate touching or what to do when you feel scared or trapped, but I don’t know if that’s enough. I never want to have to tell my son that rape is wrong because I want him to grow up to be a person who understands that, who knows how to respect other people, who is empathetic, yet I’m sure I will say it when he is older because I want it to be clear.

Casually, I have brought up that social media can be bad or embarrassing and that photos can be damaging. I told this to my Girl Scout troop, too, when working on our digital photography badge, asking them to think before they send friends photos or post to Facebook, keeping the message light, trying to set the groundwork for when they are older and the message can be more firm.

Texting while driving is not something I do, but I found myself needing to text someone asap while in the car the other day and I made a dramatic point of pulling over and turning off the car to do so. It felt exaggerated, but I wanted my kids to take note that texting while moving is not okay. They know distracted driving can be deadly because they’ve heard me bark that at them often as they fight or throw things in the car as I drive, but it’s up to me to show them that distractions come in other forms.

Trying to do this right, to get the right messages across, while not needlessly scaring them out of innocence, is a difficult balance. Like most things with parenting, most of it relies on doing your best and hoping that is enough.

I deliberately did not link to the stories mentioned. Most are well known in Silicon Valley, but if not, they are stories your heart cannot unknow. The bathroom story crushed my day, and made me feel like a fool for allowing my daughter to use the restroom alone the night before at a restaurant. It made me nervous to let her play out of sight in our backyard this weekend, too, both things a 10 year old should be able to do.

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