The world is not always easy. We want to protect children from the sadness of the world, especially the difficult moments or difficult ideas. However, part of our job, as adults, is to help them understand difficult ideas, from homelessness to grief to disasters. And, hopefully, we can empower children to make positive changes for the future.
I often think of a quote by Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
We can help children make sense of the world by showing them ways to express their support for helpers. Many groups and organizations showcase support with activities that may help children wrangle ideas into action. Every family, of course, needs to find their own way through a briar of life events that may or may not connect with a child's world.
For example, I was a first grade teacher during 9/11. We planned to keep conversations at home, where, hopefully, children wouldn't see the worst of the news. Then a student learned that one of her relatives was in one of a buildings. That family couldn't possible keep distance between current events and their child. You may not get to choose when a child reckons with global or local events.
What helped students throughout many years of teaching, and many scary events, was creating positive action. We made cards. We thanked first responders. We created thoughtful ways to express hope.
I am dismayed, with heartache, every time I hear about guns in schools. I want to insulate my children, except they come home with stories of Quiet Drills, or stories about when they're supposed to run into the woods instead of hiding in a closet. These drills break our collective hearts.