We Should Protect Our Kids From the News of the Newtown Tragedy

Heartbreaking 28

plushiesI was listening to President Obama's address while I waited for my son's school bus to arrive Friday afternoon. That morning I'd followed the story, posting on it for The Stir. What I thought was going to be the story of a domestic dispute resulting in two injured adults hemorrhaged into something so much worse. I felt sick every time I had to add another update. I kept thinking about those terrorized children, even the ones who survived but who would never forget that day.

As my son stepped off the bus, I grabbed him and hugged him so tightly he yelled, "Ugh! Mom, I can't breathe!" I felt elated and a little bit guilty at the privilege of having yet another day with my beautiful son. But I had a decision to make: Should I tell him what had happened in Newtown, Connecticut that morning?

My 8-going-on-9 son has already had a rough year. My husband and I separated this summer, and while we're peacefully working out an amicable split and co-parenting together, my son has had nightmares and waves of sadness that seem almost too much for him sometimes. I can't bring myself to add any more stress to his life.

As we walked back from the bus stop, I put on a brave face. I'd had all morning to cry. One of the big rules of parenting is that you don't get to expose your kids to your huge, scary adult emotions. Another rule is that you do everything you can to protect your child's innocence. Scary images and narratives can haunt children, which is why experts are all advising us to limit our kids' exposure to the media while this story is in the news.

When we got home, I did not turn on the news. I knew we had at least a weekend of golden blissful ignorance before he found out. He needed this weekend -- so did I. We stayed home. He seemed not to notice I never clicked on the usual NPR. Later I checked with the other parents in his class via email to find out what they were doing and how much their kids knew.

Almost all of the parents were not telling their kids about the shooting. One of the parents, a therapist, said she saw absolutely no value in telling her daughter what had happened. A Facebook friend of mine admitted she'd told her daughter and immediately regretted it. A couple of the kids had found out by accident, catching newspaper headlines on the street or news broadcasts at a pizza place. It was in this context that my friend's 6-year-old son learned what the word "several" means -- "several" children were shot to death. Those parents promised they'd ask their kids not to discuss the incident with other kids at school. Already I feel my "invincible" parental powers of protection slipping. And that's the story of parenting.

Now I feel like it's just a matter of time before my son finds out. We're fortunate to send him to a very small school (just one classroom per grade, and 18 or fewer kids per class). And our community is pretty sheltered. The teachers met with a psychologist this morning before classes and the administration says they won't bring it up. Still, they also sent parents guidelines for talking with our kids, in the event that they do find out. (I wrote a post on talking with your kids Friday as well.)

But at least if he finds out now, maybe some of the emotional heat will have subsided a bit. I'm prepared with that delicately-put question the therapist parent used on her daughter: "Did you hear any interesting news today from the kids?" I'll ask him, and if he tells me that he's heard of a horrific incident leading to the death of several children, I'll be prepared to talk with him about it. But I'll do just about anything to keep him in the dark for a little bit longer.

Have you been trying to shelter your kids from the news or do you feel like they should know?


Image via Adriana Velez

elementary school, in the news, kid health


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butte... butterflyfreak

That's messed up, alwayscurious! I found out while at work in a school lunch room, the other lunch lady told me about it and we talked about it at work but NOT when/where any of the children would overhear us. I made the choice to tell my 5 year old, as I previously stated but I would be beyond pissed if she heard about it from school first.

purpl... purpleflower514

My kids are 7, 5 and 1. We have not told them about it. They were freaked out enough when I explained 9/11 to them, I'm not sure how they would react to being told that a man killed all of those little kids on purpose.

Sarah UsedtobeZech Cone

The only one of my children that I told was my 14 yr old because she has her own laptop and I wanted to prepare her for when she got online. My others, 10,9 and 8 don't know. I too, am nervous about what they'll hear from peers or teachers today.I was even a little nervous about sending them, but not for that reason. Ifeel like I failed them somehow by NOT telling them and teaching them how to prepare/protect themselves in a situation like this and yet I also feel like a failure if I HAD told them, for taking away innocence and that making them afraid of school.How do you know the right thing to do in a situation like this?

Jacobet Jacobet

My son is four and attends preschool at our local elementary school. I wanted to pick him up so bad on Friday. I can't tell you how many times I have just walked into that school and past all of the various classrooms without anyone looking at me twice which has me so freaked out.

My husband wanted to tell our son but I begged him not to. I am afraid if he found out he wouldn't want to go back to school. I can't imagine how those children from Newtown that survived will ever go back.

nonmember avatar wendy

I told my 10 1/2 year old. We were watching the 49er vs. Pats game when Obama's address at the memorial broke in. I was in the kitchen so my daughter heard what was being said before I could get to the remote. She had heard of it from friends. She was understandably upset, especially by the age of the victims. Mostly I let her talk about whatever she wanted to say about it. I did tell her that I couldn't answer why it happened, but obviously something was broken in that man.

BKozICan BKozICan

So, you just put your kids on the bus and hoped for obliviousness? I mean, none of them questioned why security measures were changed or why police officers were there? I was afraid that *not* telling my nine-year-old was likesaying, "hey, if something makes me uncomfortable, we can't talk about it."

nonmember avatar doreen

I heard want happened Friday while I was at work.I didn't cry ttil I saw my 10 yr old son.ihe asked what was wrong I told him what had happened.And we talked about what he would do if something like that happened at his school.

Jessica Bruton

If my kids were older i would talk to them about it I would want them to hear it from me so we could talk about it right away and thye could learn the approprate ways to handle their emotions. My kids have been fortunate thus far they havent even had to handle the death of a pet let alone friend or family member id also want to talk to my kids about being prepaired in the case that (god forbid) something like that happens in their school. I think its important for parents to talk with their kids about the tough stuff and teach them how to handle their emotions my kid are far to young tho (4 and 5) if my daughter should ask i will talk with her tho

april... aprilhas4

This is something our kids need to know about that a way if they are ever in this situation they might know what to do what lets pretend to our kids that we live in such a perfect world NO tell your kids what's happening so they can be aware

Dawn Bell

I think that if they r going 2 school they r absolutely old enough 2 be told! Especially stuff like this because u should discuss it and go over things they can do if something like this did ever happen!They may be a little hurt and scared by it but that's part of life! They r gonna go through a lot in their lifetime and witness a lot of evil but atleast this way they can be prepared and it could save their lives!Kids r a lot more smart and strong than we think they r and can probly handle stuff a lot better than we can.....but that's just my opinion.

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