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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miche... micheledo

My children are all under seven, and I see no need for them to know about this. They don't know any news going on in the world. Well, we did talk about the election so they could begin to learn about voting in our country!

IF this tragedy was local we would discuss it with them because it would effect them.

undrc... undrcvrmom

I did everything I could this past weekend to keep it from my kids. I sat with her last night to give her  a heads up because I knew she would hear it at school today and I didn't want her to be frightened and alone when she heard it.  But they prayed for the families at Church yesterday so I was a few hours too late.

My 10 year old had heard a 16 year old boy drank alcohol and killed his mom and some school kids.  I explained that was not the case but the male was mentally ill.  I expect she will hear a few different versions of what happened but now she knows the truth.  I asked her not to listen to any stories and if she did and was scared we can talk about it at lunch.

I have not even mentioned it to my 5 and 3 year olds.  They don't need to know.

kelti... kelticmom

My four year old son walked in on me watching the news Friday night and crying. I switched it off quickly as soon as I noticed him. He asked me why I was crying, and I simply said "Mama is just sad because there are some Mommies who will not get to hug their little boys tonight." He wiped my cheek and said "Don't cry Mamma, you can hug me". *sob* I know I will never be able to shelter him from things like this forever, but I will damn sure try for as long as I can.

Doomy234 Doomy234

We didnt tell our son. It was his birthday that it happened. He is also in kindergarten. I shed my tears before we picked him up for all the other little boys and girls who were his age and wont ever get to celebrate their birthdays again. As far as I know, he has no idea that anything happened.

amiec... amiecanflie

Kelticmom, that was adorable. Lucky for me my son is 3 and blissfully unaware of anything. 

butte... butterflyfreak

My 5 year old daughter saw a meme of an angel crying, one of the many memes that have been put out over the weekend honoring the victims of this shooting. She asked me why was the angel crying and I told her "The angels are crying because there are very bad people in this world and one of those bad people just killed some little kids. The angels are crying for the little kids." She was actually home sick on Friday and I heard about this while at work, in an elementary school lunchroom! That was rough, looking out at all those kids coming in to eat their lunch, trying (not) to imagine the horror and fear that all those children on the other side of the country mst have felt.  

butte... butterflyfreak

Then, last night when we said her bedtime prayers, we offered up a prayer for healing for all those families affected in the shooting. Then my daughter looked at me and said, "That was so sad, those poor children." And then she went on to tell me that when she grows up, she wants to be able to save people, that when people are in trouble, she'll run, run, run really fast and save them. Which led to a discussion about the different jobs that help people, police officers, fire fighter, doctors and nurses. She said she wants to be a police officer, so she can wear the uniform and help people. Who knows, she's 5 and I know she could change her mind a million times between now and then. But wouldn't it be something if this is something that sticks with her and she goes on to make a difference in people's lives?

butte... butterflyfreak

I'm not saying that my way was right, or that your way is wrong, as mothers we have to decide for ourselves if our children are capable of coping with news like this. My husband and I have always talked to our daughter, and try very hard to stay honest with her, even when it hurts. Honestly, I have been on the verge of tears all weekend, and for me, it was easier just to explain to my daughter why I was sad, rather than try to pretend there's nothing wrong.

UgtaB... UgtaBkdnMe

My kids are 4 and 7, I'm not telling them. It would only scare them. 

alway... alwayscurious

I would love for my daughter to not know. Unfortunately, her first grade teacher saw fit to tell them about it at school, so she already knew when I picked her up from school. I.was livid. I think that to tell or not should be a parents choice. And yes, I an so emailing the principal today about this.

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