After the death of Osama bin Laden, there have been many questions from parents about how to talk to children about this event. I was thrilled to be on The Today Show with Matt Lauer and Gail Saltz this morning talking about this very topic. In Monday’s post, I gave several examples of what parents can say to their children– here are some more questions I’ve received recently.
We want our children to have the “right” information when it comes to bin Laden’s death. But there is the issue of “over-sharing” — what’s too much and what’s not too much information for young children?
Telling children that big men with guns snuck into a man’s house and shot him in the eye in the middle of the night is the stuff nightmares are made of. That’s an overshare. Let them know that:
“This man, Bin Laden, hurt and killed thousands of people. People were afraid of what he would do next. So the adults in charge of keeping our country safe felt that we weren’t safe with him alive. He is dead now and he can’t hurt anyone anymore.”
We must be observant of our children’s behavior: What are we looking for?
All children express concern or fear differently. Know your child. The 3 big areas to look at are sleeping, eating, and general conduct. Are they sleeping more or less than they typically do? Are they eating more or less than they typically do? Are they acting out or withdrawing more than they typically do? And, even if your child isn’t showing outward signs of concern, s/he may still need your help. Ask them;
“Do you have questions you want to ask? Are you worried about anything?”
When children learn that there are people in this world who have hate in their hearts and do terrible things to other people, it can throw their sense of safety off kilter. How can we help them feel secure?
Make sure that your children know that it’s the job of certain courageous men and women to keep us all safe and they are working very hard to make sure we are (and doing a great job at it!). Keep routines the same for your child but be available to talk. Limit media exposure so that you are the one who is providing the information your child needs- or, if you want your older children to watch some coverage of this event, be sure to be there to talk them through it, provide additional information, or, turn it off if you feel it’s not the best thing for your child to see.
Since bin Laden didn’t represent an entire nation or religion, there is a need for open-mindedness and tolerance. How should parents work that into conversation?
Even kids don’t like to be the target of stereotyping. Values always must prevail. Tell them simply:
“Would it be fair for me to punish, blame, or judge you for the bad choices another child made just because you had the same color hair, a similar way of dressing, or were from the same place? In the same way, there and good people and bad people in this world and they come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Just because this man did what he did doesn’t mean in any way that other people who look similar to him, dress similar to him, or are from where he was from, have hate in their hearts, agree with his choices, or behave in a similar way.”
Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Today Show: Talking to Children about bin Laden’s Death is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman - Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System