Awful things keep happening. The world has run amok again. I cry and yell again.
And in the midst of it all the kids need our support and authentic presence.
In fact, they need more than that. They need us to be their allies!
I’m deeply inspired by the kids of Parkland High, and so many others who are joining Emma Gonzalez in “calling BS” about gun violence platitudes. We can choose to get off the sidelines and follow their leadership.
So we asked our members, 8 years old and up, what they need in times like this. Their answers are brilliant and heartfelt, holding gems of great value for all of us who care about kids in good times and awful times. Here are some of the responses girls shared with us. Let’s start with what they DON’T Need.
They DON’T Want to Be Out of the Loop
I don’t want to hear anything that isn’t true. I don’t want adults to tell me that “it’ll be okay” or that “everything will blow over”. It may be unnerving to hear of the violence and I do believe adults should talk to children and ask them if they wish to know about all the horrible things happening.
I dislike when people don’t really care about things that are happening and it makes me sad when people have no idea about the things that matter in the news. I wish people wouldn’t say things like everything will be ok because how is that true in any way? You don’t know that. I don’t want to be sheltered from it.
I really don’t want people to pretend that it’s not happening for my sake. I have a Facebook and a Flipboard, I know these things are happening. It saddens me that such things even happen in this world, but they do and we can’t change that.
I really don’t want to hear “it’ll blow over”, “You’ll be okay”, “It’s nothing that concerns you”, and “Don’t worry–it’s nothing big.” Parents and other grownups mean well and want to protect us, but we’re old enough to handle bad news, upsetting events, and anything tough.
They Need Us to Accept All Their Feelings Including Anger and Sadness
Awareness is important, and I want to be aware. Yes, it scares me a little bit, but mostly it makes me sad and angry. Well-controlled anger is good. Like everyone else has said, I mostly just want to know and be treated like I’m able to know without breaking.
I just want someone to just tell me what’s going on. Instead of telling me what I’m doing wrong or that “the grownups will handle it” I want to be told what’s happening so I can understand it.
Usually I just want to hear that someone understands. I process things better when I can think about them on my own for a while, and a hug and “I understand,” is usually the best.
I like to have discussions with my parents about what happened and why so I understand everything that went on.
I want to hear, “You won’t like this, but we have to talk about this upsetting bit of news.” And, “This may be hard to handle, but we think you can take it.” And “We respect your opinion, and we want your input on this.” And other things like that.
I want to be be actually TALKED to instead of being ‘sheltered’ and ‘protected’ from what’s going on in the world. I’m very happy that my parents already do this. I want to be talked to and be able to know what’s going on. I know a lot of things I really don’t want to know about, but I feel like I should know (you get what I mean?) about what humans are doing to each other in the world.
Most of the time anger crawls in first followed by sadness. I want to hear these things, without being treated like I can’t handle them.
If a child is uncomfortable around the topic, perhaps it isn’t necessary to give them details of every tragic attack but if a child wants to know, then I think it the responsibility of every adult to give children accurate and detailed information.
Sharing Action and Hope Matters
I want to know people are making a difference, or doing something in response (protesting against what happened, etc.).
I feel like I want to know this stuff because I feel that someone will change this and I want to know about it as soon as I can:).
Listen More Than You Talk, and Then Take Action as Their Ally
What kids need most often is for us to listen. To listen much more than we talk, especially at the beginning of a conversation about awful things. Almost always, the best way to start is with an open-ended question like “What have you heard?” Save any explanation for later, after she’s had the chance to express her feelings.
It you start out with an explanation, she’ll try to take your cue and leave her feelings out of the equation. But that never helps in the long run. Feelings are fleeting and need to be expressed so she can let go of them and not ruminate on them. There’s time for focusing on thoughts and reason later on. Try very hard not to assume that you already know how she feels. Let her tell you.
What Works for Your Kids?
How are you and your girl handling all the awful things recently? I very much want to hear what works for you. And what doesn’t work. Please share your wisdom by commenting here with others who care. We can all use a helping hand in these times.