What to Tell the Kids When it Feels Like the World is Falling Apart

Yesterday, at school pickup, I noticed right away something was off with my daughter, Emma. She wasn’t her usual bouncy, smily, “this is my best life ever!” self. I pulled her aside as the other kids pilled into the van and asked her what was wrong. She didn’t answer. Instead, she nestled in close and wrapped her arms around me.

“Do you not feel good?” I asked as I rubbed her back.

She shook her head.

“Did you have a bad day at school?”

She nodded.

“What happened?”

She shook her head, dropped her arms, and shuffled into the car. At this point, I assumed it was friend drama. The six-year-old friend dynamic can be complicated–trust me.

As we were driving home (planning to first stop for gas and then at Trader Joe’s), I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Emma with tears in her eyes. Broke my heart.

“Emma, baby, what’s wrong?” I tried again.

I was not prepared for the answer.

“The president called another guy a bad name and now that guy is going to send a bomb here to blow us up.”

Um….OK. 

“I heard that too,” my nine year old chimed in.

“We’re going to blow up!” my other six-year-old cried. “I don’t want to blow up.”

“Why are so many bad things happening right now?” My eleven year old asked. “The hurricanes and the earthquakes and the fires and the bombs?”

Wowza. 

So here’s the thing about parenting. I am not an expert. But I do have five children, and I have a pretty good understanding of how kids think and how Google works. And when I don’t know how to broach a sensitive subject, I Google it. But I was driving. And there are laws against that.

I turned the car around and went straight home. My kids were scared and that was more important than stocking up on Joe Joe’s and Cookie Butter.

When we got home, I turned around and looked into the faces of my kids. They were terrified.

Truth was...is.…I am too.

The world feels as if it’s falling apart.

I don’t watch the news around my kids. Honestly, I don’t watch the news at all. I have an iPhone and an Apple Watch. They both notify me the second the president speaks, or a hurricane reaches land, or an earthquake hits, or Russia does something… I am connected All. The. Time.

I don’t tell this to my children, though.

Yes, they know about natural disastors. Those are easy to explain.

But my kids are 11,9,6,6,2. Is it necessary for them to know about the political drama happening in the world?

 

Maybe it is.

Because they found out from their friends.

I took a deep breath, said a prayer for guidance, and turned to square them. I told my kids that, yes, it does feel like a lot of bad and hard things are happening in the world right now. But there is still good. I told them about a story I read about all the wonderful people who stepped up to help those in need. How often times, tragedy has a way of uniting us.

I told them we did not live in an area that was prone to hurricanes and flooding, but, yes, we do live in an area that is prone to earthquakes. And, yes, an earthquake can and probably will happen at some point. Which is why we are prepared. We have water and food and a plan. I promised them that Mom and Dad would never leave their side no matter what.

This, I could tell, is exactly what they needed to hear. That Mom and Dad were doing everything to be sure our family was safe should an earthquake happen.

Regarding North Korea. My eleven year old said, “I heard they are going to test a nuclear weapon across the Pacific Ocean and it will destroy Los Angeles.”

“What’s a nut-le-la-lur bomb?” asked Emma.

Sigh.

This was harder to explain. Mostly because, for me, North Korea is scarier than an earthquake.I could explain a natural disaster–how do I explain politics? I barely under what the H is going on.

However, I’ve said it many times–children can smell fear.

I thought for a second and said, “There’s a lot of stuff in the news. Some is true. Some is not. Some is exaggerated. What we can do is pray for our leaders. Pray that they will make good choices. We can help those who are in trouble. We can have faith. We can be pepared. And you can always trust that your mom and dad will love you and protect you to the very, very best of our abilities. And, please, please don’t let kids at school scare you. I am your mom, and if I felt we were in immediate danger, I would say so.”

The response?

“Did you put snack out yet?”

I laughed, I couldn’t help myself. It always comes back to food. “Yes, it’s on the table. But first, Trader Joe’s and gas.”

And that was that.

Later that night, we decided we would help gather toys for church nurseries in Houston that lost everything. The kids were happy to turn fear into action and, hallelujah, we even talked Fisher (2 y/o) into donating this.  (Sorry, Houston).

Was this the right way to handle it?

I don’t know. Is there a right way?

What I do know is my kids are happy(and hungry)–just as they should be at 11,9,6,6,2.

 

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