My career as a teacher affords me the opportunity to spend summer time with my children. A LOT of summer time with my children. It also affords us the opportunity to travel to various places to visit family and friends. We always spend a bulk of our time with my parents as they have a place on a lake. And it’s awesome because the kids are outside playing all. day. long.
Of course, living with my parents means their house, their rules. This summer, the evening news was on every night while we ate dinner. As you may recall, July was a banner month when it came to news worthy events. Between all the political junk with the upcoming presidential election and the incidents with the police, my children were being exposed to some pretty heavy stuff. I was hoping that the kids were too busy eating and talking to really know what was going on, but a part of me was also wondering, “Why aren’t these kids asking any questions??”
And then my middle child was intently watching the news story unfold about the Dallas sniper who targeted police during the Philando Castile/Alton Sterling protest.
He FINALLY asked, “Mom, can you please tell me WHAT is going on?” I am always open and straightforward with my kids and try to explain things to them in language they can understand. However, I was having a hard time beginning with the whole situation as it was unfolding this particular week.
I was thinking, “Why oh why couldn’t my parents just read the news online???” I decided I would start with attempting to explain the Sterling and Castile deaths. Before I could even get out a complete sentence (as I had to stop and start again), my youngest, who is 6, took over for me, and said to his big brother, “Well, what happened was that he was reaching for his wallet, and the police thought he was grabbing his gun, and so the police shot him and killed him.”
So, apparently my youngest was paying a lot of attention to the news. I was shocked he knew so much. Of course we needed to have a big conversation, including why there were protests that followed the shootings. We talked a lot about peoples’ actions/reactions/emotions on all sides of the issue.
“Basically, there is a lot of misunderstandings. But eventually, people who are good at being police won’t want to be police, and then all that will be left will be people who will still have misunderstandings,” concluded the six year old.
Oh my goodness.
By this time, the news program had concluded, and President Obama was coming on the television for a Town Hall to address what happened in Dallas. Instead of running outside to play after dinner (as was the norm), the kids were glued to the television.
After seeing the Town Hall, more discussion ensued. My kids have family and friends of different races. We talked about how parents of African American males are scared for their boys and how parents of police officers are scared for their kids and why all these parents are feeling scared. It really helped make the situation seem all the more real to them to think about their friends and family.
The kids then proceeded to brainstorm ideas for gun control. (?!??!) All their own ideas. And some were pretty good. My only guidance was explaining both sides of the gun control issue.
At home, we never turn on the evening news – it is too depressing and too horrific! I think that most of us feel that our kids do not need to be, nor should they be, exposed to it. However, I definitely learned a lot from my kids that week. They did handle the exposure, with discussion and guidance, and they had a ton to offer in terms ideas for our country moving forward.
But I think that one week may just have been enough news to last us a year…