Guiding My Children Through A Violent World

johnfaceThis morning I watched a video of a man slowly bleed to death in front of his girlfriend and her 4 year old daughter. He was gunned down by a police officer after being pulled over for a broken tail light. He complied with the officer, told him that he had a gun with a permit to carry, and when the officers told him to get his ID and he reached for it they shot him. It was nothing short of a public execution. This murder comes just ONE DAY after I watched another video of a man in Louisiana tackled to the ground, pinned down by two officers and THEN shot to death.

These stories aren’t unique or uncommon anymore. I remember a time when the beating of a black man during a traffic stop captured the attention of the country for months on end, now we can barely get through a news cycle before we see another one of these shootings occur and I’m ashamed to admit that the shock is beginning to wear off. And every time something like this happens I can’t help but wonder what kind of a world have I brought my children into?

policelineAnd it’s not only the rash of police officers killing black men. It’s the constant stream of mass shootings, terrorist attacks and hate crimes that fill the news every week. The world seems to be coming apart at the seams and as a parent it scares the hell out of me that things seem to be getting worse, not better. So what are we supposed to do to prepare our children for a world so filled with violence and anger? How do we explain the horrible things going on around them that defy explanation? I obviously can’t speak for all parents but I can say what our approach is.

First, we try and limit the exposure our kids have to that kind of news,  but at the same time not pretend it isn’t happening. Watching the evening news can be a depressing thing for an adult, for kids it can be downright traumatizing. But it’s impossible to shield them from all of it, so when one of my girls hears or sees something that troubles them we explain the situation and encourage them to ask us questions about what’s going on. I would rather go over it together with them than have their imaginations run wild due to not understanding the situation or hearing only part of the story.

Secondly, we explain to them that even though the news can seem overwhelmingly grim at times, the world is actually full of far more kind  people and wonderful stories than it is bad guys and misery. People helping each other and doing great things doesn’t get half the ratings for CNN and Fox News as a heartbreaking tragedy does, but if you look closely the stories are out there. The world is a beautiful place filled with amazing people. And the good far outweighs the bad.

candle

Lastly, we try and teach our girls empathy and compassion. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own little worlds and forget about or ignore what life can be like for others (especially when you’re a middle class straight white male like myself). I try and teach them to think about others and do what you can for them when you see someone who could use a helping hand. And treat everybody with the respect that you’d want to be shown yourself. These aren’t just lessons for my kids either, I definitely need a reminder now and then. A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be black, Muslim, gay, transgender or any other group that faces discrimination and hatred on a daily basis. I cannot fathom what it would be like to live in fear of being targeted for no reason other than the way you look or dress or the things that you believe in. I don’t know if there’s anything that I can do other than to offer my condolences and teach my children the values that I believe in so that hopefully their generation might do a better job than we are.


 

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