Family Forum: Shielding Kids From Scary News?

Is it possible to keep kids in the dark when tragedy strikes or do you educate them about what's happening in the world?

Death, destruction and violence....it's all over the news.

Horrorific images of the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan, bloodshed from the fire fight that brought down Osama bin Laden and other tragic stories can be found in our newspapers, blasted across TV screens in our homes and circulating around the Internet.

We can cover our kids eyes and ears when we see these things, but can we really keep them in the dark when it comes to the bad that happens in the world?

After speaking with a local first grader - who despite efforts from adults around her to shield her from the gruesome realities of the recent natural disaster in Japan, knew quite a bit about the death and destruction that had occurred - it became quite clear that kids today know more than we might hope. Parents and teachers have less control over what information children are exposed to than ever before.

So should we educate our kids about the world's evils or continue to try our best to shield them from the harsh realities to preserve their innocence as long as we can? And what happens when they do come to us with questions?

Tell us: How do you handle this dilemma with your kids? Did you tell them about Osama bin Laden or the tsunami in Japan? Have they come to you questions and if so, how did you respond?

You'll see members of our Family Council, an advisory group comprised of smart and engaged parents from the neighborhood, responding to these questions below in the comments section and we invite you and your circle of friends to join in the discussion by doing the same.

Family Forum is a feature on Patch that invites local parents to discuss issues that matter to them.

Wondering who are these local parents we tapped for our Council? Meet the members:

  • Janet Grech - A Malverne mom with children enrolled at Our Lady of Lourdes School.
  • Laura Murray- A Lynbrook mom who grew up in Malverne and is the current president of the Mothers of Malverne. She has two young children not in school yet.
  • Gina Genti - A Malverne mom with two boys in elementary school.
  • Andrea Shinsato- A West Hempstead mom with a 2-year-old and one child enrolled in Chestnut Street School.
  • Theresa Walz- A West Hempstead mom whose children attend Cornwell Avenue School and West Hempstead Middle School.
  • Loraine Magaraci- A West Hempstead mom with kids enrolled in West Hempstead Middle School and High School.
  • Audrey Diaz Robles- A new mom to a 6-month-old baby.
  • Dawn Wladyka- A Malverne mom with two students attending Our Lady of Lourdes School and one enrolled in Grace Lutheran PreSchool.
  • Eileen Lynch O'Hara - A Malverne mother with three children enrolled at Saint Anne's School in Garden City and one child at the Brother Fox Latin School at Kellenberg Memorial High School.
  • Maria Salcedo-Hafker - A Malverne mom who sends her children to Maurice W. Downing School and Davison Avenue School.
  • Lori Lang- A Malverne native and mother of four whose children attend St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead.
  • Jennifer Johnson- A West Hempstead mom with one child attending Cornwell Avenue School and another in day care.

Family Forum will also be the place for you to pose your questions about parenting topics and local issues that affect families. Where can we get information on local flu shot clinics for children? How do we talk to our children about peer pressure, bullying and protecting themselves online? How can we help our children's schools weather their budget cutbacks?

Have a topic or question you'd like to bring before the Family Council and fellow Patch readers? E-mail Tara.Conry@Patch.com

Lori Hunt-Lang May 04, 2011 at 07:26 PM
After the disaster in Japan, I explained to them that natural disasters and bad weather sometimes cause really bad destruction to countries and even states in the USA. We talked about how hard it would be to live with no power, no water and not know where some of your family and friends might be. We focused on how we can help - we made a family donation to the Red Cross and our kids had a fundraising dress down day at their school. We also talked about having an emergency kit for our house - and went out and bought all the items that I saw on a GMA tv report. Regarding Bin Laden, I have not let my kids watch the news about it at all. They wanted to know why so many people are talking about USA and the Twin Towers again and what that means. We told them that there are people in this world who do not like people because of their religion and also because we are Americans. My 7 year old said, "Why, we always help everyone?" From the mouths of babes, but we did explain that our police and people in the army keep us safe every day and work as hard as they can to keep bad people from hurting anyone else in the world - and especially on USA soil.
janet grech May 05, 2011 at 12:46 AM
We try to explain things to our children in simple terms just so they get the basic gist of what is happening. We usually don't try to sugar-coat things, but we do tell them and keep it as simple as possible. We also feel the same when someone passes away. We don't try to hide it but we explain that they went up to heaven. Our kids have usually accepted our answers after asking a few questions and then moved on.
Gina Genti May 05, 2011 at 04:15 PM
I have found my children to be comfortable and understanding of news related to natural disasters. They understand that it is beyond any control and have developed a healthy respect for it's natural power and I share this type of news easily. When it comes to current events from around the world I struggle with what's aprropriate and more importantly what level of understanding they have. I lean towards using differences in cultures to try and expalin why certain events happen or why people say things. It's easy to explain different upbringings and traditions and how they effect behavior. It's nearly imposible for me to explain why those differences would compel someone to want to murder people because they have different beliefs or traditions as in the case of Bin Laden and Islamic Extremists. We have discussed the sybolism of destroying the WTC and what it means to Americans and also to terrorists and have talked about idealogical differences. What most concerns me is I find they can sit and watch a news report with me as they have many times this week but they don't ask questions about what they hear. When I see the confusion on their face or the wheels turning I begin to question them and how they feel or what they are thinking. I am most comfortable with this because I don't think I'm overloading them with info they can't understand and it gives me an opportunity to accurately inform them if neccessary.
Dawn Wladyka May 18, 2011 at 02:17 PM
I tend to always have the news or talk radio on, so the kids hear alot. As a result, I explain alot because I'd rather they hear things from me than half understand what they hear on the news. We are fomer residents of Battery Park City, and my two oldest kids have pretty much always known about 9-11 and what happened in our old community b/c I made it a point to tell them. They know what happened to Osama and are happy to know he can't hurt anyone else. So far, they don't seem to exhibit any fear that they will be hurt by someone like him, which is good b/c we are in the city alot and I want them to live their lives free from fear. The one thing that did seem to freak them out recently was news of dangerous flooding. I quickly explained to them that we were nowhere near where it was happening, but do need to support, with prayers and sometimes money, people affected by natural disasters.
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