A few mums have asked me how they should speak with their children about the horrific attack in NZ. They said they wanted to protect their kids by keeping it from them but with the media overload it is so very hard to shield them from the enormity of what happened and the fear associated with it.
Kids are like little sponges and they take it all in … the good, the bad and the ugly … and unless you have a total media ban in your home and you know their friends do too, you probably wont be able to completely shield them from the atrocities that happen in the world.
And I guess the question is Should you shield them? and to what degree?
As the parent you have the most important influence on your child. The way you react is a blueprint for how your child will react to such incidents, as you more than anything else are the role model for your child. Your reactions programme your child to react in similar ways when such events happen in the future, as your child drinks in and learns from your emotional responses, your body language, your tonality and your energetic field.
So as parents is important to recognize how we ‘really’ react in front of our kids when such traumatic events occur. It is a natural human reaction to be shocked and deeply upset by horrific events, and to feel the pain of it as it affects you in the moment. It is also ok for children to witness parents feeling their emotions and being ‘real’ … rather than wearing a mask and trying to hide them. This sends mixed messages and the kids often sense some lurking, scary feeling that something is just not right.
However there is a big difference between feeling emotions authentically and freely in the moment compared to staying stuck in the anxiety, pain and helplessness of what happened and reliving the story of it over and over. Repeated exposure to the events in the media is not healthy for kids, nor is hearing stories of doom and gloom or projecting worry into the home environment. All of this leads to feelings of disempowerment and helplessness and becomes a breeding ground for fear and anxiety in your child.
So how do we respond healthily when such horrific events happen?
We are all wired differently depending on our past experiences and how this was modeled to you as a child. You could feel upset, scared, angry, repulsed, helpless, terrified or a mixture of all of these … and more. These are all natural, normal human emotions and it is so important to allow them to be there if they arise, to feel them, to allow the body to experience them fully, so they can be processed healthily.
When your kids see you and sense you being authentic with your feeling it gives them permission to be that way themselves. Science and sages agree on the fact that if you are willing to sit in the pain of even your worst emotions, without making stories of blame or judgement in your mind, the feelings will pass through in about 30 – 90 seconds. You will then be left in a state of more clarity and openness to be with your child the way they really need. It may be an opening to discuss the topic in an age appropriate way with your child. Acknowledge your children’s feelings and thoughts, knowing that things happen that are out of our control. But rather than making disempowered stories of doom and gloom where an unknown threat is waiting just around the corner, let your kids see your deep compassion and empathy for the pain that has taken place as well as your empowered conviction that this behavior is not ok. Let your kids feel your inner strength in the knowing that they are safe and secure in their world.
As you refrain from making scary mind stories about what might happen, and instead take a few deep belly breaths … ground … and reconnect with your true self, you can then connect with your child in the love, safety and comfort of this precious moment.
This is true connection and the most healing, empowering, authentic and loving space for your beautiful child.