Keeping them in the dark hurts EVERYONE.
I sat my children down Sunday and told them about what happened. About what happened in our city. The city where they were born. The City Beautiful.
“More than 100 people were shot and 49 innocent people were killed in a nightclub. You know what a nightclub is, right? They were out dancing and having fun when a bad man with a gun came in and started shooting. It happened here in Orlando. Close to home. Near the SuperTarget with the escalators outside. I’m really sad. Everyone is really sad.”
I told them bad things happen. That there are bad people in the world.
I let them watch a little bit of the news coverage. But turned it off thinking, this is just TOO much for 8-year-olds to handle.
And I left it at that, hiding my own tears and sadness thinking I was protecting my children from a pain that would be incomprehensible.
You see, I’ve sheltered my kids from the big, bad world. I know they’re “young” for their age. I’ve been OK with that — I think we all want our children to be innocent for as long as they possibly can.
On Monday, I realized I’d not told them enough.
A friend posted on Facebook that she’d not told her second-grader about what happened. No judgment here. I never told my kids about Boston, Paris, etc.
But this one — so close to home — this one was different.
This one opened my eyes to my duty as a parent — the duty WE ALL have as parents.
So Monday night, I sat them back down. Together we watched a video of with the names, faces and ages of the victims. I showed them photographs from the candlelight vigil in downtown Orlando, and videos from around the world of people grieving and showing solidarity with our community.
I cried as I told them that the “bad man” targeted men who love men and women who women.
I told them that every person has the right to love whomever they want.
I told them it’s OUR job to make sure every person has that right, that means sticking up to name-calling and taking a stand against bullying.
If we don’t let our children know that there’s evil in the world, how will they recognize it when it's happening? How will they ever know how to fight against it?
“Do you know what always beats hate?” I asked.
“Love,” my son said. “Just like in Star Wars,” my daughter said.
They may be 8. But they totally get it.
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Want to open the conversation with your kids? Try these resources:
- The Human Rights Campaign has tons of information on how and when to talk to your children about gender and sexual identity.
- Try reading one of these books that address LGBT issues.
- Talk about how gay relationships work (yes, they're like straight relationships, but your kids may be hearing otherwise.)
- Introduce them to Jazz (video below), a brave transgender teen who's sharing her story with the world.