Boston Marathon Tragedy Reminds Us to Stay Strong

By Gregory Keer

As we all try to work through the details of the senseless attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, it’s vital that we remind ourselves that we must be strong for our children, keep the youngest ones out of earshot and eyesight of the media frenzy, and to try to answer the inevitable questions from older children with cautiousness but also assuredness that we will keep them safe. If you wish, read a few more suggestions on how to talk to your kids during this difficult time.

I’m in the midst of teaching a novel called The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, to an amazingly insightful group of 11th grade students. We have been learning together that, despite the book’s raw depiction of the inhumanity surrounding a father and son in a post-apocalyptic world, these lead characters show remarkable sturdiness and faith in one another. The boy, it seems, has faith that there are still good people out there, even in the most bleak circumstances.

We are all on some kind of road, filled with crimes of terror, yes, but also acts of incredible love and kindness. Our kids require us to remember this.

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Taking Action Before More Children Suffer

By Gregory Keer 

In the wake after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, so many of us parents struggled to make sense of our emotions and, perhaps most important, what to do to prevent this from happening to more children. Some of us talked about more security for our schools to block deranged gunmen from ever getting in. I think that may be necessary to at least provide a sense of security for our children, who should know that adults are physically protecting them.

Many parents talked about gun control and urging our government to pass strict laws making it much harder for guns to be sold. This may not have as immediate an effect on the security of kids, but it is the right idea and one that has taken far too long to bring to the forefront of our national debates. As the President of the Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman wrote yesterday, “Why in the world do we regulate teddy bears and toy guns and not real guns that have snuffed out tens of thousands of child lives?” I believe in the Constitutional right to bear arms; I also believe that right needs to be clearly defined to provide the kind of safety that the right itself was intended to provide. Better gun laws can’t solve the situation entirely, but making them tougher — particularly where they employ improved background checks — slows down the accessibility.

Lastly, part of our debate needs to be about health care. We must have a greater emphasis on mental health and a better system to respond to caring for those who are adrift in our society. I know this is incredibly complicated, but perhaps if we normalize mental health care that allows people to affordably and regularly check in with a mental health professional like we do a physical health professional, we could have a chance at preventing “madmen” from getting to the point of such devastating actions.

I encourage your comments and hope that we will all act. We must also hug our children and talk to them about their feelings in the midst of the media storm this event has stirred up. Many of the suggestions in a previously posted item about talking to kids about disasters apply to this kind of situation, so feel free to look at that as well.

Posted in Blog, Helping Kids Understand Loss, Perspective, Talking About Disasters, Values | 1 Comment

Post Disaster Tips for SheKnows.com

In the midst of these very difficult times for people on the East Coast, Tom Riles, the founder of LifeOfDad.com, has written and promoted content to help support those enduring the disaster and the rest of us who need to understand what our fellow parents are going through. He also connected me with the editors at SheKnows.com, who asked for post disaster tips that answer the kinds of questions children are asking after the superstorm.

Posted in Blog, Parenting Stress, Talking About Disasters | Leave a comment

Talking to Your Children About Disasters

By Gregory Keer

If there’s a place in the world that is never affected by natural disasters, and the terror that these uncontrollable occurrences bring, tell me where and I’ll move there. In the meantime, my eyes and ears are taking in the reports of what the storms are doing to the East Coast and beyond. Like so many of us, I have family and friends who are without power, stranded in homes and airports, and just plain freaked out. Of particular concern is the children, who feel the least in charge at a time when nature is running amok and adults are not always at their most communicative.

Here are some thoughts on talking to your children about disasters to ease their minds, be they currently remote from harm’s way or just worried about what’s happening in the east.

1. Assure Them of Their Safety.

No parent can guarantee that they can keep their children safe from harm — but the children don’t need to know that. What they do need to know is that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe. Especially for young kid, this blanket statement will calm them, giving them a tangible answer to their chief question of whether anything will hurt them.

2. Stay Calm and Be Comforting.

Always remain calm as you explain things to them, so they do not sense any fear you might have. Couple your words with plenty of hugs and comforting touch so they sense the security blanket you really are.

3. Encourage Questions.

By all means, invite them to ask any questions they may have so they can work out their thoughts with you. If you can’t answer something, go and find an answer from an information resource, a friend, or doctor, if need be. You are your child’s protector and source of information, which is usually a lot better than the mass media, which often sensationalizes things. If you do let them watch a news report, do it in small doses and do it together so you can answer those inevitable questions.

4. Explain How Nature Works.

Nature is as beautiful as it is terrible. You don’t want your child to worry that the natural world is out to get them. So, while you can explain how hurricanes and earthquakes work, also tell them how most human beings survive and build themselves back up. In addition, discuss with them how nature creates land and life in dramatic fashion and sustains us in the quietest ways.

5. Help Them Help Others.

Children may feel powerless, not only in the face of nature, but because they are so far away from those affected. Choose a charity, be it Save the Children, the Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders, or some other organization, and have them give some of their allowance to send to those in need in the affected areas. You might even use this opportunity to teach them about the parts of this country and beyond that are impacted.

By helping your children through their own fears of disaster, you will meet one of the great tests of parenthood. Bear in mind that if all you do is tell them that you will protect them with everything in your power, you will be doing very well by your children.

Posted in Blog, Helping Kids Understand Loss, Protecting Children, Talking About Disasters | 1 Comment