Thank you for your wise words Tatiana --
When world events are frightening and overwhelming it is a natural tendency to want to shield and protect our most vulnerable and innocent. Our strongest drive as parents is to protect. What is protection though? Is it simply ignorance? In our household we like to believe that under the umbrella of protection lies education and information. It is when we are informed and educated that we are the most protected.
Seeing our children as global citizens is also helpful as it helps widen the lens through which we view their childhood. Raising them up to be compassionate, kind, caring, selfless and hardworking happens when we allow them to engage in the world in a way that is developmentally appropriate and intentional. And part of that is involving them in historic events as a way to talk about values and principles.
I was born into the USSR and much of my childhood was spent watching my country suffer through massive bouts of political and economic instability. There were coups and wars and so much division. And yet what provided me stability and sense of peace through it all was the way my father discussed these events with my brother and I. The way he always used it as an opportunity to impart lessons about principles and values to us. The way he would educate us on history and politics, to the degree that we could comprehend it. It was so important to him that we were informed and had a developmentally appropriate understanding of events. It truly helped shape me as a person and allowed me to practice my critical thinking and craft my own view of history and current events that informs me to this day.
Now I myself am a parent. Our children are ages six and eight and though the turmoil that this country has suffered recently is not easy or fun to talk about, it is appropriate and, even more so, important. With there being so much confusion around discussing, for example, last week’s disturbing events, with children I wanted to share four simple guidelines for how to broach such a conversation. There are so many wonderful educators out there sharing helpful approaches and suggestions and I would encourage you to explore their work.
Here is what we do in our family and has worked for us:
- Allow children time to take in the information without narration for a short and age appropriate amount of time (I would suggest no more than 15 minutes)
- Open up the space for questions of any sort that they may have and proceed to answer factually, honestly and calmly
- Use a certain question to spark a discussion around a family value or principle as a way to make this experience feel intentional, helpful and educational
- Take a moment at the end to assure them that they are safe, loved and that you as a parent[s] are always there for comfort or to answer any further questions they may have
Going into such conversations with clarity around your family’s value system, a calm presence and ways of reassuring them of their safety and security can make these conversations a really meaningful and fruitful experience for everyone. The more our children are informed, guided and assured the more they are able to be a helpful and wonderful presence in this world. And isn’t that our hope for each of our children? As Frederick Douglass wisely said - “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Let us arm them with knowledge, history and values and principles that will serve them well going into the world.
- Tatiana Mikhailovna
You can find Tatiana on Instagram here at the username: @tatianamikhailovna