The events of the past few weeks have been challenging for all of us. Whether it is from natural or man-made causes, witnessing fellow humans suffering is hard. I find it even harder as a parent. When tragedy occurs, we struggle with how to talk to our kids. How to make any kind of sense of acts that seem unthinkable.
Psychologists offer us tips on how to discuss topics in age-appropriate ways, but some actions defy logic and comprehension at any age. Some kids ask a lot of questions when they are scared or confused. Some shut down completely. Many can discuss uncomfortable topics at a later date, when they’ve had time to process. It can be challenging for parents to know when to delve deeper, and when to sit in silence.
Many of us also struggle to stay hopeful for our children’s futures. Natural disasters and acts of evil have always been part of the human experience, but we feel them more deeply now, thanks to constant news and social media. We walk around with devices in our pockets that can deliver negativity and stress 24/7.
I believe we must actively work at staying positive – for ourselves, and for our children.
I’m not saying we bury our heads in the sand and try to avoid the realities of our world. That’s simply impossible, and impractical. But while we discuss the challenges and sadness that are a part of everyone’s lives, let us bring to the forefront the idea that there is a lot of good that almost always comes from the bad.
Let’s remember to tell our kids, repeatedly:
There are way more good people in the world than there are bad. Find pictures and stories of the people lined up for hours to donate blood. The medical workers who have volunteered to fly to distant places and provide care and comfort to strangers. Tell them they can be one of those people someday, no matter what job they have, or where they live. Point out the people running towards danger, and express your gratitude for their bravery.
There are things to appreciate about life, every single day. Even when – and particularly when – things seem bleak and difficult. Instill in your children a sense of gratitude for laughter, a hug, a warm meal, and a dry, soft place to sleep at night.
We are all the same – vulnerable human beings who deserve kindness. When a tragic event is unfolding before our eyes, it is a stark reminder of our susceptibility – and the ultimate equalizer. Disaster doesn’t care about the color of our skin, our sexual orientation or our political leanings. Humans are humans, and we all need to treat each other humanely. Full stop.
Heroes walk among us every day and everywhere. That young man who cuts you off in traffic? In a heartbeat, he could be the one carrying you or your child to safety. That woman who is blocking your way into a building when you are running late? She could be someone donating money to a relief organization for your city next month. People are amazingly generous at the most critical times. Let’s strive to see each other in that light at all times.
That old saying – “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is more timely than ever. It’s so very easy to get bogged down with the annoyances and constant challenges in our lives. Life can seem like an endless competition and minor details get magnified until they consume far too much of our mental energy. When we witness legitimate crises, we remember and re-focus on the big picture: family, friends and health.
As parents, we can and must talk about the bad while at the same time, help our children focus on the good.
Let’s build in them the belief and the strength that they can, and will be, a part of that goodness.
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two adult-ish kids and 1 delightful dog. She lives in Arizona, teaches Health and Wellness classes, and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. You can find her writing on Grown and Flown, Blunt Moms, and on random scraps of paper around her house. Facebook https://www.facebook.com/marybeth.loydbock Twitter https://twitter.com/publichealthmom Instagram https://instagram.com/mbbock/