Friday, April 19, 2013

To Share or To Shelter?

There are parents who let freedom ring in their homes, doors wide open, letting the children lead and make whatever choices they may.  Then across the street exists a breed of kids who are barely allowed to peek outside of their bedroom windows into the big bad world, for fear that it will infect them.  I, personally, teeter between sheltering my kids from the blemishes that life sometimes shows- to protect them from hurt as long as possible- or letting them in on the unfortunate truths, so that I can train them up to be brave little world changers.

To share or to shelter? Mommy conundrum.

It seems that with anything, there has to be a balance.  I am starting to realize that my 9 1/2 year old is capable of understanding more than she did in preschool, so my conversations with her are changing.  She can handle more information without overloading. Meanwhile, my almost 6-year-old still bounces through his imaginary planets often oblivious to things I notice.  While he still asks questions, they aren't usually very deep- more like, "Just the facts, Ma'am.  Just the facts."

When tragedies strike, it appears so other-worldly to our kids.  Something you read in books.  There are wars happening overseas, yet it doesn't typically interfere with their day. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.  But then they hear about a little girl from their community who dies suddenly.  They find out about a bombing in our country. This isn't normal. How do you switch from My Little Ponies and Lego-building to comprehend that?

I read a great article about discussions with kids concerning death.  While it is a bit lengthy, I appreciated it's helpfulness. When the questions come, will I be prepared? Because I am usually caught off guard when blatant curiosity bursts forth from little mouths.  It takes a minute to pull my thoughts together and respond appropriately. My eyes grow large when my children shock me with their honesty.  I can begin with a simple explanation, but their reactions may be different than I expect:
"A child may show little immediate grief, and we may think she is unaffected by the loss. Some mental health experts believe that children are not mature enough to work through a deeply felt loss until they are adolescents. Because of this, they say, children are apt to express their sadness on and off over a long period of time and often at unexpected moments ("Talking to Children about Death." 1991)."
I would rather hurry aside the yucky stuff so that we can move onto lighter pleasantries, and yet this article reminds me that, as with anything, it takes time for kids to process heavy subjects. It does for me too, really. This is bigger than a fast food, drive-thru interaction.  Talking about sad things may take a while.  Unfortunately, sad stuff and bad stuff happens, and we can't always prevent our kids from seeing it. We might as well stop pretending and face reality- slowly and gradually at their pace.

Thankfully, as a Christian, I can filter the hard truths through the lenses of hope and security in a God who loves us, who also wants justice, and who never ever leaves us alone.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose...If God is for us, who can be against us...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:28-39)."

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