Explaining Violent Incidents
Days after the Columbine shootings, my 4-year-old
son became curious about all of the activity in our house. My
husband and I had tried to keep him distracted from the news coverage
of the horrific shootings and the ringing telephone. It became
quite difficult after I began making TV appearances as an educator
with expertise in talking to children about hate. It was unavoidable
keeping the news from him. My son wanted "to see mommy on TV,"
so I arranged for him to watch one of these shows.
At first my son was mad at me because I didn't
wave at him. He will be fine, I thought. Two days later as we
were getting ready for school and work, he started to cry and
told me he couldn't go to school. What ultimately came out was
that there were "bad men at school and they have guns:"
From the earliest years of development children
are prone to make things connect and to internalize in ways that
we adults find extraordinary. Like so many other parents my experience
and years of training and working with children failed me at that
moment. What can you tell a 4year-old child about hate and discrimination?
Along with some of the other difficult issues we must negotiate
as caring parents, this particular subject can be as forbidding
as explaining a divorce. With Columbine and other violent incidents
in schools across the country, thousands of parents have reached
out to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and similar organizations
seeking a way to explain these events to their children. Basically,
parents want to know how do we teach our children not to hate,
how do we teach our children to stand up to hate, and how do we
help our children when they are victims of hate? At ADL, we know
that while we have not yet found a cure for hate, the best antidote
Next: Hate is learned and can be "unlearned"
This article originally appeared in Our Children, the National PTA Magazine,
February 2000 Reprinted by permission
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