Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

  • Explaining Osama to Kids

    Date: 2011.05.05 | Category: Kids, Parenting, Writing | Response: 1

    Being a mother means I have to have difficult discussions with my children.

    I had to explain to my – then six year old – son, Harrison, how he was about to become a big brother and how the baby got inside my belly. It was an age appropriate discussion, of course, but still brutal.

    I had to answer truthfully that – yes – everyone does have to die.

    And I had to explain to Harrison what happened on 9-11 and who Osama Bin Laden was. I wasn’t planning on explaining 9-11 to Harrison just yet. I knew this could be scary and confusing for him. But with the news of Bin Laden’s death being splattered all over the place this week, there was no avoiding this topic. And I am of the opinion that my children should learn hard truths from their parents.

    So I explained 9-11 to Harrison. Carefully. With Sensitivity. But with truth. His questions and comments were rather interesting to me, and shed an interesting perspective on the inner workings of a child. I expected Harrison would react to the 9-11 story differently than an older child would, but some of the discussion points might surprise you.

    They crashed planes into buildings?

    I could see his eyes widen in fear. Is air travel safe? Will I be in danger next time we fly to Disney World?

    Kids have fears. The world around them is scary. It is our job as parents to help them feel safe in this crazy world we live in. I explained to Harrison that airlines have tight security now. Despite the fact that I personally think U.S. airline security is nothing more than security theatre, I reassured him that security does a great job keeping bad guys off planes. It reassured Harrison that airport security would prevent anything like this from happening again. Did I lie? Yes! Airport security cannot prevent terrorism. We all know that. But there is no reason for Harrison to worry about this.

    Were you alive when this happened?

    I had already told Harrison that the events of 9-11 happened ten years ago. Harrison is quite astute at math so, of course, he knew I was alive. But I think the concept that this tragedy could have happened so recently didn’t register with him. This is history. And history is…well… history. As in – a long time ago. This is a great reminder that kids live in the moment. It’s all about today. Forget about yesterday, and I don’t really care about tomorrow.

    They killed Osama?

    I was worried about this one. I don’t like teaching my children that revenge is good. If Harrison’s little brother thwacks him, it doesn’t give him the right to thwack him back. Isn’t that what we teach are kids? So killing Osama – essentially an act of revenge – was a hard topic to discuss, never mind the fact that we are talking about murder, guns, blood, gore…. all concepts that are not necessarily appropriate for an eight year old.  So this was a really sensitive topic. Our conversation went like this:

    Me: “Do you think we should have killed Osama or should we have put him jail for the rest of his life?”

    Harrison pauses with a look of concentration on his face. After a few moments he asks, “He was responsible for killing thousands of people, right”?”

    Me: “Yes.”

    Harrison dazes out the window. His eyes squint and his face tightens. He turns back to me, “I think killing him is a fair trade.”

    I was surprised by this matter-of-fact response. But his explanation was rather  interesting.

    Harrison: “If we put him in jail for the rest of his life, then his terrorist friends would try to break him out of the jail. They would probably come with guns and try to rescue him. Killing him is better because now we know he can’t break out of jail and do more bad things.”

    Isn’t it interesting how a kids imagination plays out like an action movie? The idea of Osama’s goons breaking him out of prison reads like a movie plot.

    But this is a writer’s blog, right? I’m a mom before I’m a writer, and this post is to help other parents who may need to explain these events to their own children. By the way, there is a great Brain Pop that helps explain all of this. Watch it with your kids.

    But why is this important for the Middle Grade writer? Remember, you need to know your audience, and if you are writing for the MG market, your reader may not react to a circumstance as you might expect. So reach out and give your reader a hug. They might need it.


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