Tragedy is an unfortunate and scary part of life.

And, as a parent, I feel like it’s even more frightening when something horrendous happens. You have the natural fear of wanting to protect your children, and then the unfortunate task of figuring out what to say to them about it.

It’s a scary truth for all parents, but one that’s uniquely challenging when it comes to kids like my youngest, who suffers from an anxiety disorder. His fears, irrational or not, are real and intense and overwhelming on a safe day. On a scary day they are worse.

My natural inclination at all times is to protect him — I am a mother; that’s what we do.

So, when news of the horrific tragedy that occurred in Orlando this past weekend made its way into my news feed I immediately thought of how to keep it from him. I wanted to shield him — to protect what’s left of his innocence at eight years old.

And (selfishly) I didn’t want to face days upon days of crying, and anxiety-filled sleepless nights. It’s exhausting parenting through these things. And (honestly) I wasn’t sure I was up for the task.

Then my son heard something outside, from another kid — an older kid — who shared only the gory, mostly inaccurate details of the event, and it sent him inside to question me, his most trusted resource.

This is how to talk to your kids about Orlando.

I can’t lie. I thought about distracting him, about pushing it off as something it wasn’t, pretending it was no big deal and telling him that he shouldn’t worry.

Only it was a big deal, and quite honestly, he should. All of us should, and especially the children.

They’re the ones we’re setting up to face a world wherein humans can’t live safely because of whom they have fallen in love with.

They’re the ones who will live in communities where violence against others will be carried out without respect or regard for human life.

They’re the ones who will witness atrocities of this nature, time and time and time again, as we all sit and cry in sadness, but refuse to stand up for change.

I want him to be prepared to face that future.

I want him to know that his mother didn’t just preach equality and acceptance and love and kindness towards people who are like us, but stood up for it, too.

I want him to know why being brave is important.

I want him to know that being proud is okay.

I want him to know that helping is possible, and that fear is no way to live.

I want him to feel empowered in the face of chaos.

I want him to know that this was wrong. And that we don’t have to be quiet about it.

So, I wasn’t. We sat down and we talked about it. As much as we could — as much as he could. I told him that man didn’t just hurt them, he hurt us.

That this fight isn’t theirs, it’s ours.

That if they can’t be free, then neither can we.

And that we can do better.

Every single one of us can do so much better.

Want to learn how you and your kids can help spread love for the victims of the The Pulse tragedy in Orlando? Check out this post: How You Can Help After Orlando.

 

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