Traumatic events such as the recent Newtown, Conn. shooting incident deeply effect each of us. We, as parents, need support in working through a myriad of feelings such as sorrow, grief, anger, and confusion. Parenting expert Ms. Eileen Pisula shares with us on how to, and help your child, deal with the tremendous vastness of coverage and information from the mass media.
TMI? Dealing with “Too Much" Information about the Newtown Shooting
~ by Eileen Pisula
Even as our hearts go out to the parents of the victims of the devastating tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut; parents everywhere grapple with one question, “WHAT do I say to my child?”
Knowledge is a double edged sword – handled correctly it empowers, otherwise it destroys.
In this media dominated, “information” age, news travel at the speed of light and the over-sharing of information happens so often that there is even an abbreviated form of it, “TMI – too much information.”
Today’s parents pride themselves on raising a “socially aware” child, on keeping their children informed, and most of all, that there is nothing they cannot talk to their children about. For many, this information overload is the “new normal.”
Childhood is not a dress rehearsal for adulthood
I would ask parents to remember that while our children may be intelligent, look grown-up and appear worldly in their views, they are not miniature adult. They are children. Children who often do not have the emotional and mental maturity needed to process much of the information being bombarded at them on a daily basis.
I cannot say often enough, childhood is not a dress rehearsal for adulthood. It is a very precious time for them to learn to make sense of the world around them.
Yet, it is also, totally unrealistic to try to raise our children in a bubble. They are going to be exposed to things from the media, playground talk and such.
So, how do we deal with information of such a devastating proportion?
My personal opinion is that if your child knows nothing about it, keep it that way. For children who may have heard of it through their friends and such, be the safe harbor they can come to.
Not all children will come to you with questions, so it is important to watch your child closely. They normally show their mental and emotional state in their play, behavior and attitude. When your child acts out, it is tempting to say they are going through a difficult time and give them some leeway, but it is specifically at times like these that children need to feel secure about the boundaries of their world; but please do be gentle in the way you reinforce those boundaries.
Maintain routines as it gives your child a sense of normalcy.
Offer them the wisdom and reassurance that most people are good. It is better to not give such situations too much spotlight as they likely to take on a life of their own inside of a child’s active imagination. At times like these, less is definitely more. It is wiser and more important to listen deeply and make our loving protection felt than to delve into lots of explanation. When enveloped in the warmth of a calm parental environment, most children are able to work through difficult situations.
Some children may show fear of going to school, the first thing to do is to acknowledge and validate their fear. Reassure them that such incidences are anomalies, and talk to your child’s school, maybe something can be done on a whole school basis, such as taking a pledge to uphold peace. Go back to your personal moral and religious beliefs, share a prayer; talk about a divine protection.
Most of all, be aware of your own state of mind and your actions, they tell your child far more than your words ever will. Excessively long and tight hugs may make your child sense that you are afraid that they are in danger.
One of the questions I often get is, where is the “too much” line”?
Before a parent can decide, I would suggest they ask themselves five simple questions.
- 1. How does this information make me feel?
- 2. How would a child that age feel and cope?
- 3. What is the motivating factor for my wanting to share this information?
- 4. What are the consequences of sharing or not sharing?
- 5. How much should I share?
If your answer to the first question is negative, stop to see it from a young child’s perspective. Why do you want to share this information? Is it for the benefit of your getting a chance to “off-load” or getting out of making a difficult decision? Or, is it genuinely for the child’s benefit? Does your child’s life become better from knowing about this information? How much can your child handle?
As you answer your questions, trust in your own wisdom, and it will become clearer to you how to move forward.
About Eileen Pisula
Eileen Pisula, a mother of two grown-up children, received her professional qualifications at the NIE (Singapore Nanyang Technological University,) ECE Institute (University of Melbourne) and PCI (Seattle Pacific University)
Eileen’s favorite phrase “I would be perfectly happy just being a professional student for the rest of my life” gives us an idea of her passion for learning; and she spends much of her spare time reading or doing short courses to keep herself current on the latest research findings about brain development and families dynamics. Her other love is cooking, and she has included it very successfully into past programs to help family members to make connections with each other.
In addition to working in the US, she has also worked in countries in the Australia/Asia Pacific regions. Having worked with families and children of all ages for over thirty years, her extensive experience includes classroom teaching, administering schools, working with youth and families at risk, teacher training, and parent coaching.
Currently, a parent coach and the program advisor of an after-school program in Arcadia, Eileen has an intimate understanding of the challenges facing parents with very traditional values who are raising children in the more permissive American society, and a media dominated world.
Conversant in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, Eileen has dedicated much of her life to helping parents to connect to their core values, and understand that their influence and impact on their child and world they live in cannot be overstated.
Note: La JaJa Kids invites various specialists, including physicians, scholars, seasoned teachers and parenting experts share their professional insights with us. These information is for your reference only; La JaJa Kids is not held liable for the contents published above.