How to Talk to Kids About ISIS

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2015-11-22 – I’ve been seeing a lot of stories that ask the question “how should we talk to kids about ISIS?”

I’ve always wondered about these kinds of stories. How do we talk about sex to kids? How do we talk about war? I never had any trouble talking to my kids about any of these things.

I remember September 11, 2001. My boys were in fourth and second grade. They were in a new school. It was a magnet school and not very close to home. We headed to the school as soon as we could after the news broke so they wouldn’t be left alone in case other parents were pulling their kids out (which they were). This was an attack on our country. Big cities just like our own. What would we tell them?

It wasn’t a problem. They understood the crisis at their level. I was more freaked out than they were. When we heard a siren, my younger son Cal calmly said that the siren must be because of the plane that crashed near his school (he interpreted a “plane crashing near Pittsburgh” as a “plane crashing near Pritzker,” which was the name of his school.

We talked about why it happened, as near as we could say at the time. We talked about the importance of holding to our values and not going crazy. We talked about the sadness. We hid nothing. They were no more traumatized than we were.

“How should we talk to kids” stories are not really about talking to kids. Talking to kids is not a problem. The problem is: how should we talk to ourselves. If we are wallowing ourselves in excessive and mindless fear, then maybe talking to our kids is a problem. How can we teach them values when we ourselves abandon our values at exactly the moment they count?

It’s like talking to kids about sex. It’s only tough if you don’t live your stated values.

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