Helping children to cope with the inexplicable

Part of the partnership between educators and parents involves helping children develop their understanding of themselves and their relationship with the world they live in. It’s a big task but I think overall teachers and parents as a collective group do a darn good job of it. Between the exploration of amazing scientific phenomenon, learning and playing with languages, engaging in many artistic pursuits, exploring spirituality (in some cases) and all of the rich opportunities that learning in its various forms presents, children have the chance  to begin to develop an incredible awareness of their world.

But how do we help them to understand what is seemingly inexplicable, even to adults?

This morning we woke up to the horrific news of the Boston Marathon bombings. Images of smoking buildings, terrified and bloody people, and a blood-stained street flashed across our television, computer and mobile device screens all day. They will continue to do so for days and weeks to come as the fall out continues.

On social media there has been an outpouring of grief, condolences, prayers and expressions of disbelief from across the world. Just like the recent Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, there has been coverage in such a way that did not even exist on September 11, 2001.

Meanwhile in Iraq, 50 people have been killed and 300 injured in 30 bomb explosions in the past 24 hours. Of course, the coverage of this has paled in comparison to that of the events in the United States. Perhaps this is because Iraq seems so distant and different from our home compared to the USA – the streets of Boston could have been the streets of a city here in Australia. But it is still horrific violence.

Whether in Iraq or in Boston, there are only two words that go some way to explaining such events. They are words that are used far too flippantly in our day-to-day language but that also carry with them a certain ambiguity that prevents being able to fully understand them.

Hatred and evil.

So how do we even begin to understand or cope with this? And how do we help our students and children to do so?

We focus on the love and the good in the world.

We remind ourselves and them that, as comedian Patton Oswalt wrote in response to today’s events, “good will always outnumber evil.”

We help them to see that even in the most horrific of situations, “you will always find people who are helping.” (Fred Rogers)

We give them  time to talk and to ask questions. And we are honest in our responses.

We make sure they know that they are loved completely and unconditionally. Our young people are growing up in a world and time characterised by an incredible uncertainty. We need them to have a sense of safety and security both emotionally and physically in order to endure the uncertainties of life.

And in our incredibly busy lives, we take the time to be grateful for our own lives and for our loved ones. Because that love is what matters the most in life. And hatred and evil may hurt us, but they can’t put an end to love.

Love conquers all.



One response

  1. Hi Mel.
    I am sitting in Christchurch Airport reading this as Sam & I wait to fly home. It brought tears to my eyes.
    As you said, what has happened both in Boston & Iraq is completely inexplicable. I find myself wondering what the train of thought that goes through these people’s heads is like. I can’t even imagine it.
    You & Sam were kids at the time of 9/11. Only 3 years later I let you get on a plane & fly all the way to Italy without us. I won’t say I wasn’t nervous about it. To be honest, I spent the next 2 months worrying about what could happen. It was the same when Sam went 2 years later. But I believe that we had spent the years since 9/11 trying to do those things that you mentioned above. We had to give you the opportunities to expand your horizons & not let the extremists in this world stop you from doing that.
    As Patton Oswalt said “Good will always outnumber evil”. There were far more good people trying to help others yesterday than there probably were actual bombers.

    I love you, Sam & Dad completely & always will.


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