Doulas of Raleigh Co-Owner Kelly Rutan wrote this blog last year in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. In light of the utterly heartbreaking news coming out of Las Vegas today, we thought it might be worth re-sharing. News like this can be extremely difficult to discuss with your children. But if you have older children, it is almost impossible to shield them from the news and they will probably have questions.
The horrendous brutality that happened in Orlando, Florida, at Pulse in the early morning hours of June 12 has left me speechless. Maybe speechless is not quite the right word. It has left me feeling heartbroken, angry, shocked, outraged, bereft, and a whole host of other emotions. And I am having an incredibly difficult time putting those emotions into words. I just don't know what to say.
SO IF I CAN'T EVEN PUT THIS SAVAGE ACT INTO WORDS, THEN HOW DO I TALK TO MY CHILDREN ABOUT THIS?
Unfortunately, acts of terror and acts of unspeakable horror have happened time and time again since my children have been born. But as they grow older, it becomes harder and harder to shield them from the cruelness that so often happens in our world.
When Sandy Hook happened, they were in preschool and I remember thinking that if I can just keep the news off and weep locked away in my bathroom, they will never have to know that 20 children just like them were murdered today.
But they are in elementary school now, surrounded by other children. And these children talk. They talk about overheard, adult conversations or snippets of the news and they tell their own versions - sometimes accurate, sometimes embellished.
So I have now come to the point in parenthood where I need to be responsible for telling them the hard things before they hear it someplace else.
BUT HOW DO YOU TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT HATE?
ABOUT IRRATIONAL HATRED AND INTOLERANCE AND BIGOTRY?
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE UNEXPLAINABLE TO THEM?
HOW DO YOU TELL YOUR KIDS THE WORLD IS A SCARY PLACE?
Even though these conversations are hard to have, I will not shy away from them. I will not allow someone else to control the dialogue and shape the narrative. I owe it to my children to be honest about this tragedy, even if I don't want to talk to them about it.
Of course, how you talk to your children will depend on their age and level of understanding. My children are in early elementary school. When we talk about big things, I try not to overwhelm them with too many details and only answer the question they asked.
I keep the explanations simple and if they are satisfied and stop asking questions, then I let the conversation end there. I tell them that if they want to talk about any of it more, then I am here.
If they feel fear or anxiety, I don't brush that away and tell them not to worry. Instead, I let them know they are normal to feel those things and can always talk to me or their father about them.
And when these unspeakable things happen, I am reminded that at the most basic level, there was a choice made - a choice between hate and love.
And this is the most important thing I can tell my children when something like this happens: choose love.
ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE.
I worry about the world my children will grow into. When things like this happen, I begin to despair and I feel powerless. But then I remember that I am not powerless. In fact, I have the power to change the world - one child at a time.
And so I am.
I AM RAISING MY CHILDREN TO CHOOSE LOVE.
TO CHOOSE TOLERANCE.
TO CHOOSE ACCEPTANCE AND INCLUSION.
TO CHOOSE PEACE.
And if we can all do that, then their world may not be such a scary place.