It may be because my kids are young (almost 5 and almost 3) that this feels like a relatively easy issue for me. With respect to Tralee Pearce’s article, I feel no real compulsion to expose them to upsetting news at this time. They can’t do much with the information – including process it well – so the news would likely to scare and sadden them without benefit.
My censored approach to what the children receive at this young stage is deliberate. We don’t watch TV or have cable (just an antiquated box for the for the occasional video). Radio commentary is sometimes on, but intentionally, so the kids don’t hear much scary stuff from that source either. My husband and I don’t discuss difficult world affairs in front of the kids.
I believe in and try to implement a simple parenting approach, seeking to enrich childhood with the things we consider most valuable, in part by losing the distractions and complications that interfere with our fundamental goals. In the book called Simplicity Parenting, author Kim John Payne discusses the stress and overload that children experience when they are given too much, be it things or scheduling or adult worry and information. I agree with this, but I didn’t have to read it to feel its truth intuitively. I’m all for an informed and involved citizenry, and I wouldn’t shelter my children from world tragedy forever even if it were possible. But for me, young childhood is not the right time for this transition.
My decisions are made easier to some degree because my older son seems to have an overtly sensitive temperament. He’s the (only) kindergartener in the theatre who cried with fear at the ghost story scene of A Year With Frog and Toad, who didn’t want to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas video at school, who will refuse to read books (that I’ve already tried to filter) because of a depiction of someone or something unkind (and it doesn’t matter if there’s a happy ending). It’s clear to me that certain things are just harder for him to absorb because he feels them more deeply.
It’s true that I sometimes gently try to expand my son’s tolerances, but for the most part I respect my son’s boundaries. It’s not coddling; it’s not preventing him from being able to operate in society. It’s respect – that there is a time and place for everything. I’m motivated partly because I was a ‘sensitive’ child too (and not especially respected for it), partly because my love for him outweighs any social expectation of (boy) children, and partly because I think the world would be a distinctly better place if we all had weaker abilities to adapt to what ugliness we find there.
My son has had a little exposure to the news of Japan in school and all appears well. When I baked brownies to help fundraise, we talked about why in terms like this: There is a place called Japan, far away from here. They had a very bad storm, and some people’s homes were damaged and they lost their things. We’re baking to make money to give to those people, to help them buy food and other things so they can feel better.
I also like this blog post, where a fellow blogger discussed the topic of Japan through crafting, giving her children something tangible and positive to do along with recieving the news.
Nathalie’s post from earlier this week about her immobilizing fear of the Yorkshire Ripper also gave me pause. I have no comparable memory of an external fear like that. But when I was two years old, my father passed away and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the legacy of this event coloured my entire childhood. The sadness of our home, the weight of his passing, was everywhere.
There are myriad ways to injure a childhood, and many of them are well beyond our control, whether they happen halfway across the world or in our own backyards. For the few things within our grasp, I gratefully take the opportunity to protect the sanctity of childhood’s small window. It will close soon enough.