A couple weeks ago, five police officers were killed in the line of duty, in one night, in one city. It was the most deadly day for emergency responders since 9/11.
It rocked Dallas. It rocked the U.S.
The shootings were senseless. These police officers were targeted and shot because a deranged man didn’t like their color and blamed them for things that were not their fault.
Like so many other events recently, this is a national tragedy. Flags outside fly at half-staff, as they should, to honor these men.
I knew my kids would see the flags, and as they always do, ask me why they were flying half-staff. They’ve asked me that far too often lately, much more than they should have to.
So, I decided to sit down and talk with them. All of them, even the littlest ones. Because this time, it feels different. This time, it’s going to really affect them, though probably not right away. But it will, and I wanted them to be prepared.
Sometimes it’s really difficult to talk to our kids about the things happening in the world. And sometimes, I want to ignore it, and hope they don’t notice or hear about it. Sometimes I want to grab them up and hold them and shield them from all the bad all around. Because, sometimes, oftentimes, it seems as though they are being bombarded.
How do we talk to them about these things? Well, there are several articles out there on how to talk to kids about disasters and tragedies. There are segments on popular news shows with psychological experts teaching parents what to say and do. But I chose to ignore them all. I chose to be thoughtful and prayerful and listen to my instincts and the promptings I received.
We all sat down at the table and through tears, I explained the facts of what had happened. I gave the back story about how two men had been shot earlier in the week by police officers, and the two men happened to be black. I explained that in Dallas a group called Black Lives Matter was protesting those shootings and how they felt that the police unfairly target and mistreat blacks. I also told them I didn’t know if that was true or not. I explained that there was a man who purposefully targeted white police officers and shot and killed them from a near by building. But, I also explained that earlier that day, the protesters and the police were getting along so well that they actually posed for pictures together. I told them this man said he wasn’t part of that group. Those are the facts.
As I talked to them, we discussed the differing view points on the situation in our country. And, I freely admitted that I just don’t know the truth about everything, because it’s hard to find truth when “facts” are presented in such biased ways. I told them there are good people, on all sides of this issue. I tried to explain why certain groups of people feel the way they do, and tried to help them to understand. I explained that, while there are some bad ones, as in any group, most police officers are good people, who risk their lives every single day to protect us. I told them that these police officers leave their families every day, not knowing if they will return home that night. And, I told them how grateful I am to have these men and women out there protecting me.
We talked about some of the issues causing contention and problems in the world today. And I told them the answers to these things are not going to be found in Washington, D.C., or with any politician. The answers to these things are going to be found within all of us. If we treat people better, we can make our little part of the world better. I admonished them to serve and love each other, and their neighbors and friends and our community. I also talked to them about race, and I explained that the racial divide in this country is worse than it’s ever been in my life. I talked to them about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wish that one day we would all be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. I told them how important it was to be good to people, no matter their color, race, religion, gender, because we are all children of God. And isn’t that what matters? The reason I wanted to talk to my children about this is because I want them to understand that we must be the good the world needs. And if we do that, it spreads. Kindness is contagious. And while I don’t expect us to change the world, I know we can make a difference in our corner of it, and I believe it’s our responsibility to do so. The only way to combat darkness is with light. And the only way we are going to be able to combat the evils of this world is with goodness. If we are the good we want to see in the world, we will be that light. And that’s what I told my children. Be kind. Be understanding. Love each other. Be the good in the world.