This year, we seem to face a different tragedy each morning as the news is relayed through our internet browser, the radio or morning television. I thought I would share with you some thoughts I have had over many years in schools which includes advice from child psychologists about how to parent wisely when news services are so overt and descriptive. This week, we have heard about another mass shooting in America which shockingly occurred in a church service and closer to home the unbelievable sadness of a school in Sydney where a car crashed into a classroom killing 2 children but also affecting the school community in immeasurable ways. I spoke to one Grace parent who had to calm his child after she heard about the boys being killed in their classroom because she immediately became fearful of her own safety at Grace Lutheran Primary School due to this tragedy. As parents and teachers how we guide young minds and hearts through these awful events is a crucial part of our role in our children’s lives. I share the following hopeful it is helpful to all parents and carers at Grace.Firstly, my husband and I made it a rule in our home that our children did not watch the news until they were about 10 years of age and then only if one of us was sitting with them to ‘deconstruct’ the events. I cannot stress how important this is. The graphic nature and catastrophizing of news services can really scare young children so if you or someone in your home watches the news every morning, afternoon or evening, be very careful where your children are because even nearby, they will be drawn to the scary events being shown. We also did not insist on them watching a news service but only sat with them if they expressed an interest which to be honest did not occur often as they had many other interests!
Secondly, if a child is exposed to a tragedy in the world, the first thing to think about is that children have no concept of how big our world is and how far away many of these events occur. For the most part, we live in a very safe part of the world where terrible events are infrequent and certainly not on a scale of our friends in the northern hemisphere. Even when my children did watch the news, we would often get out a globe or a map and talk with them about where the event occurred even to the extent of working out how many hours it would take to fly there. Being really clear about this, helps children to feel safer in their home environment.
Lastly, I recommend a quiet chat time or prayer time as you sit around a family table together or when you put your children to bed. Giving freedom to children to express in a safe environment their fears is a good practice to have in families. In Lutheran theology, we talk about the 2 kingdoms of God. According to Luther’s teaching, God rules the world through the secular by means of laws and rules and in his second kingdom also through his spiritual which involves the gospel and His grace. Our world is a fallen world due to sin so bad things are going to happen, but God works amongst tragedies using His people and his Holy Spirit to minister and help. When my daughters were young, I would spend five minutes or so with them in their safe, cosy bedrooms at night lying down with them and saying a prayer together and trust me as they grew to be teenagers and adults, they even asked for this security from time to time when they had to face difficult exams or a job interview or other stressful times. I very strongly believe that it is our job as parents to give our children a safe haven where they know they can return no matter how old they are or what they face or what they experience in the world.
My prayers are with the school community at Banksia Road Public School in Sydney. For the families who lost their little boys apparently just working quietly at their desks, for the other children injured, for the staff who will be dealing with the aftermath and the many families so frightened by this event, I pray for God’s peace to surround them. May God also continue to protect the community at Grace Lutheran Primary School and all our school communities so that children can feel safe and secure at their school and that people accessing schools are mindful of the safety and preciousness of the young children in our care.
Thank You P&FOn a more pleasant note, I would like to thank Bec Crew and Tina Smith-Roberts who organised on behalf of the P&F a beautiful lunch for our staff on World Teachers’ Day. Also arranged was an individual, named small gift for every staff member at Grace. We felt really appreciated and loved and we really valued the efforts made by our P&F for our benefit.
Trudy Moala, Principal