For the last nine days, the television and radio news have been focused on the violent attacks in Paris. As an adult, the images are terrifying and the news overwhelming. I had to tell my husband to turn it off. “I can’t stand to hear anymore about it.” It is not that I don’t have compassion for the victims of this atrocious attack. My heart and mind just can’t take more trauma.
If the news is too traumatic for me as an adult, what must it be like to a child?
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, I heard a man call in to a radio show and tell the host that he and his five-year-old daughter had sat all day and watched the replay on television of the planes flying into the World Trade Center and its eventual collapse with people running for their lives. I was shocked to think that this man had exposed his fragile five-year-old to repeated trauma. What kind of parent does that?
Growing up, I don’t recall my parents ever talking about the Vietnam War, worry over their finances or any other adult topic. In those days, parents protected their children from information that was too much for them to understand.
Corrie Ten Boom talked about a time she asked her father a question as a young child. “Father, what is sexsin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. “It’s too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
We live in a scary world, and our children need to know that there is evil in the world and to be taught to be cautious of strangers. As parents, our job is to ensure that we give them just the little bit of age-appropriate information that they need to be safe and nothing more. When traumatic events are shown on television and our children are present, it is our job as parents to protect them. Send them out of the room, or better yet, turn off the TV. As children get older, you continue to answer their questions with age-appropriate information and conversation. You do not immerse your child in graphic television images that they are too young to comprehend.
This touching video is a wonderful example of a father protecting his child’s innocence. Please take a moment to watch.