I am a bit old school in that I really like to watch the evening news. I know there are faster ways of getting news these days, but as a child of the 80’s there is probably some nostalgia in watching TV in real time. My eight-year old daughter Gracelyn has decided she likes watching the news as well, so last Saturday night we snuggled in side- by-side to hear all about the events of the day from NBC’s Lester Holt. Immediately the news about bombings, ISIS, and death in Paris dominated the storyline. With a wrinkled brow and a look of confusion Gracelyn asked,
“Daddy what happened?”
I froze for a moment, because I was faced with a decision to make. Should I turn off the TV? Should I change the channel? Should I tell her a lie to protect her? Should I just let the news roll and allow her to figure it out?
What do we do when our kids are exposed to the worst this world has to offer?
I turned off the nightly news and said, “Gracelyn, some bad things have happened in a place called Paris, France. Some people have died, and others have been hurt very badly. What do you think we should do?”
She thought for moment, and said, “I think we should pray for them.”
Sometimes we as adults don’t know what to do with the worst the world has to offer. It can stir up fear, anxiety, or cynicism in us. I think that’s why Jesus says in one form or another, “Do not be afraid!” twenty-one times in the Gospels.
We know that love trumps fear every time, but sometimes love needs a plan.
Araya and I know we are better together, so that night with the kids in bed we came up with a plan.
1 – We decided to have a “Team Williams” family meeting the next night after dinner.
2 – We decided to preview the newscast and find a piece we could watch as a family
3 – When we watched the news piece we decided to follow the advice of Mr. Rogers who said,
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
4 – We decided to pray for everyone, including our enemies.
5 – We decided to find something practical to do for the people of Paris.
In gathering together for our family meeting each of the girls were able to find “the helpers.” Five-year old Abigail saw people protecting each other. Six-year old Lydia noticed flowers and candles, while eight-year old Gracelyn saw people hugging and praying for each other.
We are having another family meeting tonight so we can decide what we are going to do for the people of France. Write letters to the families? Send money to an agency helping victims? I don’t know what practical thing we are going to do yet, but I do know that what sociologist Brene Brown says is true:
“Kids are hard-wired for struggle.”
Kids can handle difficult things, and we can learn from them. Sometimes children have the most beautiful ideas, and they pray the most beautiful prayers, prayers that bring heaven down to earth. We certainly shouldn’t process every evil of the world with our children, but I trust you to know what they are ready for. Sometimes, love needs a plan. I’ll let you know what our plan is next Sunday, but here are two questions that might help you with your plan.
1 – Do you ever have family meetings? Consider having a time together as a family when you need to discuss something hard, or celebrate something big. No technology and no distractions. Everyone gets heard, everyone listens, and everyone is valued.
2 – Araya Sunshine and I know we are always better together. Set an appointment with your spouse or significant other and have an honest conversation about whether you are really together on your parenting.