Parenting the Apocalypse Du Jour In Three Not-So-Easy Steps

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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16 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    I’ve always found it useful to stop often to ask kids what they thought you have been telling them. Parents assume their kids understand explanations when they often don’t. So many times kids i’ve worked with told me they didn’t understand what their parents rules were or some explanation and the parents were sure the kids understood it. Also ask kids if they want more information often. Parents tend to keep explaining after kids have all the explanation they need at that time.Report

  2. Chip Daniels says:

    When I was 7 or 8, I saw a newspaper with photos of Vietnam casualties and asked my mom where Vietnam was.

    She tried to soothe me by waving her hand vaguely toward the hills that separating us from the San Fernando Valley and saying “Oh, its way over there”.
    For the longest time I literally thought the war was being waged just over the hill. The hill over which my dad drove to work each day.

    Moral: Kids don’t always understand what we say the way adults do. On the other hand, I grasped from her tone and attitude that it was nothing to worry about, so I didn’t either.Report

  3. “You know how when Dougie gets frustrated he screams and breaks things, and we give him a time out until he can calm down?”

    “Yeah. And then he cries because he’s sorry for how he acted, and we tell him we still love him, even if we don’t always love what he does. But like you always say, he’s only two and he’ll grow out of it.”

    “Exactly. Now picture that instead of two he was 73.”Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    “Your child lives in the age of Google. Especially if they are old enough to have their own smart phone or computer, you not only have a child, but a real time fact checker.”

    I thought about this recently and then realized how many kids who I knew who believed in Santa and had smart phones. Kids aren’t all that into fact checking these days.Report

  5. Kazzy says:

    This is all good advice. Another piece I’d add is to try to suss out what they are really asking. A young child asking, “Will there be a war?” likely isn’t asking will there be armed conflict between militaries somewhere else in the world. They’re far more likely to be asking, “Do I need to worry about anything? Is anything going to happen to me or you?” This is where finding a middle ground between giving them the truth — or, more accurately, not directly lying — while not giving them more information than they need or can process.

    So I might respond to that question with, “It sounds like you’re worried that something bad might happen. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in Iran but what I do know is that you are safe here at home, you are safe at school, you are safe when you’re with me, and that isn’t going to change because of what’s happening over there.”Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      This is very like the advice Tolkien have about reading children fairy tales. If they ask whether dragons are real, tell them that there are none in England today.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’m glad I’m not a parent, because I wouldn’t know how to follow the “don’t lie” advice. A parent can’t really know that the child is safe and will remain safe. It’s at least a possibility that a war with Iran could somehow escalate, in some way, into a nuclear confrontation with Russia, which could have very real effects over here. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

      I’m not saying we should tell children about such (hopefully remote) possibilities. But I am saying that there may come a time when it’s appropriate to lie outright about what could happen. Or maybe I’m wrong, or maybe if I were a parent, I’d be able to thread the needle better.

      I don’t, by the way, say any of this as a criticism of others’ parenting choices. Parenting is a hard job.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Its a lot of needle threading, but kids have large eyeholes.

        “Will Daddy die?”
        “Daddy is here to love you and take care of you and I will make sure you’re always loved and taken care of.”

        Did I lie? No. Did I terrify the child that I will eventually die and have no idea when? Also no.Report

        • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

          Thanks for answering. It just seems really hard to me (and I’m not one of those who believes in “the truth at all costs.”)

          Still, it still seems to me like lying because the function and intent is to deceive. Maybe it’s justified lying, but I find it to be lying nonetheless.Report

  6. I can’t comment on whether this is good advice for parenting (it seems like it is, but I’m not a parent, so I don’t really know), but I’d like to underscore your point no. 2. It does seem helpful, at least to me, to know the basics of what is behind all this, even though I’m certainly not an expert on the topic. That doesn’t mean things aren’t bad now or worse than before, but it helps to know the precedents.

    In a wider sense, though, I have to admit I’m not sure why it helps.Report

  7. Chip Daniels says:

    Well, apparently the administration’s National Security team is addressing the nation…

  8. Great piece! Really enjoyed it!Report