Three Stories for Holding our Children in the Face of Terror
November 14, 2015
Helping & Healing
Last night we were having a family hang-out after dinner. My son had asked me to email out his birthday list, and just before I opened my gmail, I peeked at the tab open on Huffpost and saw the news about the Paris attacks.
I quickly scrolled to find out the basics, and closed the tab with a horrible wrench in my stomach. I took a deep breath and proceeded with the evening, trying to contain the grief I was feeling — in order to protect my children from the fresh and terrible news.
After we said goodnight to the boys, and were finally having those few minutes of adult conversation, in came my younger son, pale and trembling. He recounted how weeks ago a schoolmate had told him about ISIS videos in which people were painfully beheaded. And he was afraid.
I protect my younger son from news of that level — almost ferociously — but it’s going to come in through some crack. How can it not?
(And then there’s his incredible intuition. I had said NOTHING but still he knew what was up.)
So what do you do?
I held my guy, and told him how safe he was. (Bless our country. Bless our family's fortunate situation in it. Massive gratitude here.)
I asked him to feel the warmth of my body, and to see if he could feel the love pouring from mine into his. (I was inviting him into his body and out of his frightened mind.)
And I reminded him how loved and cared for he is. And safe.
These are fearful times — and it can be so hard to imbue our homes and parenting with a sense of deep security, when we ourselves look at the news and tremble.
Here’s where the power of story comes in.
When the stories in the news are of terror and fear, we can intentionally choose different stories to tell our children.
We have three good stories that we’ve written over the years to support children and families through times of crisis. You’ll find them all below.
Prayers to those affected by the terrorist attacks, and prayers to the world as we seek to heal and find love in the middle of great fear.
Here’s how to make use of these stories:
If your children have questions about terrorist events, share these stories with them. Don’t give them context or an explanation, just invite them to listen.
And then, when the time is appropriate, you can return to the ISIS or terrorism conversation, and help them to use the story to chase the “could bees” away and only attend to what is true for your family.
This story can help make sense when there are sudden tragic events and motivations are unclear. It replaces the need to know “why” with the assurance that the adults will do everything they can to make things right
This story is about a young girl named Lee, who loves her little black dog Prince. But one day, Prince is suddenly killed by a speeding car. The girl not only has to come to grips with the abrupt loss of her dog, but she also manages questions like “Who was it? Why didn’t they stop? How could they do it?”. And the ultimate message from her loving parents is this: We love you. It is OK to be sad. We are holding you. And we will do everything we can to prevent this from happening again.
“Denny and the Could Bee”
This story can help reassure children that wonder if dangerous things could happen to them or to people they love.
“Denny and the Could Bee” is all about the insidious nature of imagining what “could” happen. Rumors, exaggerations, fearful stories, and even simple wonderings have “Could Bees” buzzing around in them. Luckily Mr. James, Denny’s kindergarten teacher, has a way of shooing those Could Bees away and allowing the truth of the matter to become clear.
This story is from the Helping & Healing Toolbelt.
This is a story that transforms fear and worry about safety and wellbeing into an impulse to help.
It is a short story about Dennis, a happy little six year old boy who wakes one morning to see his mother listening to the radio in the kitchen. She turns it off, but Dennis can tell that something is wrong and that his mother is feeling sad – and maybe a little scared. She explains that something happened, a big storm moved through a town, and buildings were damaged and people were hurt. When she sees that this is making him feel nervous, she scoops him up and tells him,
“I know that when something like this happens – when there are very strong winds or other kinds of storms – people around the world will know about it. And do you know what they do when they find out? They will help.”
She then told him about how all the people on their street, in their neighborhood and in their town that want to make sure that he, Dennis, is safe.
“But you know what, Dennis?” his Mother asked, raising her eyebrows, “It is time for us to be the helpers. There are people that are feeling scared right now because a storm came to their house. Our house is fine and so are we. Are you ready to be a helper?”
These stories have no Sparkle advertisement – only a short copyright tag at the end. They are intended as a gift to support families who may find it useful.
Feel free to download and share or email these stories as often as you’d like. We give permission for them to be shared freely.
About the Author
Lisabeth Sewell McCann
Doer of Many Wonderful and Odd Things (including CEO)
Lisabeth Sewell McCann has worn many hats at Sparkle over the years, from Sparkle Kitchen Blogger to Editorial Director to Doer of All Odd Jobs. Her primary role is as CEO. Lisabeth and David live in Austin, Texas with their two sons.
About the Author
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.