Growing up in the Northcountry of New York State, my friends and I equated Orlando, Florida with Kid Heaven. We imagined warm weather, blue skies, white beaches, and, of course, Disney World. Orlando was Fun. Orlando was Good. Orlando was Safe.
In the last few days, however, Orlando has joined a tragic list that includes Newtown, Virginia Tech, Charleston, and San Bernardino – names that can now tighten our stomachs and lower our gaze.
While we learn the details of the Orlando nightclub shooting on Sunday, we adults think about gun violence, mental illness, politics, terrorism, and extremism. We mourn, we rage, we give, we worry and, of course, our children are watching us. They can feel that something is not right. They can sense that something has happened. And for older children, they will see and hear details that could be very confusing.
If they are like my children, they will ask questions, they will want to know what happened, and they will demand explanations. But one thing I have learned about my two boys is that all they really want to know are two things:
They are Safe.
The World is Good.
If I can assure them that they are safe and the world is good, then they won’t need to know how many people died, who the shooter was and what was his motivation. They will know that I am there for them, that all the adults they know and love will protect them, and that even though the world contains great pain, it is good. It is deeply good.
So that is what happened this morning. On the way to their two summer camps, we talked about Orlando. I told them that the subject would probably come up. I told them that people were killed and that we don’t know all the information yet to know about why it happened. I told them that people around the world are sending love and healing prayers to Orlando. I also told them that they did not need to listen to other people’s opinions if they didn’t want to. Because people will have opinions.
My boys are 14 and 11 so I can give them information and reassurances, but they also have heard many stories that help them feel safe and reassure them that the world is good. I want this for them because the truth is – right now – they are safe. And I deeply know that though there is great pain, the world is good.
Here are some stories that can help:
Lastly, in my experience, stories can be much more effective than explanations. I don’t think you need to follow up with a discussion or make analogies with stories - just let them sink in and become a part of your child’s picture of a safe, good world.
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.