The first where-were-you-when type of moment in my lifetime was probably the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster in 1986.
Still, I have no specific memories of my reaction to the tragedy. I think I recall teary grownups at my elementary school, and maybe some attempts at explanation, but no more than that.
In October 1987, though, when 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell into a Midland, Texas, well, I was anxious and hopeful. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I worried about what was going to happen. The images I saw on the television news left such an impression that I was interested enough, more than two decades later, to read stories about Jessica’s milestone 25th birthday.
Alice is far too young to register, much less remember the killing of Osama bin Laden, but I wonder how I would explain it to her.
I imagine similar conversations – about complicated reactions – are happening all over, including in classrooms.
Here are some thoughts that children shared.
And here is one of the many pieces that have been published over the past few days on how to talk about bin Laden with children.
This particular expert, Richard Rende of Brown University, advises in part:
“When talking, it’s critical the conversation is developmentally appropriate. Part of making it age appropriate is not giving too much information. A news event may be so complex, it will require you to keep it at a basic level. Start a conversation and get it rolling by using as little information as necessary. Your child will either expand the conversation or come to you with questions.”
I think that’s sound. And yet it seems to me that even very little information, kept at the most basic level, quickly raises big questions about justice, revenge, fear, war …
I am glad I have a few more years to think about what I’d say. But what about you? How are you talking with your children about the death of Osama bin Laden?