Explaining Tragedies to your Charges

For those of you who know of the shooting in Oak Creek, WI at the temple and of the Colorado Shooting, you may wonder how to explain these terrible acts to your charges. I broke the news to my charges (ages 9 and 12) about the Colorado shooting. They were shocked and a bit scared. I told them that sometimes bad things happen and they didn't need to be worried because it was far away. I told them things were changing now to insure their saftey in public and that in the future, shootings like this would be unheard of. Then the temple shooting happened. This time, 2 miles away from my work place. How on earth am I supposed to tell them that they do not need to worry when it has hit 2 MILES from their HOME?! I trust that by the time I arrive at work early tomorrow, my boss will have done her best to explain the situation. But they are 9 and 12 and like myself, news junkies. And no matter how informed they are, they are children and they will have questions.

Situations like this put us nannies in akward and difficult positions. We are not their parents but must act as such especially during times like these. So how do I explain to these kids why something like this happened so close to their home? How do I make them feel safe? On this this blog, you may know me as MissWi, and I stand by that. Wisconsin is an amazing place. It is so diverse ESPECIALLY in the Oak Creek area. And those of us that call Southeastern Wisconsin home we embrace the diversity and ENJOY it. That's what makes it special. The person who did this does not show the character of a typical Wisconsinite. - MissWi


katydid said...

Did they ask you about it?

If not I feel you were out of line to discuss it with them.

You do not need to frighten children with information if they are not asking questions.

Lyn said...

I wouldn't discuss these things with the children unless specifically asked. And even then I wouldn't say more than reassuring them of their safety, your safety, and the safety of their parents. I wouldn't tell them things like "one day shootings like this will be unheard of". I don't think that's true and I don't think it does anything to comfort the child about their present safety, only their future (ie, "one day") safety.
I also would not "break the news" to my charges about such tragedies as the Colorado shootings. It truly is an issue that only the parents should introduce to the children when/if they feel is necessary.

MileHighNanny said...

I am a nanny in Colorado not far from the shootings ( my bosses were actually concerned that I had gone to the theater the night before). I did not bring it up but when asked about it I told them about how terrible it was and answered their questions about what to do if they were ever in that situation, and what I would do, and then told them about how many theaters showed that movie that night and every night and how this was just a freak occurance. I also made note of the convo for my bosses in our logbook. My older kids are 8 and 11.

Nashville Nanny said...

I don't think it's appropriate for a nanny to be having this kind of conversation with her charges unless specifically asked by the parents.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

How would I handle it? I would keep my mouth shut and not "break the news" about stuff. I would not watch the news with my charges around. I would direct them to their parents if they came to ME with questions, and I would then ask the parents to tell me how they covered the issue so that I could respond in as identical a fashion as possible.

What would I not do? I would not take on the role of the parent(s) (i.e., breaking news, sharing opinions, etc.) when it comes to discussing anything that could be disturbing or inflamatory. No religion, no politics, no national tragedies.

Here are some phrases for you to consider using:

"Hmmm....I am not sure what I think about that. Let's ask your parents when they get home."

"That's an interesting point of view. Have you talked to your parents about your feelings on that topic?"

"No, sorry, we aren't going to have time to watch the news today. We have to do XYZ instead."

You've been really inappropriate. I would seriously consider either putting you on probation or firing you if you were my employee.

Bethany said...

Honestly I wouldn't "break the news to them" I don't think that's my place.

Honestly even if they were my child I wouldn't break the news to them. Reason being I feel children should be kept innocent of such things as long as possible.

Now if they brought it up to you I would assure them we were safe and cared for by me and their parents etc.

I would also encourage them to talk to their parents about their feelings, and mention to their parents that my charge expressed some concerns over xyz situation.

NanonymouslyYours said...

Like all other nannies said, I wouldn't have said anything unless they asked.

Thankfully, these shootings didn't occur during the school year where children could hear others talking about it and become more concerned. Leaving adults to do damage control.

If it was brought up, I would have asked them if they asked M & D about it. I would have been as vague as I could if they didn't speak with their parents yet and then discuss with MB and DB to see how you should handle their questions.

Anonymous said...

The kids are 9 and 12- I'm sure they heard about the shootings at school from peers or may have read about it on the internet.

You can keep the TV off but kids that age tend to hear about major news event in some way or the other.

Don't blame the nanny because she is unable to keep a 12 year old sheltered from the real world.

jenna said...

Ugh this post is ridiculous. Its the news people. Real world sucks. People die. They get shot,get cancer and fall off of mountains. They aren't babies and I can only assume they attend a public school and see and hear a lot worse then what the 5 o'clock news had to say that day.

anon poster #3 said...

re-post for Anonymous...
9 and 12- maybe you could keep the 9 year old completely sheltered but not a 12 year old and the 12 year old likely tell the 9 year old what they hear from their peers.

talesfromthe(nanny)hood said...

The "peers" argument doesn't work when OP said "I broke the news to my charges (ages 9 and 12) about the Colorado shooting."

For that argument to work, OP would have needed to say, "I didn't plan to discuss the Colorado shooting with my charges, but they had heard about it at school and asked me about it when they saw me."

So yeah, I can and do blame the OP for being unprofessional.

gypsy said...

Highly inappropriate for a nanny to be breaking news. You're no Nancy Grace. Leave the fear mongering to those being paid to do so.

If asked, I would not lie & say that one day shootings will be unheard of. Although in theory this may one day be true. Its not likely in their lifetimes. And it provides no comfort.

If asked, I would assure them that random shootings are extremely rare. Period. Any further discussion should involve mom & dad.

Being a news junkie isn't that healthy. How much of the news is uplifting & inspiring? One of the habits of highly sucessful people is NOT watching the daily news. If anything major happens, you'll find out without needing to be a news junkie & glued to the news. trust me. With things like facebook, nothing big happens without a flood of information. Id seriously focus on something more positive than the news.

AussieNanny said...

I cannot think what would have made you decide to break the news to these children. Why bring it up at all? No you cannot protect them from hearing/seeing some awful things in this world but that is delt with only when need be. I just don't get why you brought it up?

Sure sit with them & try to explain if you are asked about it but do not seek to share adult things with children. It is just strange to me.

There was a murder right next door to where I worked a few years back and I did not go out of my way to tell the kids (6,8,10) what had happened.

gypsy said...

I feel I should clarify something. I don't think you intentionally lied *at all!! To me, if I said that random shootings will one day be non-existent, I would feel as though *I was lying! I am not & would not accuse you of lying. I honestly think its a *big deal to accuse someone of being a liar & it should only be done if you're sure someone has lied. So, I apologize if I've offended you with that comment! It came out totally wrong! <3

MissMannah said...

"I told them that sometimes bad things happen and they didn't need to be worried because it was far away. I told them things were changing now to insure their saftey in public and that in the future, shootings like this would be unheard of."

I think this was your mistake. If you are going to discuss real-life tragedies with children, you can't dumb them down...which is essentially what you did.

I also agree that it isn't your place to bring up tragedies to the children when it has no effect on them. Leave that to the parents.

another nanny said...

I am curious about what prompted you to "break the news" to your charges. Since it's not like there's any precautions they can take against this kind of thing (other than stop going to the movies or pretty much anywhere else), how did you feel it would be helpful to them to know about it?
In my opinion, the media likes to incite excessive fear and anxiety, because it's good for business. It's not, however, good for children's psyches.

another nanny said...

I also want to say, however, that I'm sorry for the tragedy you and your community have endured.
In this kind of situation, the children will almost certainly hear about it. I think how you handle it depends on the age of the children and the parents' views/wishes. For instance, with very young kids, you may just want to reassure them of their safety. They don't need that a big a dose of reality (like, any one of could die tomorrow). As someone else mentioned, with older children, you may mention that these incidents are actually rare. If the children have a religious background, themselves, you might use that to help them cope.

Dory said...

MissWi, I know you're getting a bit of flack here and I think you probably meant well, you seem like a really caring nanny -- but did you discuss these issues with the kids parents first? Were they ok with your talking with them about these tragedies?

Personally, I wouldn't want my nanny (or anyone else in the family) speaking to my kids about these kinds of things. No, I don't want them shielded, but I rather be the one to limit how much or little exposure they receive on such events.