Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When You Should Shelter Your Kids

There are a lot of ways that I don't shelter my kids. I let them climb trees and play on the sidewalk in front of my house. I let them watch tv in the grocery store while I shop in the aisles nearby. I let them play with whomever happens to be at the park, and all the kids in the neighbourhood (so far). We let them play with hammers and nails and wood while my husband is mowing the lawn or working in the garage. But there is one thing we do shelter them from: the news.

A few months ago, my five year old son started refusing to go to the living room by himself. He would only play independently for a few moments before he called out, "Mom? Where are you mom?". He became very anxious about his brother and sister and their safety. I couldn't figure out where he had developed this fear: we live in a very safe town; its the kind of place where you know everyone and chat with them at the grocery store and post office. So I asked him where this had come from, and he said he was worried that all the bad things he was hearing on the news were going to happen to us. Yes, he was worried that an earthquake or tsunami was immanent. He wondered when a stabbing or shooting or abduction was going to happen to him.

I discovered that he was listening, more closely that I had realized, to the news on the radio. At five years old, he doesn't have the wisdom to know the statistical likelihood that something will happen to him. He doesn't understand that a war happening across the world can't hurt him. So we stopped listening to the news.

The other day, we went to a local cafe for brunch. They had a huge tv screen that was displaying the news. Usually it is showing pictures of Stephen Harper arguing with someone or something similar. But today, it was footage of the victims on board the ships that had been attacked on their way to Gaza. Wounded people being carried on stretchers off of ships. Open, bleeding wounds and sick people. My son, of course, asked, "What is that, Mom? What's wrong with that person? Why are they carrying them away like that? What happened to him?". I looked around and found that there was not a single table where you could not see the tv. So I got up, got some to-go containers, and we left.

I was frustrated that we couldn't finish our meal in the resteraunt. But it is my job to shelter my kids from scary images that might stick with them for an indefinite time. I felt silly, but at the same time I was happy to have saved me from the hassle of nightmares and anxiety in the future, and to have saved my kids from needless exposure to images they don't need to see.


  1. Yep, my kids don't see any adult TV (aside from sports) and I've started turning down the radio when the news is on. I started this last month when Elijah started talking about someone who tried to commit suicide by shoving a toilet roll down his throat - there's a big talk you don't want to have with your 5 year old!

  2. If you believe that your kid will have nightmares if he knew what was going on on the television then you did the right thing. But if it was my kid I would have told him the truth in a way that a five year old could understand. I would also reassure him that he is safe in our town and far away from the bad guys. I guess I don't shelter my kids as much as you do.

  3. We were watching Avatar and Lochlan woke up and we turned it off because even when they are small you don't know what kind of images will imprint on their little minds. Good heads up on the News.





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