Wednesday, April 18, 2007
How do I tell my son?
Earlier this morning, my almost five-year-old son and I were waiting at a red light on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C., on our way to pre-school and work when my son noticed something.

"Look, mommy," Demetri shouted, "That flag is falling!"

"Actually," I responded, "That man is lowering the flag."

"Why is he doing that?"

"Well, sometimes the president asks everyone to lower their flags to show we care when something very sad happens to someone."

"Oh," Demetri said, "The president must have heard that I fell down and hurt myself at soccer practice yesterday."

"That must be it, my darling," I said, quickly changing the subject.

We live in Virginia and have been consumed by the Virginia Tech tragedy since Monday. But I have managed to keep the TV and radio news off when my son and I are together. We watched "Dancing with the Stars" Monday night and switched channels during the commercials as reporters came on the air with updates on the tragedy.

Last night, we went to soccer practice and watched "The Incredibles." Of course, you can't control everything. And when you least expect it, the truth smacks you in the face. That's what happened this morning.

-- By Virginia Nicolaidis, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 10:32 AM ET
  10 Comments
Virginia:

Your story is all too real for me. The stories and discussions only get better and better. We always guard what our children watch on TV and on most occasions never let them watch news on the TV nor listen to talk/news radio.

When Demetri goes to school you will not be able to control what news gets fed into his little mind.

On Monday night, I looked at husband and said, "This one is yours." He sadly agreed.

Last night we chatted again about it with our son because some of the children had him confused about were and when it happened.

Inscribed in a book I read the author wrote, "Good books are like good lives, there must be some happy balance between the tears and the laughter."

Each and every day I pray for the laughter.
Posted By Anonymous Renee Bradenton, FL : 1:30 PM ET
Hey Virginia

That's a sweet story; protect him and shield him from bad news for as long as you can. Kids are expected to grow up way too fast and he'll learn soon enough that horrific things happen.

Although, knowing kids, he might already know and was testing to see if you knew. He might have been trying to protect you.

Thanks for sharing.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 1:56 PM ET
It's very difficult to determine the level of truth that you explain sometimes to a young child. I had to have a very similar discussion with my son that was about the same age at the time. It was a after President Reagan died and I chose to explain to him that someone very special died and it was a way to show that the whole country was sad. This again would fit well. Many special people have been taken from us, and our whole country shares the sorrows of those families directly impacted.
Posted By Anonymous Frank, Augusta GA : 5:33 PM ET
Hello Virginia~
Ahh, the sweet innocence of a child. If only life was as simple as seen through the eyes of a precious child.
Thanks for the touching blog. There is always a sense of hope in a child's mind. You made me smile.

There's a little wide~eyed fellow,
Who believes you're always right,
And his ears are always open,
And he watches day and night.
You are setting an example,
Everyday in all you do;
For the little boy who's waiting,
To grow up to be like you.~
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches, TX : 7:38 PM ET
I am reminded by a poem that my parents had on a wall hanging in my childhood. It hangs in my house today. It is copyrighted 1963 by John Philip Company. I hope the author will forgive me for quoting her beautiful words.

Children Learn What They Live
Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance, and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.

**********************************
Today I am so thankful for options like Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and the ever faithful off button to shelter the innocent children from the tragedies both at home and abroad.
Posted By Anonymous Virginia E.; Richmond, VA : 8:09 PM ET
To all parents of young children,

I had the very same gut-wrenching decision on 9/11. My son was 7 and coming home from school on the bus. I had witnessed, in disbelief, the towers falling on the TV and cried and cried trying to figure out what would I tell my son. Would the school handle the situation? What would I say, with my puffy face and red eyes? How do you tell a child that people intentionally, with hate and anger, crashed planes into buildings with innocent men, women, and children on board and in the buildings they hit? He got off the bus with the usual grin and happy-go-lucky smile.

"Something very sad happened today", I said.

I gave him as much information as was appropriate for his age. We didn't watch any of the TV coverage. We talked a bit more about it at bed and said a prayer for those lost and those that lost their loved ones. I cried because he needed to see it's OK to cry when sad things happen.

I so agree that we need to protect the innocence of our children as they will have plenty of time to see the injustice, unfairness, and hurtful things in the world. Let the world be good, kind, and full of possibilities in their eyes for as long as it can.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all.
Posted By Anonymous Desiree V., Evansville, IN : 11:10 PM ET
Well said and thank you,

Children are a precious thing and sometimes it takes their innocent words to bring everything into perspective. People tend to forget that these students are also "grown-up little kids".
Posted By Anonymous Holly, San Francisco, CA : 12:13 AM ET
Virginia and all who have left comments on this thread:
As a mom of an 8 year old son who wants to attend VT in 10 years, I am so proud of you all for being such great parents. I am a Hokie (Class of 89) and your experience with your son and his pure innocence may have been one of the only times I was able to laugh in the past few days. I hope I am doing as well with my son. I asked him if he would be afraid to go to VT and he said no. I told him that was a good thing - I will teach him to not let fear crush his dreams and desires. 9/11 completely broke my heart and I prayed and mourned for those friends and families but I have felt so helpless for days now. I just wish there was something more I could do besides pray and cry. My heart aches, my eyes hurt and I have barely slept in days. I just can't help feeling that I need to do more.

We are Virginia Tech - full of Hokie Hope. I just want to help - but how?

Praying for a Hokie Nation again tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Terry G. Coatesville, PA : 12:45 AM ET
the blog really attests the fact that the children are same all over the world...and the incident to which it relate, confirms that the enviorenments in which they grow up are way too different...for better or for worse.
Posted By Anonymous subhadip sural,pune,india : 10:59 AM ET
I am a kindergarten teacher and teach in Canada. I also have raised two sons. Both are grown now. I found the best way to handle all these difficult questions that we all face as parents and I face every day as a teacher of 4,5 and 6 year olds, is to tell them a very simple version of the truth! They will ask questions and when they feel they have enough information, they stop the questions. I made a point of NEVER lying or not telling the truth to them, but some handle more details and ask more questions than others. You really have to just 'play it by ear' and know the child [children]. They are more resilient than we give them credit for in most cases! Hope that helps some! It has worked remarkably well for me both in my school and with my own children!
Posted By Anonymous Sharon C , Burlington, Ontario CANADA : 1:48 AM ET
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