For Everyone Who Worries About The Kids In Their Lives Who Worry

Monday, May 2, 2011

How Do You Explain Osama Bin Laden's Death to Children?

Lots of emotions in the last twenty-four hours here in the United States! Osama Bin Laden was found and killed yesterday. Upon hearing the news, crowds formed, people cheered, and God Bless America was being sung just about everywhere.

Where did I first hear the news? Where I get all of my news these days - facebook of course! After reading several posts this morning, I turned on the television to see the footage of crowds cheering and chanting "USA!" My kids were still sleeping so I had a few minutes to find out what I could and take it all in.

Since my kids are only 5 and 7 and were not even alive to witness the events of September 11, I turned the news off when they came down for breakfast. When they got home from school, it appeared that they hadn't heard or discussed anything about Bin Laden's capture and death, so I decided not to talk with them about it just yet.

Now after putting them to bed, I am thinking about what I will tell them if they ask or what we will talk about when we discuss it. Not easy. I wonder how other parents in America handled it with their kids today.

First of all, I suppose I will tell them a little about Osama Bin Laden and how he was a very bad man that hurt many people. I can explain that our country has been looking for him for a long time so that they could capture and punish him for having killed so many people. Yesterday, members of our military found him. While they were trying to capture him, Bin Laden and his followers tried to kill these brave soldiers. In order to save themselves and possibly many others, they had to kill Bin Laden.

So that part I think I can make understandable to two young children. But how do you explain what I think is the harder part and the questions many parents may have been asked today: Why is everyone celebrating that a man was killed? I thought we weren't supposed to kill others? Aren't we supposed to forgive? Why is it OK to want Bin Laden dead? Is it OK to wish death to anyone who does harm to another? Is getting revenge a good thing? Is God happy about this?

Anyone got the answer key to these questions?

Many of the posts and signs I saw today contained statements like, "Burn in hell" and "Thank God, Bin Laden is dead." I watched a news report where the man being interviewed described with great joy what the last minutes of Bin Laden's life must have been like and how we can all take comfort in knowing that he was in great fear and died an awful death.

While that might indeed bring comfort to many Americans, I'm pretty sure that information is not going to comfort my kids. It would just scare them!

Then I saw this quote today:  "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." Martin Luther King, Jr

That quote sums up so much of what I try to teach my children every day. But I also know that in this situation, this quote would infuriate many Americans. Many would say that Osama Bin Laden deserved and needed to die after the devastation he caused to so many people. That peace and love are not going to keep us safe from future acts of terrorism.

So, I am sitting here and still so very much confused. I believe in the quote above with all of my heart. And I want my children to learn and live it as well. But I experienced the events of 9-11 and saw the pain of loss in  many people close to me. I can't feel what they feel and would never pretend to be able to. I continue to wish them love, healing, and peace every day.

I think I will just be honest with my children and tell them that (once again!) I don't have all the answers. I can explain to them how I felt today. Sad, relieved, confused, scared, unsure, reflective. How I want to live in a world of peace where everyone treats each other with respect and love. But that I don't exactly know how this will be accomplished. Is it possible to keep our country safe without war or violence?

I will just continue to tell them that in order to change the world, you have to start with yourself. Believe in yourself and in your ability to live in peace. Have faith and believe in what is true for you and in what brings peace and happiness to your soul.

May your heart be at ease,

Angela      सन्तोष

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