The death of Osama bin Laden, and the constant reports about it can create parenting dilemmas and lots of mixed feelings. It is common for adults to feel relief, satisfaction and closure over the event, but it is easy to see how parents can get caught in a conundrum. If I seem "positive" about it, am I teaching my children that murder, for any reason, is a justifiable act? Should I appear "happy" about the death of another human being?
Parents know that children can be very concrete in their reasoning. Is it possible that the our reactions over this incident can teach children that revenge is the solution to conflict resolution and problem solving? These are much harder issues than they appear on the surface and as the world becomes more complex, and in the likely wake of all that is happening in the world today they will become even harder.
I have put together a short list of guidelines that parents can consider when families reflect on this conflict and the damage that is done by it:
(1) For children under six, limit, when possible, exposure to prolonged news broadcasts, especially those that broadcast sensationalistic images.
(2) Give children under ten the information they ask for and not much more.
(3) Emphasize that the President of the United States has to make some very difficult choices, and it is hard to know all of the reasons why he makes those decisions. Finish with the explanation that the decisions the president makes are meant to keep the people in the United States safe and that is what our president was trying to do.
(4) Avoid modeling angry responses and statements (especially around teens) that center on revenge-motivated reasons for the events.
(5) Always emphasize the differences between events that have impact on the world as opposed to things that happen in the family, with friends or in the school yard.
Difficult times call for well informed parenting strategies. I hope you find these helpful.