As a resident of North County St. Louis the situation in Ferguson, MO hits very close to home. Â With on-going news coverage, the social media
coverage, a few visits to the location where the protests are taking place as well as the site of the incident, and so manyÂ people talking about this around town, the nation, and even the world (yes…I encountered new reporters from places such as Russia and South America at the protests!) I had to find a way to explain this to my kids. Â As parents, we often want to shield our kids from many of the bad things we see or hear about happening. Â There is that innocence that only a child has that we often do not want to alter. Â But realistically, there is likely to come a time when it is necessary. Â Children, like adults, have to realize that bad thingsÂ do happen in the world and that bad things can happen to any person. Â They have to understand that bad things happening are just a part of life….hopefully a small part but definitely something that we as people will have to deal with from time to time. Â So as I started watching continuing coverage of the Ferguson, MO incident and visited the protests a couple of times even with the kids, I thought it was important to explain to them what was happening and why it should matter to them.
The day that Michael Brown, who had just graduated a few months ago from the same high school as I did back in the late 90s, was killed by a police officer I was enjoying a day at Big Joel’s Safari (very cool place!)Â with my kids. Â We saw a variety of animals that they were able to pet, feed, and even ride on (they rode on a camel!) and it was so much fun that they didn’t want to leave. Â I love seeing my kids happy like that and enjoying themselves and life to the fullest. Â They really enjoy some of the simple things in life that we as adults may not so much. Â Feeding and petting the animals was such a joy to them but I can’t ignore the fact that during that time there was also something very bad unfolding not too far away from where we live. Â Returning home from the safari and checking my Facebook page, I saw a post made by one of my Facebook friends that her cousin had been shot by a Ferguson cop and was asking for prayers for her family. Â Little did I know what was to come in the days to follow. Â To see the aftermath of people’s anger with this situation that has included looting of local businesses and protests turning violent creating what looks like a war-zone on TV has beenÂ very upsetting to me. Â After seeing this, I initially made a decision to stay away from that area altogether. Â But then as I thought more about it and saw how things were unfolding I knew that this would be a situation that would go down in history….at least St. Louis history. Â I decided that I wanted my kids to be exposed to what has been going on and to see first-hand the protests being held. Â So I decided to take them for a ride down West Florissant where the protests have been taking place daily. Â Questions from my kids included: “mom, why are they holding those signs?”, “what are people mad about and why?”, and “who is Michael Brown, who killed him, and why?”. Â I had to finally break it down to my two kids that a teenager who had no weapon on him had been shot by a cop and that this made a lot of people angry. Â I was also careful to explain to them that there are good and bad cops and that in this case we don’t know all the details yet other than the cop shooting the teen and the teen dying as a result. Â I explained to them that is why people were in the streets holding up signs to speak against what happened to the teen and told them that this is what a protest is. Â My daughter asked why some of the businesses in the area were boarded up so I explained to her that some people who wanted to express their angerÂ about the teen’s death started doing bad things such as breaking into stores to steal products and/or damage the buildings. Â When asked why people chose to break into businesses I simply explained to her that sometimes when people are angry they have bad thoughts that cause them to make bad decisions but that there is NEVER ANY EXCUSE for doing these types of things.
I have not had my kids watch all the on-going media coverage on TV nor have they really wanted to (understandably) but they do know that there is unrest in our city and the basics of why. Â They also realize bad things happening is a part of life and that bad things can happen to anyone. Â With that said, here is what I kept in mind when deciding to expose my kids to what has been happening in Ferguson, MO and bad things happening sometimes being a part of life:
- It is OK to feel sad and/or mad when bad things happen and express your feelings to others. Â
- You must realize that bad times in life do not last forever.
- Just because you may be sad and/or mad when bad things happen is never an excuse for you to choose to do bad things. Â This only makes matters worse.
- Always try to use your best judgement and not do things that can put you in a bad situation. Â Along with telling them this I provided them with some examples of things they should not do such as stealing and physically hurting others and that doing these things can get them in trouble.
- Maintain faith that no matter how bad things seem that things will always eventually get better.
Hope this helps other parents out there as it has helped me!