What the Crocodile Hunter Taught Me About Talking To My Children About Sandy Hook

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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We chose not to tell her.

It was a conscious, well thought out decision.

There was no way we were going to tell our Kindergartner that Steve Irwin, aka, The Crocodile Hunter had been killed. In our minds, she would never have to know, because he would live on in reruns, dvds, and movies. My child, a HUGE fan of Steve, could simply coast on as normal, thinking he was still just as alive as he appeared on the television.

In our wisdom, we didn't figure in other parents.

Who HAD told their children.

Our daughter came home in TEARS. "Why didn't you tell me???!!!!"

I was crushed. 

"The kids on the playground were all acting it out. How he got stuck in the heart and died. I thought they were joking. Why didn't you tell me?!"

I realized then, that parenting is just plain hard. And subjects that are difficult to broach, like death, are not fun. We all want to soften the blow. Not make things sound bleak. Find an easy way to share dark moments.

Only, in my attempt to avoid telling her the truth, I learned a lesson.

As hard as the conversation might be, it is MY responsibility as the PARENT to address matters such as these - rather than for my child to hear it from other children. I can avoid the conversation in an attempt to spare them pain and sadness, but I can never be assured that other parents aren't sharing information with THEIR children. And, children talk.

So, I choose to play offense, rather than defense. And no, I don't do it perfectly. I stumble. I stammer. I stutter. I don't have a perfect "script" to use. I am armed only with the love I have for my children, the facts on the situation, human emotion, and God's grace to give me words.

And that is why I sat both my kids down after school on that fateful Friday, and with tears in my eyes, told them the truth about Sandy Hook. As a Christian, I shared that we do not fear death. We prayed for the families involved - including those of the shooter. When they asked, "Why?" as children do, I simply said, "Because there is evil in the world." I didn't try to offer an explanation, because, frankly, I don't think one is necessary. I told them that the situation could have been far worse - but that brave teachers, students, and police officers saved the remainder of the students. I told them that I would be in tears for a few days because I am a Mommy - and that I feel a profound sadness for the parents and families who lost their treasures.

Then, they went back to watching TV.

I had done it. And even though it sucked, I had been the one to break the horrific news to them, saving them from any surprise conversations that might arise on Monday. To me, that's "front-line" parenting.

And that's my job.

Joline Pinto Atkins is an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage and can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and is the founder and a contributor at Daily Fast Fuel and the newly debuted SlimSavers.com. Joline is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 11 and 7, who are both named after authors. Addicted to fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising and P90X'ing, and longs for good books, vats of coffee, and an endless supply of buffalo wings - which she will not share with you. So, please, do not ask. 

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