This week we have witnessed a cluster of very tragic events in our country. Some far away from the safety of our home and some locally in places we may shop regularly. I knew I couldn’t write this post as “business as usual.” It is hard for me to write about the fun crafty things we are doing when really what I want to do is just hold my kids tight and keep them close in my arms for as long as I can. My mind is swirling with so many questions, concerns and worries trying to make sense of so much loss and pain.
It is incredibly difficult to make sense of “senseless acts” or random accidents. As parents we struggle with how to process all of this information as it unfolds. We try to keep the gory details to ourselves to protect our children and we worry that sharing too much will destroy their innocent little world. I am deeply saddened by the events that have taken place around the country this week- from the court rooms to the night clubs to Disney and local grocery stores it may feel like there are very few places left that are immune to violence.
I know this is a much deeper blog post than my usual upbeat “just recycle it and make a mess” artsy posts. But this week I am really struggling to find a way to help myself and my kids cope with all of the negative recent events, and I am sure you are too.
Art, music and literature are always a place of solace for me. Delving into the arts may not help my kids and I make sense of this crazy world we live in, but it can definitely help us cope with our feelings about it. And it can help me teach my children about compassion, tolerance and diversity.
Here are a few simple ways art can help you and your child cope with senseless violence:
Escaping into the imagery of a good book allows your child to unplug from their worry and anxiety over safety. Spending time in an imaginary world may sound like avoidance, but it really does help promote positive feelings and the reader can forget about real world stress for a short time.
Build your child’s understanding of inclusion, tolerance and just plain being nice to people by adding a handful of books about these topics to your home. I know it can be confusing about where to start the tougher conversations with our kids about things like differences of religion, gender identity and ethnicity. An age appropriate book can be a great tool in starting a conversation. Select books that illustrate ways they can love and help. Choose books with a hero who picks compassion and justice over doing what feels good. Sometimes what we fill our minds with becomes the script for how we see ourselves and interact with the world.
If your child is old enough to write, encourage them to keep a journal where they can write about or draw their worries and fears. They can take refuge in the pages to express what they need. Make it an interactive journal that allows them to ask questions and you can reply with answers.
Art is a very safe place for children to express their feelings and emotions. Try not to dismiss if they draw a picture that makes you question, “Where did you hear that?” or “Where did you learn that?” They may be sharing something important about their thoughts and feelings. I often wonder if I need to have my kids’ hearing checked, but turns out they can perfectly hear (and absorb) everything I am saying. If I discuss in front of them the details I’ve learned about a shooting or tragedy they are going to hear it. Kids process things very differently than adults and they don’t always know how to say, “Hey mom, guns scare me.” If your child is anxious it may show up in their art work. If you want to give your child a safe place to process all these big fears and feelings pull out the paper and crayons. Let them create on the page what’s happening inside. Then use their creations as teachable moments. You can reassure them they are safe and they are loved and even empower them by sharing ways to stand up to others when necessary.
Visiting a museum or art gallery will show your kids there is still plenty of beauty in this world. Hand your kids a camera and let them find something beautiful on their own.
Music can be a very soothing way to for kids to find calm, or to simply focus their energy in a new direction. You don’t have to listen to the wheels on the bus another 14,000 times you can play music that you like too. Music is a powerful healing tool for anyone. Turn off the news and fill your home, or your car with music that is uplifting to your child and keeps you all in a good mood. Allow them opportunities to create music and sounds as a way to channel energy and emotions. Starting your own rock band in the living room, or a spontaneous dance party on the deck can be a great distraction from the media and shift kids out of an anxious state.
I wish we could all wake up tomorrow in a world where love and tolerance dominates instead of watching decades pass us by waiting for change. Providing safety and peace in our own homes will help our children cope with the unimaginable events happening around us. We don’t want to isolate our children, or teach them to give up on living out of fear, but we do want to teach them ways to balance their emotions when they are bombarded by so much sadness. Filling our homes with positive sights and sounds can help reduce their anxiety. And I know it will work for you too moms and dads.
Much love to the families who are mourning the loss of their beautiful children this week.
The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest.