Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How Do You Explain Evil to Children?

Evil exists in our world. No matter how we try to protect our children from it, it does not go away.  It would be so nice to be able to stick our heads in the sand and ignore it, but we have to face reality.

I remember September 11, 2001 so vividly.  I was pregnant with Egee.  The sky was a brilliant blue that fall morning, as I drove the twenty miles to school.  The morning schedule started on time and normal.  But, when the bell to dismiss second period rang, all the normalcy changed.  Many students poured into my third period class talking about jets flying into the Twin Towers. (One of the history teachers had the television on that morning.  Watching the morning news was part of a class assignment.  His students witnessed the terrible events as they unfolded on national t.v.)   I had a class of twenty-four students asking dozens of questions.  They were trying to cope with what was happening.  Soon a messenger arrived at the classroom door with notes of dismissal for a few students.  Their parents wanted them home safe.  I remember thinking how at least my baby was with me and I didn't have to worry where she was and her safety.  As I talked to my class about the events that were unfolding before us, I tried to calm their fears.  I answered their questions openly.  They were fifteen and sixteen year-olds that needed reassurance.  Evil acts of terrorism were still beyond their grasp.  How could this happen in the United States?

The world changed on September 11th.  My child came into a different world when she was born. Our great nation, that was once secure against the outside threats of evil, was no more.   We became extra cautious of our surroundings.  All though, like other Americans, we have slowly let our guard down.   Luckily, our country has not suffered another massive attack.  My daughter has grown up without fearing terrorist attacks.  We have discussed 9/11 and that some people are evil.  But, does she really understand?

She is not kept in the dark about news events.  We were eating pizza and she was watching t.v. at the local pizza place.  She said, "Mom, I think the t.v. says that there is a shooting at a school."  I turned and read the news about the Newtown shooting.  Both the children asked why this could happen.  Again, we talked about evil.  My children struggled with trying to grasp how someone could shoot innocent children.  They know that it isn't the gun that killed innocent lives, it is the person using the gun.

Yesterday's attacks in Boston bring back that ever looming terrorist attack reality.  My children are not aware of what happened.  They have not heard the news.  They will eventually hear about it.  They will have questions and concerns.  Again, we will talk about how some people are evil.  Yes, some may have a type of mental illness or come from a horrible background.  Some may be extremest, home grown or foreign terrorist.  But, the intents were evil.

No matter how we want to color our glasses on the world around us, there are opposites.  Good vs. Evil has always been played out.  Children understand this.  We present them with history, the Bible, cartoons, motion pictures, etc.  The underlying theme is good vs. evil.  More times than not, good will prevail.  Unfortunately, some of the good fighters are lost in the battle.  When my child asks, why did the good guy die?  It is time to explain that the good guy was standing up against evil and he was protecting other good guys so they could win the fight.  The good guy may have lost his life, but he didn't lose the fight.

I hope and pray that we as a people, don't become numb to these attacks.  I hope that we can ensure safety for our children.  I hope that the government does not overstep its authority for Americans to protect themselves against the evil.  I hope that we, as a nation, educate our children that, yes, some people are evil and will do whatever it takes to hurt innocent people.  Those people may use different methods to hurt others, but the things they use are not the cause, it is the person using them. 

So, how do you explain evil to children?  You talk to them and answer their questions honestly.  You hug them and let them know and feel what goodness is.  You build their character with the traits of honesty, morality, and justice.  You allow them to witness others of good character and have heroes with such character.  Then they will know and understand good vs. evil.