Teach children to make safe, reasoned choices
What do we say to our children right now? We must teach awareness, but not fear. We must instill respect for rules and rights and diversity. We must focus on long-term expectations, not simply getting through current turmoil. We want our kids to be cautious but not traumatized, to follow the rules but understand the reasons. We want our children to look at the big picture and not fear each moment.
Identifying good and bad actions rather than good and bad people teaches children to look at the situation, rather than demonizing or profiling one individual or group. We must teach children that people do bad things out of their own shortcomings — their flaws or problems, not the victims’ faults. Who’s to blame is never as important as moving on toward a solution. We must focus on the problems, not the people.
We must never quiz or reprimand children on their feelings, which only adds to their anxiety. Adults must always keep comfortable nonjudgmental lines of communication open, and listen as well as talk. Discuss and encourage the child to draw his own conclusion.
We want our children ultimately to have pride in their ability to make safe choices, self-confidence in understanding the consequences of those choices, and self-control in resisting peer pressure and temptations and their own emotional knee-jerk responses.
We want our children to have faith in the future. We want them to be positive and optimistic, to enjoy the goodness in the world and to work with that goodness.
Above all, we want our children to be safe, feel safe and keep others safe. We want our children to be happy, feel happy and make others happy. We want our children to be loved, to feel loved and to spread love to all others.