Fathering-Up and Talking To Your Kids About “The Middle East”
With the news that Osama Bin Laden is dead, and all of the general “America, eff yeah” ballyhoo that’s going on, now’s a great time to father-up and talk to your kids about world events. It’s been a rough year for international politics, and chances are your kid’s got more questions than you can answer. The one thing you’ve got to consider, however, is the age old saying – if you don’t talk to your kids, somebody else will.
As a father, your kid (hopefully) looks up to you with unwavering trust and the kind of respectful awe that’s usually reserved for superheroes. Whether or not you’ve got all the answers, you’ve got a responsibility to talk to your kids about the world. I can’t tell you what you need to tell your kids about the international this-n-that of the world – but if you yourself are confused, or are politically middle-of-the-road like I am, you’re going to want to teach your kid that he doesn’t need to have an opinion on things, and more importantly, that as always, haters gonna hate.
SPOILER ALERT, 8BitDad doesn’t have the answers either.
There’s nothing bad about your kids learning about the world at school. The wildcard, however, is the yard outside their school, where kids shoot from the hip, with no textbooks to back them up. You probably remember middle school and junior high schoolyard conversations during election seasons – it’s a hurricane of misinformation that sometimes leads to physical fights over, really, nothing they can effect.
So, what can you say to your kids? In my opinion, it’s best for you to stock your kids neutrally. Your ultimate goal is to have your kid shrug off the haters and not come home with a bloody nose. There will always be kids at school with ignorant parents (on both sides of the political map). You want to let your kid know that he or she doesn’t need to “join a side.” There will also, no doubt, be a lot of kids at school that are just repeating the things they heard at home. Kids are great at running with their parents’ politics unflinchingly. The problem is that they’ve got all the emotion in the world to defend the opinion, but without any facts. If someone’s dad says “now that Osama’s dead, we should nuke the Middle East,” then their kid will come to school saying it the next day. Likewise, if someone’s dad says “Bush got us into this mess and got tons of troops killed,” their kid will run to school and say the same. Both of these kids are just repeating their hero. As your child’s hero, the best thing you can do is not set your son or daughter up for a fight; ask them how they feel about hearing about Osama Bin Laden’s death. Ask them if they understand what they’re hearing, and ask them if they think he should have died. Revisit the 9/11 incident with them – because unless your kid is in their teens, he or she doesn’t know what the hub-bub is all about.
Make sure to discuss with your child the “rest” of the Middle East, letting them know that all of the different countries have different issues and governments. While a lot of the recent news out of Egypt and Tunisia had to do with internal power conflicts, it’s not as simple as letting people vote. Likewise, it’s not realistic and simple to say “now that Osama is gone, we bring the troops home.” This is also a good time to bring up recent unrest in Mexico with the drug cartels. Surprisingly, I’m not joking. You’ve got to get your kids thinking about what’s going on in the world before someone else does.
I suppose somewhere in there, you can let your kid know what you personally feel, or, if you’re confused about it yourself – it’s a great time to let your kid know that. Ultimately, your child will respect you more for seeing that you’re human too. It’s important for your kid to know that you also ask questions and think things through, without just hearing news and running to the first person you can find to pass it along. Even if you’re not completely level-headed about the news, your kid should think that you are, if that makes any sense. Bottom line, you want your kid to use his brain, because you don’t want them to have to use their fists at school.
What if a teacher is deliberately creating a polarizing discussion in the classroom over Osama Bin Laden’s death? Well, if your child is uncomfortable talking about it, they should ask to use the restroom, then maybe go down to the front office and explain to an admin or principal the situation – that they’re uncomfortable talking and hearing about these world events in this manner. Hopefully, they are treated with respect, and allowed to “sit it out.” And bless the child that actually does this – as most kids aren’t brave enough to be the one to not be a part of it, while everyone shoots their mouths off about what their parents believe. If you think your kid might be embarrassed about actually leaving the class, even with a bathroom excuse, let them know that it’s okay to take the time to quietly focus on something else, as long as they’re not obviously doing another task. Maybe they can write down a couple of thoughts that they have on the matter that they can share with you later.
No one’s got all the answers – because if someone did, they’d be the supreme ruler of the world, and we’d all be farting rainbows and watching the news would be like watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. The world, frankly, sucks. But your kid doesn’t need to know that (yet). And you don’t suck – and your kid looks up to you. One of the best gifts you can give your kid is the power of thought.
Take a deep breath and write down some thoughts if you need to. You got this, dudes. Father-up!