What I tell my daughter about tragedy in the world

My daughter changes her mind. A lot. About what she wants to be when she grows up. About where she’d like to live. What to name the dog she doesn’t have yet. She’s 6. It’s expected that the new and different are magical and exciting.

For that reason, I won’t allow the recent tragedies in Dallas, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Turkey, Orlando and beyond to take that innocence from her. I’m not about to tell her that down the road from Mickey Mouse 49 people were murdered while dancing and socializing in a club. Dancing. One of her favorite activities. Socializing. You should see the input she has for family barbecues.

Internally I will mourn the innocence of these beautiful souls but I will not allow the loss of these lives to steal hope from my daughter. Or me. Together, let’s take the vow that our hope will remain intact.


If adults can’t make sense of these devastating events how could we ever expect a child to understand? I don’t shelter her, but this … these latest events will not weigh on her young brain and heart. Her imagination, that dreams up new names for the colors in her crayon box and brings voices to her bed full of stuffed animals need not be soiled with something as unfathomable as human beings killing other human beings.

Some may argue that shielding such news is setting up kids to be naive; grooming them to lack resilience.  When the going gets “tough,” we often hear some variation of “Life isn’t all butterflies and unicorns.” In moments, no; but overall, it can be.

My daughter knows about social issues surrounding us. Homelessness. Kids in Haiti who I met that didn’t even own shoes. She’s aware of natural disasters. We’ve talked about poverty.  We can’t always volunteer, but we can raise awareness. We may not define ourselves with one religion, but we spend several nights a week at bedtime, sending light and warmth to those who need it most. Love only takes a moment of our time.

What I will do with these terrifying situations is put compassion and kindness at the helm of everything we do. I will not say “don’t be like them” but will teach how it feels to do for others we do not know, who may look nothing like us, speak nothing like us or act nothing like us. Human is human is human.

But explaining the recent years of men, women and children having been murdered and unsafe in their schools and community? That’s where I draw the line. Fear is the very last thing we need to expose our kids to.

Provided by Pixabay

Provided by Pixabay

Instead, let’s fill children with what we want our homeland to be known for: Peace. Understanding. Acceptance. Love. The adults in this world may not yet believe in changing one another, but we can change ourselves and we can strive to raise the next generation to be different. That’s a parent’s greatest responsibility, now more than ever.

So what if? What if she comes home from summer camp and shares bits and pieces of a conversation she picked up, asking about the people who died? What would I tell her?

First, I’d tell her about darkness. How sometimes that’s all some people see. A few people. Not everyone. Not us. A few.

Then I would say:

“You know how you changed your mind about being a teacher after you started watching Brandon (from CBS Lucky Dog) rescue, train and care for the stray and abandoned dogs? His goodness inspired you, right? You wanted to be like him because you saw how much he helped these animals and their new owners become filled with joy. The world needs more of that.”

When living in darkness people cannot see these things. We shouldn’t be scared of those who live in darkness. But instead, show them compassion.

Being kind to others spreads light. When there’s enough light, it swallows darkness. Another word for light is love. Love multiplies, and someday, the only darkness that people will see and feel is the night sky as we turn the pages of our favorite bedtime story.

This mentality isn’t a fairytale but an ideal we must move toward if we want our children to continue to believe that anything is possible.

When we hide in the face of darkness, we are trapping the light that others use to thrive. The light that pieces us together when we need each other the most.

Photo by Holly Bruns

Photo by Holly Bruns

Erinne Magee

About Erinne Magee

Erinne is a Maine-based writer and freelance editor specializing in first person essays, poetry and picture books. Her work has appeared in publications like: The Washington Post, Redbook, Yahoo News, The Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping and The Toronto Sun. For more, visit: www.erinnemagee.com