bin Laden’s death offers another teachable moment | Family Events


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Crucial life lessons amid today’s headlines

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From this week’s news about Osama bin Laden to the daily headlines about crime, abuse, suffering and tragedies, it’s hard to help kids understand the events of our world without scaring them. How can I talk to my children about the news of the day without making them anxious, but also not leave them ignorant of the real world? How much information is enough, and how much is too much? Post answers on our Family Events Facebook Page.

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Last week we asked Family Events readers if it’s appropriate for a dad to play violent video games with his 11-year-old son as a way of sharing father/son time, even if those games are inappropriate for a boy his age. Here’s what you said:

"I don’t think that violent games are o.k. I believe it promotes violent thoughts. Simple as that I would have to find other ways for them to bond. Try baseball or soccer. Try a fun Wii that doesn’t have violent games."

—Theresa

"I would suppose it depends on what the rest of your life is like. Do you hunt? Do you fish? Those are both killing something, even though you are going to eat it. Death is violent. Do you let him watch TV programs on the history channel? I have an 11 year old son that loves history, I allow him to read or watch documentaries about war… If you are going to draw a line you need to make sure consistency is in place. We are a pro gun family and I take my son to the gun range and we have that quality time together."
—Crystal

"I wonder why a father would want to use such a means to bond with his son. At least they could find less violent and more "quest" driven games to play. Desensitization to violence is not in our youths’ best interest."

—Kimie

"My husband and his son used to play them all the time — not the too violent ones, but my 13-year-old was playing one of them last year (he was then 12) and couldn’t see the harm in it. I plan on throwing them out or bringing them to Gamestop. Trade them in for "better" games."
—Dorothy

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On Sunday evening as my husband, son and I drove home from an out-of-state family funeral, our college sophomore called to breathlessly urge us to turn on the radio news.

"They got bin Laden!"

Sure enough, we quickly learned along with the rest of the world that the man who embodied evil and hatred, and who displayed his disdain for humanity by plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks, had been captured and killed by an elite team of American fighters.

It seems this week’s news has caused all of us to revisit the events of 9/11 in a way that differs significantly from merely marking the anniversaries since 2001. For every year that we’ve honored the men, women and children who died on that day without also achieving the justice due to bin Laden has left us feeling hollow. Or maybe "cheated" is a better word.

Other than the extraordinary sense of citizenship and national pride that I felt back in 2001, the most compelling memories I have of 9/11 and the period immediately following the attacks are those of motherhood.

At the time, my children were 11, 9, 7 and 3 years old — impressionable ages, to be sure. They were home from school on September 11 owing to a teacher in-service, so unfortunately, they saw some of the events of that day unfold in real time on television, including the horrible moment that the second plane crashed into the South Tower and the collapse of that building a short time later.

My maternal instincts kicked in quickly on that September morning. When the South Tower fell, I realized, "I cannot let my children see these events as they are happening." I knew I couldn’t really protect them in what had obviously become a much more dangerous world, but I could try to shield them from the anxiety and uncertainty that would be stirred if we continued to watch the news that day.

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Instead, I took them to church. I wanted to teach them that their faith had a purpose, and that prayer was the most useful and powerful thing we could do for the victims of the attacks, the first responders attempting to rescue them, and all of their families and loved ones.

That fateful day forced all of America’s parents to deal with life’s most difficult questions, and to put into context for our children some things even we parents don’t always understand. The presence of evil in the world, the suffering of innocents, the injustice of hatred, the inexplicable selflessness and courage in the face of tragedy — all of these things became dinner-table conversation in my kitchen and in homes all across our nation. In short, 9/11 became the ultimate "teachable moment."

In the ten years that have passed, while our military and intelligence personnel have searched for the evildoer, America’s children have grown up. And thanks to the valiant efforts of untold and unknown heroes who have prevented further attacks, millions of American children have been born into a world that feels safe again, if not always secure.

As I write this e-letter, government officials in Washington, DC are deciding whether to release photos of the slain Osama bin Laden in order to prove that our military did, in fact, kill the terrorist leader. It’s reported the most convincing photo is also the most gruesome.

It’s a decision that has far-reaching implications, both in the US and abroad. But for parents of young children, it will again be crucial to safeguard children’s innocence and optimism while teaching them about the virtues and values that caused an enemy of freedom to be brought to justice.

Ironically, bin Laden’s despicable life offers us the opportunity to teach our children that the virtuous quest for justice is a worthy endeavor, and that when America is doing what’s right, God does, indeed, bless our great country.

Thanks for reading and sharing Family Events!

Take good care until next week,

Marybeth

Articles to Follow
Expert: bin Laden photos not for kids

Back to School How are you talking to your kids about bin Laden’s death?

Read More

familyfacts.org Talking to your children about bin Laden’s death

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Religion Clash For college-age kids, bin Laden’s death is personal for their generation

Read More

Bookstore
This week’s best buys at your local bookstore
Your Four-Year-Old: September 11, 2001:
A Simple Account for Children

by Nancy Poffenberger

Stop Second-Guessing Yourself - The Preschool Years: With Their Eyes:
The View from a High School at Ground Zero

by Annie Thoms

What Your Preschooler Needs to Know: Faces of Hope:
Babies Born on 9/11

by Christine Naman

No More Push Parenting: September 12th:
We Knew Everything Would Be All Right

by Masterson Elementary

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