Little boys karate chop bubbles in the air – two other little guys arrive at Play Shoppe suited up in their super hero outfits creatively crafted from cardboard – a little girl arrives one morning, looking lovely in her fancy “gown”; “I’m a princess” she told us, “a superhero princess” – a trio of preschoolers, two boys and a girl, in their dramatic play, yell “Quick, the hospital ‘s under attack!” as they rush to save the day.
All of these children are protecting themselves from imaginary, playful villains yet sometimes the fears are real and require the strength and protection of super heroes – like their parents.
The shooting episode on the south side of La Crosse on Friday was a devastating tragedy for the families of both boys and a frightening and anxious time throughout the neighborhoods and city.
A day like Friday doesn’t go unnoticed or unheard by most children.
Children are eager listeners – especially when we are talking to others. Even if your family did not live near the violence , your child, the eager listener, may have overheard talk of the shootings this past week on local TV news coverage, conversation between parents, exchanges between the neighbors, store clerks, even other children. They have a sixth sense when adults are anxious and upset.
And as is the way with children, their biggest concern is “Am I safe? Will I get shot? Will my mom and dad get shot? Who will take care of me?”
As parents we need to be vigilant about our children’s exposure to the conversations and media that happens when a community is rocked by a shocking incident such as this.
If your child has questions about what happened, or you know he or she has overheard or seen images of the shootings, finding out what they already know or think happened will clarify just what you need to share with them – to assure them they are safe. Keep it simple and don’t give more information than they need.
Just as significant for children is adults being mindful of any stereotyping of individuals by race or economic status as “those people” – the ones we should fear.
And as we come together, sincerely and with generous hearts, we can hope that the problems that lead to senseless loss of young lives can be addressed, and we can all be a part of the solution. By being good neighbors, strong super heroes ourselves, we can try and support each other and the children in our care and our community.
And we can appreciate that when our children are playing at their own kind of super heroes, they are also coping with their individual real or imagined fears, trying to make sense out of their world, finding the strength that lets them feel in control, that makes them feel brave, that makes them feel competent, and makes them feel safe.
Super Powers. We can all use a little of that.