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Modern Parenthood

Family of 7 kidnapped: When news is bad, how to talk to your kids

Recent headlines – like "Family of 7 kidnapped," "Six-year-old Maced," and "Women hid boy for 8 years" – portray a scary world, especially for kids without experience to place the facts in context. How one mom puts it together for her four boys.

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I read the news online in The Pueblo Chieftain about Nathan Dunlap being sentenced to death for killing four people in an Aurora, Colo. Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993. This has been almost 20 years of waiting for Colorado’s longest-serving death-row inmate when the Colorado Supreme Court rang the death toll for him this week.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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As a parent I felt my guilt ease a bit over traditionally saying no to environments such as the Chuck E. Cheese franchised fun scenario.

Sadly, when my back was turned, Quin saw the newspaper and said, “No wonder you never want to go to Chuck E. Cheese if people get killed there!”

If I let my children read all the news I often feel that all the time I spent nixing violent TV and video games was a waste of time because it’s all out there in the news: car chases, shootings, kids under attack, and fire falling from the skies.

The stories are often less of a danger than the headlines, such as “2 Texas women convicted of hiding boy for 8 years” in the AP today. An adult reads the AP story and learns it’s about Krystle Tanner and her mother, Gloria Walker, found guilty of kidnapping in the 2004 disappearance of Miguel Morin, who was a baby then and is now eight. Quin would envision a child near his age being imprisoned for eight years.

The story about the man who attacked and beat a father and maced his six-year-old daughter in a Laundromat in the Bronx is one incident caught on a surveillance camera (and now all over the web) that my child is not going to see, or he will spend the rest of his life in dirty clothes. I had a hard time watching as Fernando Gonzales entered a laundromat on Saturday and brutally beat the father as the child tried to intervene to save her dad and was maced by Gonzales.

However, I let Quin read the one about the meteors hitting Russia and what appeared to be a “fireball” spotted falling from the sky over Coco Beach, Fla. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Florida sighting joins another sighting off the West Coast on Friday night and, of course, the huge meteor that flashed over Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday, creating a shock wave that broke windows and injured hundreds.”

To which Quin said, “Awesome! Can I stay up late tonight in case something falls on us? Pleeeeeeease?”

That’s my child, a science geek to the bone, other parents must judge for themselves whether the news will educate, inform, and empower a child to act, or make them into Chicken Little. 


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