Readers counter Oppenheimer:
My son is also five. I talked with him briefly about the shootings this weekend because I was afraid he would learn about them on the playground, and I thought it better for him to hear the news from me. Other parents chose to not say anything because they didn't want to upset their children. Guess what? The school was abuzz with the news, and much of it was misinformed. The teachers were prepared to talk with the students, but only if the kids brought it up. They did.
Whether we like it or not, some kids are exposed to the Internet and television (how can they not be, since TVs are in every public space these days?), and they will bring their interpretations of these events to school. I'm glad my child could process the news with me before hearing it from another five-, six-, or seven-year-old.
Another elaborates on that view:
I have a kindergarten-age daughter. We weren't planning on telling her anything about what happened because we didn't know what to say and we thought it could only create problems … ignorance is bliss. On Sunday night, my wife asked me how much I thought she'd hear about it at school. I quickly realized because I wanted her to be ignorant and blissful didn't mean she would remain that way. I couldn't tell her many details, of course, but I had to figure out something to tell her before someone else did. Some kids would know, and information gets around in schoolyards.
Before school on Monday, I interrupted her watching TV and told her that on Friday, at a school far, far away, a man came in and hurt some of the kids and teachers. Her reply was "I don't want to go there." I responded that of course she wouldn't go to that school. That she'd go to her normal, safe school. "Good," she said. I told her that I just wanted her to know about it, in case the teachers talked about it, or students on the playground said something. I said that no one really knows everything that happened, or why, so whatever the students say might not be the whole story, and she can talk to us about it if anyone talks about it. "OK … can I watch more Curious George now?" I said of course. She went to school Monday, came home that night without any obvious issues. I don't know if she heard anything, but if she did, it didn't seem to make any impact.
Slightly-less ignorance was still bliss.
Monday morning, my daughters' school system held a system-wide minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Despite our efforts to shield them from things over the weekend, the girls (ages 6 and 8) knew the basics about what had happened, but several of their friends did not. On Monday morning, several parents were worried about how the school would handle the situation. Here is what she said over the school intercom:
Good morning staff and students. Today Prince George's County Public Schools is observing a minute of silence. Please stop what you are working on. Remember that all of our school rules come down to three simple acts:
Take care of yourself.
Take care of each other.
And take care of the place.
It is always important to demonstrate kindness and caring every day. During our minute of silence, please think about what we we can all do to be more caring and to be kind to others. What can we all do to live in a more peaceful and less violent world? Our minute of silence begins now."
Thank you students and staff. Please resume your work, but keep in mind how we can be peaceful here at Hyattsville Elementary School. Remember our basic guidelines. Take care of yourself; take care of others; let's take care of our place.
The girls reported that the moment of silence made them sad, and a little worried, but I think that simple message: "Take care of yourself; take care of others; let's take care of our place." is something we all need to keep in mind both in moments of tragedy and throughout life.
For more on this debate, check out Parents editor Michael Kress' take.