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When Bad Things Happen..

Photo from CNN

August 23, 2010 is a sad day in the Philippines when a dismissed officer Rolando Mendoza of the Philippine National Police took hostage Hong Kong nationals in a tourist bus at the Quirino Grandstand. This resulted to a 12-hour siege with gunshots coming from both the hostage-taker and the police resulting to Mendoza’s death and the death of 9 hostages.

All media outfits showed the sometime graphic scenes until late at night. The following day, the students were abuzz with their own version of what happened based on what they saw on TV and on how their parents reacted to the situation.

“Teacher, mga bakla naman yung mga police kasi hindi nila nakuha kagad yung nang-hostage (Teacher, the police are all gay for not being able get the hostage-taker right away)”

“Teacher, what will happen if our schoolbus gets hostaged?”

“Teacher, isn’t a policeman a community helper. Why did he do that?”

“Teacher, I couldn’t sleep last night because I can imagine the bad man coming to our house.”

When a national trauma likes this occurs, and we watch it unfold on TV, we usually have our kids beside us. However, what the parent usually fails to do  is to find out how the incident affects their child.

The incident may not affect your child directly but it paints him a picture of what the world is. And usually, his belief system on what happened relies solely on how his parents reacted to the incident.

The gay remark in one of the students’ comments definitely sounds like a statement of an adult in the home of that child. When I posted this statement in Facebook,

The students have a lot to say about the hostage-taking..greatly influenced by the comments of their parents. Parents, discuss the hostage-taking with your children carefully. You are shaping their beliefs, values and principles.

..a friend asked me, “What are the best things to say to them, Tina?”

Its hard to explain bad things to children. But not telling them anything or being reactive and have media take over your role as counselor, is much much worse.

1. Ask the children how they feel in order to validate their emotions. Judging from the students’ comments, they felt angry, scared and confused. These feelings should be processed well in order for them to regain a feeling of security.

2. If the children can’t articulate their feelings, ask them to draw what they feel or what they think happened. Even psychotherapists use art as a medium to express emotion.

3.  We should be careful with what we say around children. Their beliefs and principles usually echo that of the adults they live with. When parents start ranting how disappointed they are with the government, with the police..when they start using expletives and curse words or labels.. we usually hear the same from their children.

4. We should also be careful what we allow the children to watch. Judging from the media coverage yesterday, there are scenes that I wouldn’t want my preschool students to watch. Just like censorship or ratings in movies, parents should monitor what the children watch on TV.

5. Discuss things that the child can learn from the incident. This is the best time to talk about good and bad behavior and their outcome.

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