Discussing the Risks With Our Children

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In my first blog post, I touched on the fact that my oldest son is very concerned about Daddy dying. I know I’m jumping right in with a heavy topic here, but it’s one that deserves addressing.

Stinky is 9 years old, which is old enough to have at least a vague, if not more than that, understanding of the fact that our country is at war. He understands that soldiers (and Marines, and seamen, and airmen) go and fight this war. He knows that our brave military members sometimes die in this fight.  Unfortunately, we have some careless, thoughtless family members who feel the need to raise the issue often, and without discretion, in his presence.

So, how do we address it?

1. Physical Proof: While MyHero was at BCT and AIT, I would tell Stinky that Daddy is well equipped, but I didn’t have details. When MyHero got home he sat down with Stinky and showed him all of his equipment. He explained where each piece of armor is worn and why it’s worn there. He explained how it’s built and what it’s purpose is. Seeing something tangible- physical proof- of how Daddy is protected was very helpful to him.

2. Special Training: MyHero went over some of the training that he went through, including the fact that they are shown specifically how to throw a grenade in different situations, how to properly shoot their weapon, combatives classes and other various trainings.

3. People: We took pains to explain to Stinky the bond between soldiers. MyHero pointed out that he is closer to some of his battle buddies than he is to his brother. We asked Stinky how he felt about defending his brothers if they were being picked on, or hurt. Without hesitation, he said he would always be there for his brothers (and I’ve seen this in action, I know it’s true). MyHero explained that this is how his battle buddies feel about him and he about them. If he ever needed help his battles would be there, anytime, anyplace, without hesitation.

4. Facts: We’ve been very matter of fact that this is what soldiers do. They sign up knowing that they may be called on to go fight, and they take that on willingly. They know that there are risks, but sometimes you have to take a risk. There are some things in life that are worth fighting for and sometimes that requires sacrifice. We explained why it’s important to our family to serve our country, to protect those who are weaker. We explained that some people talk about taking care of business, and some people just go take care of business. All the members of our military are those who are willing to take action, knowing that the outcome may not be what they’d hoped for.

5. Honesty: Stinky is old enough to know that people die, in different ways, at different times. He’s lost loved ones so he’s not new to the concept. We admitted that there is a chance that Daddy could die (phrases like “make the ultimate sacrifice” are all well and good but when talking to a nine-year-old we went with a very straight-forward approach so there is no confusion). We reassured Stinky that IF that happens, he is still safe. Mommy is here for him. Daddy has made arrangements, through the Army and on our own, for us to be provided for. We have friends and family who are there for us. Daddy has battles who would do anything in their power to help in anyway needed.

He told Stinky that it is never his wish to leave us, but if it happens it’s something he’s accepted. Daddy fights now in the hopes that his babies and grandbabies never have to fight. He reminded Stinky that if God called him to be an angel – something we’ve taught our boys is a very special job filled only by the best – he will always be with us, watching over us.

If it sounds cold to speak to a nine-year-old this way, please don’t judge us. We’ve taken into consideration Stinky’s maturity level, understanding and ability to process this information. Children see and hear things without us realizing that they’re taking everything in. They’re in school with other adults and even children who’ve commented, and therefore we can’t control everything they’re told/hear. For these very reasons, we felt honesty was the way to go. We’ve followed the same guidelines, but made it more age-appropriate for Fuschi.

I’m not saying it’s right for every child. Only YOU know how much and what your little one can process at any given time. We’ve used our faith as the foundation to this talk, and I know that what we believe isn’t necessarily what everyone else believes. My only wish in writing this is that it might provide a starting point or spark some ideas for those who are facing this conversation.

Since this is an ever-evolving conversation, no matter how many reassurances we offer this topic is raised often. I’m interested in hearing how you addressed this. I’m always open to suggestions.¬† What did you find worked well for your family? Is there an approach you will never again take? Feel free to share with us in the comments section.

Related posts:

  1. Dealing with the Kids’ Questions about Death
  2. The Roller-Coaster of the Army and Parenting
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