Sunday, January 18, 2009

How Do You Tell Your Kids? What Words Do You Use?

So, this topic has come up in passing lately a number of times and has definitely been on my mind. How do you approach the sensitive topic of the Gaza situation with your children of all ages? For us, the Beans are little (ButterBean's not even 7 yet). This complicates the amount that they will understand. And, add that to a local culture that often seeks to "protect" children at the expense of their ability to process and deal with emotions and this is really tricky.

So, how are yo dealing with this issue? What are you telling your kids?

For me, I'm walking a fine line with kids who think that pretty much only old people die (we had several deaths in the family in the last year or so). We've talked about death, but I doubt they relate it o kids. And, that's one barrier I'm not sure I'm ready to cross over.

But, I know I can't avoid the conversation all together given the strong police presence, out of the house trips to donate, etc. In addition, the reality is that these are their cousins. Whether or not El 3atal has any actual blood relations in Gaza, these are his people. I lament the fact that several of his actual cousins have never heard the story of their parents being evicted from their homes and fleeing their land. I refuse to be party to denying my Beans half of their identity.

And, so, I'm left with this thought. How much do I tell them? I explain that there are little boys and girls (and their mommies and daddies) who are living in very bad conditions. We talk about the fact that we've never had to face having no food to eat for a meal. We don't worry about whether our clothes will keep us warm enough because of the lack of fuel. These worries are not for us, with God's blessings, but are affecting our people (while the Palestinians might or might not adopt me, I feel I have become one by marriage and in order to ensure my kids become one by heritage).

So while we talk about tough conditions and wanting to help those who are less fortunate than we are, how much can they understand? How much of the underlying issues are appropriate to discuss? What words do I use?

I find myself wishing for a well-written, thoughtfully worded book. So many of life's tougher issues like moving from one city to another (okay country in our case), bringing a new baby home (okay twins for us, but we like to do thing big it would seem), going to school, all of these topics have been made easier by relating to characters in a book.

But no one has written a thoughtful book on the Palestinian problem for kids. I don't have a story to read like that of TetaBean (celebrating her birthday on the back of a truck fleeing her home never to return and live) or of those who have been made refugees three times over and now live in the pit that is Gaza. How I miss great writing on tough subjects at this moment. Maybe this is a new opportunity. Perhaps the time has come to stop lamenting and start writing. I only wonder, do I have the sensitivity, the grace, the ability to walk that fine line when I have trouble finding the words to explain it to my kids? Have any of you found ways to talk to your kids about this? Any tips you'd like to share?

Happy explaining!


At 1:29 PM , Blogger Ali Dahmash said...

well ive been there. My 9 year old nephew who is half american half Palestinian cried when he saw the American flag getting burned on Al Jazeera. Then slowly I started to explain what have the Israelis done to the Palestinians and i took him a couple of times to the deadsea and jordan valley and showed him the land of his ancestors and explained how he can go there with his passport and i cant, i dont think he got this part as I still dont get it!
anyways he told me yesterday "Ali can we go to the Super market? I said Hash stop it I wont buy you anything else! He said Ali wait, I want to buy an Israeli flag and burn it! I said why Hash, he said because of Gaza! then he said no ill buy an israeli flag and burn it infront of the embassy?"
i was schocked, i just explained the term embassy to him last week!

At 1:49 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Ali, it is amazing what kids retain. Although, I think at 9 I'd be a bit less worried about how I couched things. But, maybe not. It's so hard to know what and how muh to say, no?

At 5:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

MommaBean, this is really an interesting post and I dont know how much 7 year old kid can take and understand but maybe starting with basics of the issue in Gaza and Pal. might help.. these days, i believe that you cant keep away any age from knowing whats going on and might hear and believe in what you dont want as a parent for him to know or the "wrong" information.. for these reasons, I suggest you sit and talk in simple words and explain how things are, and maybe explain why happening since he will be asking,according to how you and their dad see things.. God Bless

At 5:27 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Thanks Jano. We've covered the basics at a high level, but I sense that ButterBean would be able to handle more... I appreciate your thoughts.

At 8:05 AM , Blogger Sam said...

it has been hard in our husband insists on having alzajeerah on all the my kids have been watching lots...bilal just says 7aram baby...and stuff like that..he is only 4 so it does not mean much to him...but ziad has been asking alot of hard to explain questions..and he is talking about it at school..his teacher just called and said his behviour has been bad in the past couple of weeks and she wants the old ziad i guess letting him watch the news, along with the changes of having a new baby is not helping at i have put my foot down and they are back to watching cartoons and happy tv more news until they are in their rooms sleeping

At 6:57 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Sam, that IS alot to deal with. Poor guy. Give him kisses from us ;). I only see pictures on the internet and never show the kids. I'm afraid the visual would simply be too much. I'm fortunate that the kids also only see "happy" TV... Hope all is well and congrats on the little one!

At 6:09 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

I would like you to write that book. Document some real stories into a children's format. If you have those stories in your family, put them to paper and make them live for more families inshAllah. That is a great idea. If you want to be in a writing group with me, let's do it. I need writing buddies.


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