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- “The little one is too small to talk, but thinking ahead, I anticipate difficulty talking to her about all kinds of things. Gun violence and intruder drills are foremost on my mind, as is sexual harassment. Urgh.” – BFL reader
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- GUN VIOLENCE:
- I took all the gun-related books from this list, polished them up, and now they live over here: Talking with kids about gun violence
- I’m talking about mass shootings with Q now at age 6. R2, at age 4, still isn’t cognitively ready to differentiate self from others, and real versus imaginary risks.
- I found it easier to talk about mass shootings with Q working from global to local – starting with the concept of terrorism.
- > “Do you know what terrorism is? No? It’s when someone doesn’t agree with others, and they try to scare them into complying. They often go to a place with lots of people and try to hurt or kill as many strangers as possible so everyone who survives will be afraid to say ‘no’ to the terrorist.”
- > Discussing a far-away mass-shooting, in a place my kids never go to (example: shopping mall, outside our local state.) Helps to have a map nearby.
- > As we discuss and answer questions, kids will ask if this could happen here, to them. I found it was not easy, but it was important to be honest – yes, school shootings have happened (I went on to explain Sandy Hook, which happened when he was a baby). And I discussed the many safeguards our school has put into place, and the many leaders and community members who dedicate their energy and lives to protecting kids in schools.
- > I go on to say the things that WE are doing to fight for gun safety and other safeguards, and ask him for ideas on what he can do to keep himself and other kids safe. (Giving him a sense of control.)
- I close these conversations with a question – why do you need to know about this? His answers vary, but this particular discussion resulted in him pointing out that I have to be honest and talk about hard things I don’t want to talk about so he will always trust me when things get harder. Which gave him an immense sense of comfort, since many of the day-to-day things he’s afraid of at 6 are not a danger, and he can trust me when I tell him this. (Monsters in the closet, rattlesnakes in the winter, etc.) In this particular conversation, I pointed out the prevalence of white male toxicity and aggression, and how I talk to him about things like this so when people he has power over tell him about violence against them, I need him to believe them and do what he can to keep others safe. So he won’t grow up in this same culture of aggression and entitlement, and become a shooter himself.
- > The end results of these conversations are Q feels closer and trusts me more, more regulated in his anxiety (perspective!), and comes away with a sense of responsibility to change things so we can put a stop to violence.
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Global Conflict & Violence
- Why do we fight? (walker) – WONDERFUL. Too advanced for 6 (mostly because it’s didactic and lacks images and story), but wonderful, clear, and simple for me to use as an outline in the conversations we need to have. Says it’s for ages 10+, but I’m going to try it around age 7.5. conflict, war, peace, authoritarians, violence, global conflict
- Global Conflict (Spilsbury) – I prefered ‘Why Do We Fight?’ but this one is targeted more toward our younger age range. Dry and boring, but the layout of the book allowed us to sit and discuss the topics on each page. I’m actually not a giant fan of the language, which is a little too vague and sanitized. Titles such as “What is terrorism?” paired with vague, almost cute illustrations gave us space to introduce these concepts. The text “Terrorists are people who feel badly treated or disagree with other people’s beliefs.” PERIOD – without the conditional “and then try to scare people into compliance” is clear that the author is writing to an idea of childhood simplicity, and we’ve got to be cautious around that, because I often feed badly treated and disagree with other people and yet – I’m not a terrorist. Given the linear, literal way younger and neurodivergent kids think, and the fact that even most adults only absorb a tiny fraction of what comes in their ears, the stilted writing is actively confusing. The author goes on to expound and clarify, but for me – a line or two later is a little too late. Despite all this, it was a helpful book to get us started, simply for the fact that it exists in a vacuum and no others are around to do it better. We’ll have to settle for it for now – just know the work of parsing and summarizing text will be on you as a read-aloud. Either way, it was helpful in introducing terrorism, school shootings, fear and intimidation, and the safeguards that are in place to keep Q safe from all of this. From there, we discussed how it’s our job to start dismantling this culture of toxicity, and how these opportunities present themselves in everyday life – such as not retaliating and meeting violence with violence on the playground, not threatening and intimidating other kids to get what we want, and so on. I would have loved it if the illustrations addressed the concept of domestic violence, since in the US, our greatest threat is from white dudes with automatic rifles whom the media refuses to call terrorists. But alas. WAIT: Update – I read Spilsbury’s Racism and Intolerance and it’s whitewashed bullshit – the kind of sanitized colorblind nonsense that allows people to benefit from racism and do zero work to dismantle it. I hate it. HATE IT. Now knowing that she’s not just a bad writer, but a white supremacist, the odd writing in Global Conflict make sense – she really is just talking straight out of her ass. All her books go straight into the problematic bin.
How verbal conflict can escalate into violence
- Maple And Willow Together – Helps kids understand how small conflict can escalate into violent conflict, which breaks it down to help them see how and when they need to stop before things go too far. Great for showing how difficult it is to resolve conflict if you let it cross the line into violence.
- Horrible Bear! – A girl’s perspective of a bear being an asshat, expanding her perspective to realize that from the bear’s position, she’s the asshat. I’ve got more books on taking another person’s perspective in conflict, but that should probably be a whole separate list.