Earlier this week, we watched part of President Biden’s State of the Union speech. I say “part” because the start time was 8:00 p.m. Since I wake up before 4:00 a.m. most days, that’s around my bedtime. Yet I wanted to hear what Biden had to say about the attack on Ukraine. My husband, 12-year-old, and 9-year-old gathered with me to watch.
Ukraine was at the forefront of everyone’s minds and the beginning of the speech. I didn’t hear much that I hadn’t heard from news outlets earlier that day, but at one point Biden said, “We will be ok.”
My 9-year-old turned to me and asked, “Will we be ok?”
“Yes,” I assured him. “We will be ok.”
He snuggled into my side. We only watched about 10 more minutes of the speech and then turned it off in favor of sleep.
But I have been thinking about his question for days and my quick response. I asked my 12-year-old if his classmates have been talking about the war in Ukraine, and he said that some have. He also told me that one of his friends is worried about nuclear war.
It’s impossible to hide information from kids. If they don’t hear it on the news at home, they’ll hear about it at school.
They turn to us for reassurance and I try to provide it. That’s my job. At least while they are still young and can’t grapple with the chaos and uncertainty of the world, I have to be there to provide comfort.
Everything that I fear — World War 3, a nuclear attack, and the devastating impacts of the climate crisis — I internalize. For now. My kids have brains that are still developing. I don’t want them to be engulfed with worry when there is nothing they can do. They don’t need to go to bed scared at night.
I’ve had sleepless nights. Anxiety floods my brain and I can’t “turn off” the spiraling thoughts. I also have better coping mechanisms, such as ignoring Twitter and taking a walk.
So for now, I keep my responses measured. I give my 9-year-old a hug. I’m thankful that my 4-year-old is oblivious. I wonder how much my 12-year-old is internalizing.
And I try not to think too hard about the state of the world.