: News

Telling Children The Truth When Tragedy Strikes

Play associated audio

By Rebecca Sheir

Three men are under arrest in connection with last month's murder of a D.C. middle-school principal. Investigators say Brian Betts met the young men on what's been called a 'sex chat line.' So discussing the case with students could be tricky.

The most important thing, says Marguerite Kelly, author of the "Family Almanac" column in the Washington Post, is for parents and teachers to be honest with young people.

"They're going to get information," says Kelly. "And do you want them to get it from the playground? From whispers in the hall? From somebody who doesn't know anything about sex or homosexuality? No, you don't."

What you do want, she says, is to use that information to teach a lesson.

"This will bring home to these kids, 'hey, you don't get online, you don't agree to meet somebody,'" she says. "And it doesn't have anything to do with homosexuality or heterosexuality. You just don't do it!"

But in Kelly's view, just as important as what you say, is how you go about saying it. And for Kelly, asking questions is key. Her personal favorite is, simply, "What do you think?"

"It's a very respectful way to treat a teenager," she says, "[or] treat any child: 'what do you think?'"

And ideally, you ask these questions, and allow the child to comment, before you offer your own thoughts.

"Because the kid will shut down, say, 'mm-hmm, yeah, right,' and then won't say anything else," says Kelly. "And so you will walk away, wondering if the child believes what you said, and also, what the child thinks."

But most important, Kelly says, is supporting children as they grieve. And helping them remember, and focus on, the positive qualities of this man who, by so many accounts, was such a beloved mentor, educator and friend.

NPR

Not My Job: Journalist Lesley Stahl Gets Quizzed On 'Star Trek'

This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek. To mark the occasion, we've invited Stahl to answer three questions about the show.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

David Cameron's Former Advisor Wants To Revamp The U.S. Conservative Movement

British political operative Steve Hilton tells NPR's Scott Simon what he thinks the conservative movement needs both in the U.K. and the U.S.
NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.