Being a school for Australian and New Zealand families and staff, I am sure we have all experienced a range of emotions over the Christchurch shootings last week. As the shootings unravelled last week I felt absolute devastation and despair for our New Zealand friends, admiration for Jacinda Ardern, disbelief that an Australian could do this to our Tasman cousins and incredible anger towards Facebook. I am sure that many of you have also experienced similar emotions.
Although the fiercest of rivals at times in some contexts, we are the best of mates and the similarities between our two countries bond us in so many ways. Our sympathies go out to the victims, their families and all New Zealanders.
Last Friday as the first news broke of the Christchurch shootings I was first told about the shootings by a group of Year 11 students at lunchtime. Together we got on our phones and scoured online news sources to see what was happening and compared new reports. The students were appalled on hearing the reports that the shootings were livestreamed on Facebook. I was so proud of their indignation and their sense of injustice. Although feeling devastation about the shootings, the reaction of the students, their desire to discuss the event and their very mature responses all gave me great hope.
As parents we often want to shield our children from the horrors of the world but my discussion with the Year 11 students highlighted for me how important it is that we speak about these atrocities with our children. As we live in such a connected world with instantaneous access to all corners of the globe, as families we need to be able to explain to our children what has happened in language they can understand, place the events into context and reassure our children they are safe. If we don’t have these discussions, because we want to shield our children, then they may hear all sorts of misguided misinformation which, in turn, may influence their decisions and values and lead to fear and anxiety.
Many families find these conversations difficult; but they are so incredibly important. As parents you want your children to hear the truth from the right people and sources. I have included some guidelines on how to approach these sensitive conversations.
Unfortunately, given the world in which we now live, catastrophic events happen all too regularly. Our duty as parents is not take the ostrich approach and put our heads in the sand but instead to prepare our children as best we can by discussing the events of the world with them.
Mark Hemphill | Head of School