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How Do I Tell My Child Some Monsters are Real?

Photograph by Twenty20

My safe little world for my children is slowly crumbling. My daughter, my oldest child, turned five a few weeks ago. She's bright, observant and asks a lot of questions. And some of those questions aren't easy to answer.

Lately my daughter asks if zombies are real and is visibly relieved when I say no. In her mind, monsters are only in games, movies, and books. She thinks all bad guys are obvious and the police always catch them. She views everyone she meets as a friend. Unfortunately, I know some monsters exist in the real world.

They randomly shoot up concert halls, schools, and movie theaters.

They bomb, rape, and torture men, women, and children.

They hijack cars and planes.

They seek to control others through force and fear.

She's old enough where it's getting harder to shield her from the real world, but I don't want her completely exposed to it yet. I'm afraid she'll miss the good and be too fearful of potential dangers if I don't explain it right. If I don't hold some of it back

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I don't live my life in fear and I don't want my kids to either. I also don't want us to develop a false sense of security due to our privilege. Just the other day, I received an Amber Alert on my phone when a three-year-old girl was in the back of a carjacked SUV in Milwaukee. (Thank goodness she was found safe.) With the attacks on Paris, our Governor attempting to refuse Syrian refugees in Wisconsin, and the reality of what is happening in war-torn countries, how do I explain situations I don't fully understand myself?

For now I can't do much about global issues besides continually teaching my kids compassion, tolerance, and empathy. What I can focus on, however, is basic safety information.

But on the other hand, while I don't want to scare her or her younger brother, I want to prepare them. They need to know how to keep themselves safe the best they can and trust I'll do the same for them.

For now I can't do much about global issues besides continually teaching my kids compassion, tolerance, and empathy. What I can focus on, however, is basic safety information. I've taught my daughter my phone number and our address. She thought it was fun to practice repeating until she memorized them.

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We talk about what to do if she gets lost or separated from me or my husband. We discuss why she shouldn't go in a stranger's car. We developed a plan of where to meet and what to do if there is a house fire. We read about good secrets versus bad secrets and to always tell us if someone tries to make her keep a bad secret. We teach her she is in control of her body.

I randomly drill her on these things, usually on the way to or from preschool. When she asks questions, I do my best to respond honestly with simple, straightforward answers. It's hard at times to conceal my panic at the thought of harm coming to her while trying not to emphasize how dangerous these situations can be.

My hope is she'll be as prepared as possible by the time she realizes that there are some monsters that are far scarier than zombies.

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