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My Real SG Life: How This American Mum Breaks Bad News to Her Children

Last year was a wild year.

The global pandemic was the biggest headline, of course, but 2020 actually kicked off with my dad’s passing. In addition, for Americans, it was a turbulent time with Black Lives Matter protests, a historic presidential election and, at the outset of 2021, the storming of the Capitol building by a riotous mob. It’s been a lot for me to take, let alone to explain to my kids, who are 4 and almost 6.

Being in Singapore, they are protected from much of what is happening; my husband, Christian, and I have the luxury of being more selective in the details we share. Back home in the U.S., much of it would be in our faces (and theirs!) day in and day out. Certainly, it’s been a year of difficult conversations about…

The Virus

We’ve talked about germs and how masks help us not get germs so, not surprisingly, a lot of their questions have revolved around masks. My little one asked if he had to wear it when he was a baby – I think he’s beginning to forget what life used to be like.

They are just starting to understand how bad the virus situation is in the U.S. and are concerned about their grandmothers, in particular. We’ve talked about the vaccine, and how we hope it will protect our family over there, and they ask the grands if they are wearing masks (they are!). Even though children below 6 are not required to wear masks in Singapore, we still encourage them to do so. An unexpected benefit: We’ve all had a lot fewer runny noses this past year!

Black Lives Matter

This one proved to be a bit trickier. At this age, my kids play games and tell stories about the “police and the bad guys”, so we’ve managed a few bedtime stories that approach the issue of the police unfairly targeting people because of their skin colour. I also ordered books featuring kids of colour.

One of my children’s favourites is Skin Like Mine by Latashia M. Perry, told by a girl who celebrates different skin tones, including comparing the shades to peanut butter and chocolate spread.

U.S. Politics

I’m not sure we planned to talk to the kids about the riot at the U.S. Capitol building on 6 January – I was in shock myself! But Christian and I were discussing whether then-president Donald Trump should be impeached for provoking this, and my older child asked what was going on. We told her that a “bad guy” wanted to stay in power, despite the American people voting otherwise, and made some parallels to the animated movie Anastasia (in which – loosely speaking – the sorcerer Rasputin has the Russian czar and his family killed, sparking the Russian Revolution). Admittedly, this is not the most sophisticated explanation, nor do I like simplifying people into “good” and “bad”, but it ended the barrage of questions for the moment.

Death

This one was the hardest for me, as I’m still dealing with the pain of losing my father. But, after trying to hide my sadness from the kids for a while, and letting Christian handle most of their questions, I realised I needed to talk about my dad, too.

So I made a photo book of him. On his birthday, we made a cake for Gogo (the kids’ name for him). We looked at the book and talked about our favourite memories, as well as on the anniversary of his passing. My little one seems to have been more connected to him, and I even heard him whispering to his elder sister the other day, “I miss Gogo.” I gave him a big hug.

By Sara Madera for The Finder Kids Vol.30 / March 2021 / Images: ©Ken Wolter @ 123RF.COM + 123RF.com

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