Parents, kids must discuss life issues - Catholic Courier

Parents, kids must discuss life issues

The evening news in recent weeks has been filled with disturbing images of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. For several days, children and adults alike were faced with almost constant footage of refugees living in squalor and without adequate food and water in the New Orleans Superdome and convention center; of families who had lost everything and become homeless overnight; and children who had been separated from their parents in the rush to evacuate.

“I don’t suppose that there is a child in this diocese who did not see some of the frightening and very strong images of New Orleans,” said Jann Armantrout, diocesan life-issues coordinator.

As terrible as events are such as Hurricane Katrina and last year’s tsunami, they can also provide perfect opportunities for parents to talk to their children about the consistent life ethic, Armantrout said. Catholics are called through the consistent life ethic to affirm life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death, and to oppose abortion, the death penalty, economic injustice, euthanasia, violence and war.

“Take advantage of naturally occurring events, when quiet but thoughtful conversation can take place,” Armantrout said.

After viewing footage of poverty-stricken New Orleans residents, for example, a parent might explain to the child that there are poor people in their own city, and God has called them to help the less fortunate wherever they may be.

Although parents are often understandably reluctant to bring up these issues with their children, they should understand that their children may be exposed to some of these things anyway, Armantrout said. The war in Iraq and the Terri Schiavo debate have turned the media spotlight onto violence, war and euthanasia in recent months, and a child simply walking down the street with a parent could unwittingly find himself or herself confronted by photographs of aborted fetuses on signs held by pro-life activists.

Parents need to acknowledge that their children might be exposed to some very jarring and powerful images. When faced with such disturbing images, it’s important for parents to validate the repulsion their children might feel. At this point, parents can also explain how fragile human life really is and how important it is for humans to care for each other, she said.

“We shouldn’t come to the point where we are hard of heart and no longer respond,” Armantrout said.

Parents don’t have to wait for another tragedy to occur before talking to their children about life issues, however.

“Early on, help them understand their own uniqueness and their own privilege to be a child of God. If you don’t understand yourself as a child of God, it’s hard to see others as such,” Armantrout said.

Many parents have found that ultrasound photographs provide a good way to teach their children about the beauty of human life and development, she added. These photographs show children they were unique and cared for even before they were born.

Children often ask very cogent questions, and these questions should be thoughtfully considered and then honestly answered at a level the children can understand, Armantrout said.

“There are lot of opportunities. You just have to watch for them,” she said.

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