1. #1
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Oct 2001

    Default Kids ask "Will you come home again?"

    Firefighters in my departments are looking for help in responding to their young children's questions -- intensified by 9-11 -- relating to firefighter safety. Kids fear every departure for work is the last time they'll see Mom or Dad.
    Does anyone have material or ideas to share that recognizes the risks but also reassures?

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    firemangeorge's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2001


    I don't have any materials to share with you, but I will share what I told my kids, which is what my father told me. I grew up with my father a full time police officer and my mother a full time nurse. Death and destruction was normal mealtime conversation. During the riots here in the sixties we watched tv sitting on the floor, so that if anything came through the window it would go over us.
    My parents told me when I ws very young that my father had a dangerous job, a job that he could get killed doing. He said he would try to avoid it if he could, but if it happened, he wanted us to know he loved us very much and would always watch over us. Thirty seven years later he is still a cop, although he's in a very much safer department than he was then, and I am a full time fire fighter. I take my kids (6 and 7 years old) to funerals and lay-outs when someone I know dies. I tell them that the deceased is gone and will not be coming back. I do not tell them that "Grandpa has gone to sleep for a long time" or any of that BS. When they ask if I could get killed I tell them yes, but I will try very hard to avoid it. If I should get killed, I love them very much and will always watch over them. I never leave for the fire house without kissing every member of my family. Even though they may be asleep, they know I kiss them before I leave because I told them I would and I refuse to lie to them. If something should happen to me, they and I know that we said good bye and are at peace with each other.
    I think the most important thing you can do is tell them the truth. Kids know if you are lying and that scares them more than the truth ever will. "What reason would Daddy have to lie to me?". Let them know you love them every chance you get and they will be fine when you leave. If you don't tell them you could die, and you do, they will know you lied to them until the day they die. And you don't want that following you into the afterlife.
    See You At The Big One

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Columbus, Ohio


    My teenage daughters ask me the other day if i was scared of anything. I immediately knew the answer, "I fear God". They said they already knew that, but what about heights, spiders, etc. I told them I feared if anything might happen to them.
    I've had the good fortune of being able to sit and talk with my kids about faith in God. How it helps overcome our weaknesses and gives us strength, especially in tough times or when we're tempted to do something we may regret later. I've seen the look on their faces when I've returned home. It's a look I've ignored because of the emotion it stirs.
    I haven't any ideas but you have given one to me revb720. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me face this issue again. I'm going to tell them that no matter what happens to me, that God will take me home and that they must have faith as well, or they will have a difficult time dealing with me not being there.
    I lost my Dad in July, he has been my "hero" for along time. But I'm secure in the knowledge that is has found true rest in Heaven, with Christ Jesus. Some day we'll be together again, I'm sure of that!

    Fireman George, you are so right! I tell them often how much I love them, I walk into my 8 year old son's room when he's sleeping and run my fingers through his hair. He will stir and I know he knows it is me because he will smile. A big ole wet kiss on his forehead. He is mentally challenged, so the experts say. He doesn't comprehend what most 8 years old do, but he can't wait for me to get home. He loves going up to the station and hanging out and he loves riding the trucks, for now, all he knows is that dad is a firefighter and I drive a ford pickup truck.

    God Bless you Brothers, I've got your back!

    [ 10-31-2001: Message edited by: Chaplain 41 ]
    See you on the big one!<br />Billy Reiter 1st Lieutenant/Chaplain available 24 7

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2001


    I'm a single dad. I have two kids, one seven and the other just six months. My fear isn't for me....its that something will happen and I won't be here for my kids. I love my job, but there are days when I just don't want to go, I don't want to leave them.

    After my wife died my seven year old gave me a hard time every morning I left for work. We were always honest with him and he knew that there were dangers involved in my job. I just sat down and talked to him, told him that yes, there was a possibility that one day i might get hurt or die, but that i hoped it wouldn't be for a long time and I would do everything I possible could to make sure of that. He seemed to be ok with that. I also allow him to call me every night before bed to tell me good night and i tell him a bedtime story or something or just talk to him about how his day went. This has seemed to calm his fears for now, but I could also use suggestions from others on whatelse i can do.

    I agree with others to be honest with the kids, but don't be too graphic or scare them. They are just kids, they don't need to worry every day if mom or dad will come home. If you have a cell phone, allow you kids to call you if they are scared. Hearing your voice will reassure them. If I'm on a call or something i just leave mine off and call them back as soon as i can.

    Anyway, hope it help.

  5. #5
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Oct 2001


    firemangeorge, chaplain 41, EC 116: Thanks for your replies. I see a couple of common threads running through your responses, and my own experience. . .
    Personal contact - kisses
    Honesty - recognition of real danger and keeping the promises made.
    I have been involved in high risk stuff for many years as a Red Cross Disaster worker, and as a challenge course builder and stress/challenge trainer.
    My children are both admirable adults now, but for a long time I told them and my wife that I was sometimes afaid in my work, but I was never worried. I trusted God's grace, my own skill, my colleagues, and my equipment. I am in no hurry to leave this life, but if I do in (an of my) Lines of Duty, I will count my life well-spent.
    Yes, every time I leave the house on a call, my wife and I kiss and share "I love you."
    Some ff's who follow these same actions don't feel they are enough in the light of plane crashes and anthrax. What more can we do?

  6. #6
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Oct 2001


    I am a retired teacher of young children. I also raised three kids alone after the suicide death of their father (they were all under six yrs. of age at the time).
    There are a few things I can share with you that might be helpful enough to pass along.
    1.) Encourage children to talk about their feelings by asking "open ended questions"
    What this means is you ask a question that gives the child the option of either answering it with one word or it can get him going in a long ramble.
    (example: Child: "Daddy. Are you going to be killed at your work?"
    Daddy: "Sometimes my job can be dangerous, but Daddy is strong and lots of other strong men help me do my job. We help protect each other. What do you think about the job I do?"

    Keep in mind that most young children only hear about one or two sentences of your answer. So keep the message brief. Don't downplay the child's fears by saying something like "Oh, don't be silly. I'll be fine." That makes the child feel stupid. He will learn to stuff his fears inside.

    Address one issue at a time. Once you answer that question honestly, but without detail, ask the child if there is anything else he/she wants to know. Chances are the child is just reaching out for reassurance that for NOW he is loved. For NOW you are here.

    Use this as a roadmap: Answer one question. Ask if there is more. If the child asks for more, build from there. Keep it short. Keep it honest. But NEVER use the one question as an open door to explain LIFE to a child or DEATH to a child.
    Children ask what they need to know. They ask in age-appropriate ways so a parent must not give them more information than they are able to take in or assimilate.

    So...it's a huge mistake to drown the child in huge waves of information. If they ask if you will be killed at work, say you are trained to stay safe. Ask if they want to talk about how they feel about the job you do and WAIT for them to say what they have to say.
    Only build on what they ask.

    The older the child gets the more he will want to know. Encourage conversation but ask ANY kid what he wants most from a parent and he will ALWAYS say "Time."

    2. ESSENTIAL in times of stress or duress (whether it is during a divorce or world drama...anytime life is disrupted or teetering between rock solid and the unknown) the one thing a parent can do to keep a child feeling SAFE is to NOT change or alter his daily routine.

    Not in any way...change nothing. If you can do one thing to keep a child feeling psychologically stable and secure it would be to make sure he goes to school (even if it's preschool) EVERYDAY (on time).
    Pick him up at the same time.
    Feed him at the same time.
    Bedtime...ALWAYS the same.

    In the middle of chaos nothing frazzles a child faster than tweaking his routine.

    Like adults, for children...the everyday small things keep us on-track. Depression can be debilitating to those with time on their hands.
    Keep a child busy, but not overly involved with outside activities. They are stressful in and of themselves. Instead of herding your child from one class or activity after another after school and on weekends...give that gift of TIME back to him.

    If you learn anything from 9-11 learn to be a parent. Talk to your child. When you have a day off, spend part of it with that child. (not shopping for video games. not calling a movie a 'quality time' experience. Not going to McDonalds and Target and the Mall and calling that 'time well-spent').
    Go to the park. Sit (God forbid. Sit and do nothing). In doing nothing...EVERYTHING is done.

    I hope this gets you started. Here is one last gem I picked-up early and used time and time again...
    "Think SMALL"...
    this means break things down as small as you can and start there. This guideline will get you through things for the rest of your life. It is the one thing most of us think of doing LAST. We look at the big picture. Look at the smallest corner of this puzzle called LIFE and begin putting it back together there. Keep at it. Stay consistent. All things your Mama and mine tried telling us all along.

    Kids want to be reassured that even though the world seems scary right now, life in THEIR house will be safe and stay unaffected...unchanged. Prove they are safe by keeping their world unaltered. Keep it solid by investing yourself in the routines and rituals.

    Listen. Hear them. They need to speak to YOU more than they need to hear what you say. Children learn by WATCHING and interacting. They learn by studying YOU.

    God bless you for your good work! Stay safe. Invest in the children. Teach them to have faith in the world by dusting yourself off right now and getting back on the job and coming home at the end of the day.
    Colleen McQuaid

  7. #7
    Senior Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Stratford, N.J.


    Man this is a tough one but I'll give it a try. My son is 21 Months Old {Almost The Terrible Two's} He understands when the Pager {or beep beep as he calls it} goes off that daddy has to go. I'm sure he wouldn't understand if I didn't come back. My wife is a real sport about the Fire Company Too. She supports me in it although sometimes we argue about whats more important...The Fire House or Doing Dishes...For now when the pager goes off and I leave them I tell them both I love them and I'll be back soon. My wife doesn't mention it but I know the thought is in the back of her mind What If ?

    I hope and pray each time I turn out that I return home safely and I have in the last 12 years as a volunteer.
    ***The Opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect those of the Department to which I am a Member ! ***

    Stratford Fire Co. # 1.."Any Job ~ Any Place ~ Any Time"

    Check us Out www.stratfordfire.com

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