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How to Talk to your Kids about 2012

Like Y2K, the 2012 Doomsday prediction is going to be a big bunch of hype with a teeny tiny non-result. But just like Y2k, folks are cashing in on it, building panic and fear, and making movies. Every opportunity to cash in and bring in some pseudo-scientist who can try to correlate 2012 to some mystical foreknowledge ancient peoples had about some cataclysmic event will be taken advantage of.

But it’s all bunk. Nevertheless, the fear of 2012 (much like the fear of Friday the 13th actually) is strong in people, especially kids, who haven’t yet reached an age where they can fully separate real from make-believe because the critical thinking areas of their brains haven’t fully developed yet.

The best way to talk to your kids about 2012 is not to brush off their fears. If you don’t address their fears and treat them seriously, the child is likely to become even more anxious about the situation, both because of what they’re hearing and seeing around them, and because they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about it for fear you’ll mock them.

Here are the basic things you need to know about 2012 that you can pass on to your kids when the subject comes up:

The 2012 doomsday prophecy is based upon a misunderstanding of the Mayan calendar. Many people believe through false and partial information that the Mayan calendar “ends” on 2012. Because of this they’ve come up with the “reason” for it ending being that the world does. There is a lot of hocus pocus surrounding ancient cultures and the superstitious belief that they had some kind of expansive knowledge of the universe around them.

It’s true that ancient cultures have been remarkably advanced, in some cases discovering things we’re only just re-discovering. But by the same token, they were just people. And they were not mystically endowed with any future telling abilities.

You can tell your kids that there are many reasons for a calendar like that to just “stop.” There were often wars and countries being invaded and people getting captured. Maybe the calendar makers got captured, or died before going any further. Maybe other people lost interest in the completion of the calendar. Maybe they thought: “Hey, we’ve got thousands of years worth of information here, why don’t we give it a rest for awhile?” And before they could pick it up again, their civilization collapsed.

But even so… the truth is that the Mayan calendar doesn’t “stop” at 2012. It “turns over” then. There are Mayan references to dates beyond that point. The existence of Mayan references to dates after that point make it clear that the Mayans didn’t actually believe the world was ending on that date. If it was, how could a date exist beyond that point?

Another thing you might share with your child is the fact that the Mayan calendar didn’t say “2012.” That is later interpretation and most likely mis-calculation. Many cultures have many different calendars and the Gregorian calendar that has been more common in our modern times has most likely gotten the date wrong. 2012 is a possibility for the date, but it’s more likely that the date was sometime in September of 1618, in which case, hey we’re still here, the world didn’t end. Another possibility for the true date is a few hundred years from now, a time frame that your kids won’t have to worry about either.

When explaining these things to your kids, use it as a learning opportunity so they can learn a bit about history and calendar systems. The more knowledge and understanding they have on a kid-level of this stuff, the less scary or real it will seem to them the next time one of the other kids at school talks about the world exploding.