Avoid editorializing. In general, even if your child is older, don’t share your opinion on the details of the matter. You’ll gain information regarding your child’s perspective if you listen to him or her and try to stay neutral while helping them process.
Use Hernandez as an example of what a hero is not. Present him as someone who was idolized based solely on his athletic skills and not his behavior and character.
Define a hero as one who performs heroic acts. This is an opportunity to help your children understand what a true hero is. Provide examples of your own heroes and describe the qualities of those you consider heroic. Examples — like a family you know that helped another family in need or the first responders who saved lives at this year’s Boston Marathon — bring heroes up close and make them real.
Monitor your children’s celebrity idol worship. Children who are over-focused on celebrities at are greater risk for copying negative behavior.
Explain that people have different personas. If your kids are old enough to understand, explore the contrast between Hernandez’s public persona and true character. Parents can use this approach to discuss how sometimes people act different ways in different settings.
Use this as an opportunity to reinforce the concept of moral character. Teach your kids about empathy and compassion. Explore your children’s capacity for empathy and find ways to build empathy, such as volunteering to help those in need or instituting an “acts of kindness” initiative at home.
Point out that kids who excel in sports are often seen as role models. If your children are high school athletes, instill in them a sense of responsibility. Remind them that they, too, might be seen as role models for younger children and they need to be aware of the importance of modeling good behavior.