Like so many, I’ve hard time processing the horrific events of this past Friday. 26 people gunned down, 20 of whom are children (around my children’s ages) is so hard to comprehend. One of the first questions I grappled with was how to communicate with my children.
For me, it wasn’t a choice of whether or not to tell them.
They are bright and inquisitive 7, 7 and 5 year olds who are very tuned into the world. Children are a lot more aware than we perceive them to be. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep them from hearing about the horror so I wanted it to come from me. Experts will say to start this conversation by finding out what the kids have heard. It was too early for mine to have heard. Here’s how it went for us.
I decided to talk to them while we were in the car en route to an activity. Car rides are an excellent time to speak with kids. There are fewer distractions and sharper attentions.
I used simple language without too many details. Along the lines of…”a very bad person did something terrible…”
I told them the truth without over sharing. They had a lot of questions…some I answered and others I didn’t.
I reinforced that they are safe and that this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. I didn’t tell them this wouldn’t ever happen. I told them I felt confident in their schools keeping them safe. They shared that they participate in “lockdown drills” and that was good reinforcement of some of the safety measures in places in their lives.
I encouraged them to tell me if they have questions or feelings about the information I presented, whether in the moment or anytime. You’ll read a lot about kids feeling stressed and scared. Some kids may be more vulnerable, others might just seem to move on. Remember most kids are self-centered. Whatever the feelings are that are presented to you the parent, it is important to acknowledge them and reassure your child.
On Saturday my kids saw me watching the news about it. I let them watch for a minute then decided to turn it off as the news about this is very overwhelming. My daughter said she heard some info on her radio that morning so I was glad that we had already spoken about it.
You may have seen this wisdom being passed around from an icon in my childhood, Mr. Rogers. I think it’s great advice:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
It’s also important to empower your kids to feel useful during trying times. In our case, my daughter came up with a brilliant idea on her own. She wants to write a letter to the students at Sandy Hook (912 Dickinson Dr., Sandy Hook, CT 06482). I’m very proud of her.
Did you speak to your children, and if so, how did it go?