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How to Talk to Kids About the Colorado Shooting

It’s a terrible tragedy and most adults are

having difficulty wrapping their heads around

what took place early this morning in Aurora,

Colorado, when a man opened fire in a crowded

movie theater, wounding 59 people and killing 12.

If it’s hard for adults to fathom what has

happened, it is even more difficult for kids.

If your child is older than 6 or 7, it is more

likely than not that s/he is going to hear

something about this shooting.  And it’s

going to be hard for them to understand

how or why this happened, and how they

will be protected from this happening

to them and people they care about.

Do you know what to say that will help your child?

Here are some guidelines you can use:

1.  Stress that it is extremely rare.

Tell them that although this shooting

did happen, it is extremely rare. 

There were hundreds of theaters showing that

movie all across the country.

This only happened at one.

Tell them it is very unlikely that this

will ever happen to them or someone they know.

2.  Tell them you will keep them safe.

Reassure them that you will do everything you

can to keep them safe.  If you don’t think a place or

an event is a safe place for them, you won’t let them

be there or take them to it.  Let them know as their

parent you are responsible for doing the best job

you can to keep them safe, and you will do that job

to the best of your ability.

3.  Take a break from the news coverage.

Try to shield your kids from images and video

of the shooting.  Coverage of the event will be

running on CNN and other news stations almost

non-stop for a few days.  Turn it off when your

kids are anywhere near earshot.  It’s one thing to

know it happened.  It’s another thing to have to try

to make sense of highly disturbing images of it…

along with the sounds of anguished survivors and

loved one of victims.

4.  Assess for stress reactions.

Pay attention to changes in your child’s eating

and sleep habits.  Nightmares, loss of appetite, and

stomachaches are common ways that your young

child will let you know they are too stressed by the

information.  Distract them with playing their favorite

game or watching their favorite movie with them.

5.  Be okay with honest dialogue.

If your child asks you questions, be as honest as

you think is appropriate, given their age.

They may ask you why the gunman killed all

those people.  Right now, the best answer is

“I really don’t know.  Maybe someday we

will have more information about that.”

Then you can ask your child what s/he thinks.

That can help you have a discussion where your

child can share any thoughts, feelings, or fears

that s/he may have.  And you communicate

that it is okay to talk about even difficult and confusing

things.  Just try not to dwell on it, and try not to let

your child dwell on it, either…this is one time when

distraction is a great coping tool to engage.

6.  Walk your Talk.

Remember the most important thing you can

do is for you to stay calm and don’t obsess

about the shooting yourself.

Kids pay more attention to what

you do than to what you say.

So communicate through your actions that all is

well and as far as they are concerned, it will be.

 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were

harmed in the shooting, and to their families and friends.

 

If you think this information would

be helpful to someone you know, please share:

 

 

 

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