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: