In the wake of tragedy, I often reiterate how to talk to your kids about it. Don’t forget the little eyes watching the T.V. screen, seeing what you’re looking at on social media, and overhearing your conversations. Even if your child hasn’t heard about this shooting from you, he will likely hear about it elsewhere. This is why it’s important to know how to address tragedy with your child.
1. Initiate the conversation.
Don’t wait until they come to you. Your child has likely heard about this event or will soon. Initiating discussion won’t put ideas or fears in their minds; talking them through will help alleviate their fears.
2. Use simple language.
You can say that someone who was very disturbed did something that hurt other people. You don’t have to get into the details. Just plainly state a bad thing happened to good people.
3. Talk about good and bad.
It’s good to tell kids that there is evil in the world and people who do very bad things. You can’t sugar-coat this. However, tell them that there are far more good people. Talk to them about the helpers, as Mister Rogers said—all of the policemen, fireman and citizens who helped the kids and will continue to help the community.
4. Give them something to do.
I always told my kids to pray for those who are in trouble. Even young children need to participate in a solution. Asking them to pray helps them feel that they can make a difference. You can also donate money to the victims’ families. Several verified fundraisers have been set up that you can find here, including a fundraiser organized by VictimsFirst, an organization that supports families who’ve lost loved ones in mass shootings. Visit these websites with your child and decide together how much you could donate.
Events like this make us feel helpless. But we aren’t. We have the power of prayer, we can give to those in need, we can reach out in love and support to those around us, and we can fight for measures that can be taken to reduce gun violence.
Hold your little ones tightly today. Give yourself the space you need to grieve and let this event inspire you to work toward a more peaceful and less violent future for our children.
To learn more about how to talk to your children about tragedy, the Dougy Center—a center for grief services and support—has excellent resources. Visit them at Dougy.org.