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Should you talk to your child about mass shootings and bomb threats? Absolutely.

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Dr. Meg Meeker

It has been a tragic and stressful week in our country. First there was an attempted bombing spree leaving many people in danger and the authorities in confusion. Then a few weekends ago was the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people – and now the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

Whether it’s a mass shooting, a bombing or a series of bomb threats, no doubt your children are affected. They are hearing about it on the news. They are reading about it on social media. Even if you’re keeping your child away from the T.V., he knows what’s happening. Because of this, I feel it’s important that we help our kids process hard information.

Often after such tragedies and newsworthy events, we adults focus on praying for the victims or talk about what the next move for the government should be, forgetting that little eyes are watching and ears are hearing. As disturbing as recent news has been for us, it can be worse for our children. So we can’t let them get lost in the shuffle.

To that end, I want to encourage parents to reach out to your kids and help them through this difficult time. Here are a few tips for how to talk to your child after a tragedy:

Initiate conversation.

Don’t wait until they come to you. As I said, kids are seeing images and updates on social media,  and their friends are talking, so they are already thinking about the shooting and recent events. Initiating discussion won’t put ideas or fears in their minds; talking them through will help alleviate their fears.

Use simple language.

When telling them about the tragedies, you can say that someone who is very disturbed used a weapon on innocent people. Don’t tell gory details but say that people were hurt and some are in the hospital.

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 sugarcoat this. However, tell them that there are far more good people. Talk to them about the prayer vigil the community in Pittsburgh held in honor of the victims and the police who caught the bomb suspect. There are people comforting those in need, and we have a police force that is working hard to keep us safe.

Give them something to do.

I always tell 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. Together, pray for the shooting victims and their families. Getting in the habit of praying after events like this will help strengthen your child’s faith and help her learn to pray reflexively when life is tough.

Give them reassurance.

Tell your children that the chances of things like this happening to them are extremely small. That’s the truth. Children may have nightmares and worry about someone coming to your home with a gun or setting off a bomb. So tell them that your job as Mom and Dad is to protect them and that you feel very confident in your abilities to do your job well.

The world is a scary place, but your child does not need to live in fear. She also doesn’t need to be sheltered and protected from reality. When tragedies happen, talk to your child about how she is feeling and what she is thinking. Open the line of communication to talk about the hard things. The more you talk to your child honestly, the more secure she will feel.

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