Talking To Our Kids On Days Like This

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Like many parents across America (and likely the globe) I’m anxiously looking forward to seeing my family tonight and hugging them just a little tighter. But once the kisses and hugs have been shared, after a the tears have been shed for the horrors others are living on this day, the conversations will begin. The questions have already begun from my five and seven year old nieces, curious about what had all the grown ups so emotional.

Rabbi Sarah, the leader of our congregation, sent an email to members with some earnest advice about discussing an event of this magnitude with our children –

We are often so stunned that we cannot help but follow the news and talk about this event in our conversations. Please remember that our children are listening. They depend on us to calm their fears. PBS Parents offers the following tips on discussing tough topics, such as today’s shooting.

  • Start by finding out what your child knows. Ask an open-ended question, such as “What have you heard about it?”
  • Ask a follow-up question. Probe what he or she thinks by asking “Why do you think that happened?” or “What do you think people should do to help?”
  • Explain simply. Sometimes, just a few sentences can be sufficient.
  • Listen and acknowledge. Say “I understand that you are worried, but you are safe at school.”
  • Offer reassurance. Tell the child that the shooting happened far from here and that the school and teachers are trained to keep children safe.
  • Tailor the discussion to your child’s age. Younger children may be satisfied with knowing that the event happened far away, while older children may want to know what they can do to help.

Additional Resources:
Talking to Children about School Shooting: From the American Psychological Association
How to Talk to Your Children about Gun Violence: From MSNBC
How to Talk to Kids About the School Shooting in Connecticut: From the Children’s Hospital Colorado
The Connecticut School Shooting: How to Help Children Cope with Frightening News: What parents can do to aid kids in processing grief and fear in a healthy way from the Child Mind Institute.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Anne Frank, a child herself when she had to wrap her mind around the world’s horrors:

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

Wishing the families at Sandy Hook Elementary peace and love.

Talk to me. Please. I'm almost always alone or with a toddler.