I decided to post this because of the recent shooting incident that took place in Aurora, Colorado. The information in this post was taken from an article written by, Ian Newlin, of http://www.kcchildtrauma.com/talking-to-kids-about-mass-casualty-events/
It Can’t be Avoided:
You know it will happen. Your kids will be exposed to the news about different mass casualty events that occur in the country and the world. I encourage you to try to limit your exposure to this “news” as they seem to overplay it. This isn’t to say you should try and implement a media blackout. They will eventually hear about it, and in our roles as either parents or professionals we can use this as an oppurtunity to talk about mental health and self care.
Be Aware of Your Own Fears:
The first thing to remember is to deal with your own fears. It’s scary; however, this kind of thing can happen anywhere. The parents seem to never know these events were coming. It’s frustrating we can’t do a better job of preventing these kinds of things. All kinds of emotions come up for us as adults, and we need to respond to those first. If we come up with thin answers. Kids will see right through. The next step is that I always ask myself, how would I want this child to respond to this situation if it were them? I find that kids always attempt to apply information to their own lives. They very quickly get to “if it was me I would have.”
Create an Oppurtunity:
In the case of a shooting, I would explain that those people must have been very angry. The problem is they didn’t know who to talk to about their anger and frustration. Maybe they were embarrassed about their problems, or maybe they didn’t think the people in their lives would understand their problems. We can explain that those people always get frustrated or upset, the trouble happens when we make poor choices about how to handle our emotions.
Things to Avoid:
When as adults our emotions run away with us, we come up with short, disingenuous answers that tell kids we aren’t reliable sources of information. When we respond with the following:
“they are just crazy”
“they were psycho”
“that can’t happen here”
“don’t worry about it”
“I’ll never let anything like that happen”
These are all the same as “Cause I said so!” Kids know instantly that this means you don’t have any good answers, and you don’t want to talk about it. Even worse, is that it could lead a child to think they should be embarrassed if they get angry or hurt. Especially if they get so angry that they think of hurting themselves or someone else. The more intense their emotions are, the more embarrassed they think they should be. In that vacuum, then, we leave the message that to truly get heard you have to get attention from the system or the media.
You know they will mention this when you aren’t paying attention, like when driving in the car, or in the middle of another conversation. But just remember, take a moment, recognize your own emotions, and turn this into a powerful teaching moment for yourself, and the children in your life.