How do we to talk with our children regarding this tragedy?
Last Friday, one of the great United States tragedies happened when a 20 year old gunman killed 26 individuals which many were innocent, young children. In the next days and weeks, we will hear more information behind the story why this young adult went on this rampage. Until we have more information, I believe it is best to restrain from guessing what the motives or the story behind this individual’s thinking. The temptation to focus on the anger and the injustice of this tragedy is very common. But, I would rather focus on the celebration of life. I think we should concentrate on the ones we love and cherish. Many individuals have asked, what should we say to our children and grandchildren? I believe we should first reassure our children (as well as ourselves) that the local schools are one of the safest areas for our children to be when they are not with us. The school administration and staff take many precautions to prevent tragedies like this from happening. As a result of this incident, the schools will be on an even increased alert and awareness of any danger to our students. They have many safeguards set up to prevent and react if there is a danger to the school and the students. The adults in the schools have committed to protecting our students and we need to reassure our children that schools can indeed be safe places. We need to encourage our children to follow the protocol set up by the school for safety and follow the directions of the school staff.
At home, we need to listen to our children regarding their concerns. Children at different ages may respond differently. Some children may have a lot of questions and concerns and some may not have any. Some may respond with an attitude of bravado, being a tough guy, and others may be fearful. It is important to listen and hear where they may be at and then respond to their concerns. We should not assume what they have heard or what they are thinking and feeling. We should help our children be aware of what is going in our world (respecting age appropriateness) but at the same time we should limit their exposure to media focusing on this tragedy. If you see a pattern of change in sleeping, change in eating or avoidance of social activities you may need to consider seeking professional assistance.
By far the most important suggestion is for us to spend quality time with our children. Let them know through our words and actions that you love them. Reassure them that you will be here when they return from school. And again stress to them that they are loved.
During these tragic times, our children will be watching us and seeing how we respond. Choose to listen and reassure them. Choose to show them your love!