How To Talk To Kids About The Newtown School Shooting
The blank page is a little bit daunting today. There are lots of topics to write about, but really there is only one thing that I can think of. The violent loss of 20 Grade One students in Connecticut hangs heavy on every parent -- no matter where you live, or how old your children are.
There is really no good way to talk to your kids about an act so brazen and so violent that you can't talk about it without crying yourself. How would I tell my 6-year-old that girls her own age were hurt in a place they consider safe? That teachers and the principal lost their lives for those kids? So I chose not to tell my 6- and 9-year-olds. I'm not sure if that was the right decision; I'm not sure if someone will say something at school or not. But for now, that is what we've decided.
- Be truthful.
- Only give the amount information that they can handle.
- Answer questions accurately but succinctly.
- Listen, as Michele Borba says, "honour the silence" (except she spells it honor).
- Accentuate the positive response of the teachers, the community and the world.
- Emphasize that the world is safe and beautiful and full of wonder.
- Give a chance to grieve, be active, memorialize if the child wants.
My 12-year-old and I talked about how mental illness is part of all societies and how thankful we are that in Canada, gun control is too. I mentioned the kindness and the courage of the teachers who did what they could to keep the children safe and calm. I told him that I was sad, that even though I don't know those 20 children, any event like this hurts parents everywhere. I told him that I loved him and his siblings.
It's not an easy conversation to have. How do you tell a child that the world is safe when that little voice in your head is screaming that it is not. But that is not the message I want to convey to my kids for the longterm. Of course, I want to hug them a little harder, I want to keep them within my eye's and heart's range for the day, the week, the year. But that does them a disservice.
My job is to instill faith in them, not fear. And no matter how fearful I feel about the random, horrible events that may lurk in the future; I have to override my instincts and push them out the door. But for the next few days, there may be a tear in my eye as I wave goodbye. And I know I am not the only one.
Have you told your kids?
Want more chaos? Last year, I gave a Hanukkah 101 lesson, Hanukkah is over but if you are wondering what we were doing, check it out.