I know everyone has been grief stricken by the events last Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Even 3000 miles away, here in California, our community is grieving. I wanted to be sure my kids heard about the event from me, and not from a friend, in a safe environment, where they could ask me as many difficult questions as they needed to ask.
It’s not an easy subject, so I read advice from experts before embarking on that conversation, and here are the common threads that wove through almost every expert’s recommendations.
But most importantly, you have to do what feels right for your family and what you know your children can process.
1. Talk to your kids. First and foremost in all of these articles is the importance of keeping an open dialogue with your kids. Keep yourself strong. Tune into what they are saying. But most of all, even if you don’t have the answers to their questions, keep the conversation going. Be honest. Be open. Listen.
2. Assure Safety. Chances are your children are going to be concerned with their own safety. Kids are egocentric. So don’t be surprised if their worries appear to be “self-centered”. We must assure our children that they are safe. “We are safe”. It’s ok to tell them that it happened far away. Tell them that there are safety procedures in school (like lockdowns) that will keep them safe.
3. Turn off the TV. Too much television is bad for kids. We all know that. But with the news showing these amazingly horrific images of this tragedy, it’s best to limit their exposure. Seeing repeated violent images could increase a child’s “fear factor”. And if they do watch some of the news with you, be honest and open with them.
4. Go about your routine. A great way to alleviate anxiety is to stick to normal routines: life as normal. Your children need to know that – even during a tragedy - there is stability.
5. Point out the heroism. Tell your children about the heroic acts by some of the children and the teachers at Sandy Hook. Kids at the school saved other kids. And teachers, in particular, saved many, many students.
6. Help your child grieve. We’re all sad. President Obama cried on TV. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to pray. Do what you do as a family. But, if you’re hurting, chances are your kids are hurting (although they probably won’t be able to tell you.) Show them you are there for each other when bad things happen.
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