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Talking to Children About the Batman Shooting (Video)

By Mallika Chopra

I woke up this morning to emails saddened by the tragic news from Colorado.  Opened up CNN on my phone and saw the headlines: Gunman Kills 12 at Batman Movie.

The alarm went off and my kids woke up. Time to get ready for camp.  While making breakfast, I peeked at my computer for updates, not wanting to put the TV on and expose my kids to the tragedy.  Got in the car to drive to camp.

“Can you put the radio on?”  Just like every morning, the same request.

Turned to our favorite radio station, and Ryan Seacrest was chatting with a woman about what happened.  I quickly switched to another station, and same news.  Put the radio off.  My kids whined.

I thought for a minute.  I need to explain to them what happened.  They will likely hear about it from others today at camp.  They should hear about it from me.  At 8 and 10 years old, they are old enough.

And so, it began.  ”Girls, I need to tell you about something that happened today.”  Their wide eyes looked at me from the back seat.

“You may hear about something very tragic that happened today.  A man, who was obviously not well, shot and killed people today.”  It seemed to register with Tara, my elder immediately, who was very quiet.  Slowly, I explained the situation to them.  Leela asked if it was like 9/11 – her other association with major tragedy.

Tara wanted to know more details.  Where did it happen?  Did I tell them at the movie theater?  I paused, before I told them the truth.  And then, I actually began to tell them that if ever they are somewhere and feel uncomfortable, if a person is acting strange, I want them to get out of that place.  And if anything scary starts to happen, they need to hide.  As I said these words, I panicked – am I doing the right thing?

Talking to children about things that we cannot even reconcile with ourselves is uncomfortable, intimidating and scary.  But as I struggled with my words, I felt that it was so important that they heard from me what happened.  How much more confusing for them would it be to hear from others.

And I realized that in the end my kids weren’t as traumatized as I thought they would be.  I was proud actually to see how mature they were.  I realized that in empowering them with my trust, in sharing my own confusion, we were more connected.  They embraced the news with sadness and a bit of confusion, but they were ready to go to camp and go on with their day.

Have you talked to your kids about the tragedy of the Aurora shooting? If so, how? Please share your story so we can learn from each other in this confusing time.

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14 comments

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7:56AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

ty

9:40AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

I think today with such tragedies going on, the parents better become more prepared to inform their children and expose them to the reality as to how this world has changed. I do believe children surprise us when they are given the news. It's far better that parents be the first to break these tragic news events (& happy events alike) to their children than for the children to hear it elsewhere. I do think children are far better at processing these kind of things than we give them credit for. I would think a calm, mature and gentle approach would do it. It may even build closer parent/child relationship when confronting children with mature content.

7:59PM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Thanks.

7:07PM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

What the hell were children doing at a theatre at midnight? Watching a simulated snuff movie? Crazy crazy Americans and their guns.

6:56PM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Thanks

5:09PM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Thanks.

6:56AM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Thanks

6:30AM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Being honest and forthcoming about news is a good way to prepare your child for the greater world ahead. Children can usually understand things like the Aurora shooting in a pragmatic way. They really study the emotions and body language of adults to know how important the news is. It is also a good idea to immediately reassure them of ways we try to stay safe and how very rare such events are. Then drop the subject and let children come up with questions in their own time.

One of the toughest subjects for me, as a teacher, was the impeachment of President Clinton. It was certainly news, but I didn't want to touch the Monica Lewinsky part of it. Sadly, it is easier to explain shooting with guns since kids see so much on media anyway.

5:03AM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Well, I wasn't a witness. I only know it from the media.

5:03AM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

That was horrible! How could such a mad thing have ever occurred to anyone?

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