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Tips to Talk to Children About the Colorado Shooting

Tips to Talk to Children About the Colorado Shooting

Whether you’re a parent of young children, or whether you simply spend time around young nieces, nephews, or children in your neighborhood, you may be wondering how to talk to children about the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Perhaps you aim to sit them down for a serious discussion of what happened and why, before they hear a scarier story from their classmates. Maybe you just want to be prepared with what to say, in case they ask you about it.

Dr. David Curtis, a psychologist who writes for Texas Children’s Hospital, recently posted a helpful guide on how to approach this sensitive topic with children. He advises:

“If your child is exposed to this news, it is important to monitor your own reaction to your child’s questions. Instead of simply saying “we don’t talk about these kinds of things,” respond to your child’s questions in very simple, general and honest terms. Your child will be looking to see how you respond as much as for what you will say. If you show your child that you are calm and able to manage your worries, then that will demonstrate security and reassurance to them. Some things that you can tell your child are the following:

“Some people were hurt late at night at a movie theater.”
“Police caught the man that hurt those people.”
“This happened far away from here.”
“You are safe here and Mommy and Daddy will always make sure you are safe.”

He stresses that adults should focus on being supportive listeners, instead of striving to be omniscient problem-solvers who have all the answers—after all, in a situation like this, there may be no concrete answers to give. He also suggests minimizing younger children’s exposure to news reports in order to lessen their anxiety; while it is not possible to shelter them from hearing about the tragedy, you can try to protect them from some of the more alarming inputs (like breaking news reports).

Dr. Curtis offers a few more general tips on how to help children deal with feelings and fears aroused by the shooting:

  • “Validate your child’s concerns and acknowledge that such feelings are normal.
  • Tell your child that he/she can come to you and talk about his/her worries anytime.
  • Model coping by sharing your own reaction to the news and describing things you are doing to manage these feelings (e.g. talking with friends, exercising, getting good sleep, etc.).
  • Create some dedicated one-on-one time each day to spend with your child. During this time, don’t try to direct the conversation toward the topic of concern, but rather consider maintaining a calm, available presence for your child to share anything that is on his/her mind. Your child will benefit from this time with you even if nothing is said, just knowing that he/she is important to you and that you are physically and emotionally available to provide support.”

Have you talked to children about the shooting in Aurora, or do you believe it’s not appropriate to discuss it? Are there any techniques you’ve found to be particularly comforting or helpful to your young family members or acquaintances?

 

 

Related:
Talking to Children About the Batman Shooting (Video)
Are You Brave? Lessons About Fear & Courage From The Colorado Tragedy
Overreacting? Your Kid Will Too

Read more: Anxiety, Children, Family, Mental Wellness, News & Issues, Teens, , , , , , , , ,

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17 comments

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12:52PM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

Thanks

7:40AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

thanks

5:29AM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

thank you

1:53AM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

4:53PM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

It's sad that we must discuss these things with our children at all but unfortunately, bad things happen and sheltering our kids from them just doesn't work. I've found open discussion has always worked with my family and now that they are grown, they practice the same with their own children.

11:13AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

Good advice, thanks.

9:08AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

What's there to say? What do you tell children in Afghanistan and Iraq who were exposed to crazy Americans running around gunning down people, even children, in plain sight? What do you tell children in Afghanistan and Iraq when they step out of the house and trip over dead bodies American soldiers have left there?

3:19AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

What the hell was children doing at a midnight screening of a simulated Snuff movie? What kind of parenting is that? If this had happened at a hip hop concert, people would be asking for a boycott of that music, they would take their children away from them, citing bad parenting, blaming the parents for exposing them to such perversions. Well that is exactly how I feel about this. Why aren't the parents being criticised for Child neglect? They are partly to blame.... If this had happened at the screening of a violent black movie, they would ban the movie! Especially if the shooter was dressed as one of the stars! I don't expect a reply, or any kind of intelligent discourse, this care2 thing is populated mostly with the most uncaring institutionalised racists, whose idea of an intelligent statement consists of the 3 words 'god bless america!' (lower case intentional)

7:38AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Continued...

It surprised me that no one around me was bothered or worried about the "pop." There were no reactions from anyone else. Some kids were staring at us, probably thinking we were crazy. Maybe they don't watch the news, but this is why it is very important that adults talk to kids about what happens. They will be more aware and hopefully prepared. We all enjoyed the movie despite this.

7:35AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

I have talked to my 9 and 14 year old about the Aurora incident and yes, it should definitely be discussed. Parent(s) should not shelter their children from the real world. Two days after this incident, I took my 9 year old, my 14 year old with 5 of his friends and a 12 year old to watch Ice Age. I wanted to assure them that it is safe to go to the movies. They were all apprehensive, especially my 9 year old. I just told them to be aware of their surroundings (especially the EXIT sign), look for anyone who looks suspicious, anyone with a coat on (we live in Florida and you definitely do not need a coat/jacket), etc. I also told the older ones to take care of the younger one. I told my son, like always, that he must look after his little sister. I can take care of myself. He just needs to help her. It's so unfortunate that all these precautions must now be dealt with or discussed before going into a theater where families are suppose to enjoy at least 2 hours of their time. Some kids were jumpy and uncomfortable, especially my girl. However, the absolute worse thing that happened is that some inconsiderate idiot popped a balloon in the middle of the movie. Of course, my 9 year old jumped and slouched to the ground, as well as some of the kids I was with. I told them it's ok, it was just a balloon or a bag that someone decided to pop. It was uncalled for. Unfortunately I didn't know who did it, so no one was taken out of the theater. It surprised me that no one around me was bo

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