As I said earlier, I haven’t been able to concentrate on my regular work today.
I keep watching, reading and thinking about the shooting in Orlando and everything related to it.
But one main aspect of this tragedy that I’ve been researching today is how to talk to my kids about it.
And I thought perhaps I could add something positive to the conversation by sharing some of what I’ve learned about how to talk to your kids about mass shootings.
Before I get to the articles I’ve found helpful, I wanted to share a couple thoughts of my own.
For us as adults and parents, I think we likely feel the need to know details and talk about these types of events much more than our kids do.
So when we talk to our children, we should keep in mind their individual personalities and whether or not they even want to know very much about it.
Also, I think we should try to emphasize the stories of how people helped each other during the attack.
In my case, I have two highly sensitive children, ages 8 and 11, who do not like to watch the news because they have terrible nightmares.
We live in Canada and while I assume the teachers and students at school will talk about what happened, I tend to think it would be discussed less here than in the US.
So far I have briefly told my girls there has been a shooting and that they may hear more about it at school.
I’m a highly sensitive person as well, and I remember that at their ages, I wouldn’t have wanted to see images or videos of the shooting. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to see any news stories about it because I know it would have impacted me so heavily.
So for my children, I will avoid having them watch the news.
But I know that is not the answer for most families.
Many kids will see the news, hear the stories and want to know what happened.
Like many other parents, I’m wondering what experts recommend we say to our children.
Expert Advice on How to Talk to Your Kids about Mass Shootings
Thankfully, there are many great resources to help us as parents tackle this tough conversation.
One such article was in Time magazine, How to Talk to Your Kids About the Orlando Shooting, and it had some helpful points for how to address the issue based on the age of your child.
Based on advice from psychologist Paul Coleman, author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces, this article suggests for…
- Pre-school kids: Try to avoid the subject and shield them from the news.
- Elementary school aged kids: Let them lead the discussion. Don’t go into details like the exact number of people who died or how. Avoid dramatic or frightening words, but still answer your kids’ questions either. Children aged 6 to 11 are often comforted by facts.
- Middle school aged children: Ask them if they’ve heard about the attacks and what they think. Don’t worry that you need to be able to answer all their questions as it’s most important that you are just around to help them absorb the news and help them feel safe.
- High school kids: They have likely read a lot about the events on social media, and heard about it from their friends, so you may want to explain the facts in more detail.
If your kids are still afraid after your reassurances, Coleman has a handy acronym of things to do that he uses called “SAFE”.
Here are 5 more valuable articles and resources about talking to children after shootings…
- How to Help Kids Feel Safe After Tragedy
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)
- How to Talk to Your Kids About the Orlando Massacre
- How to talk to children about shootings: An age-by-age guide
- The Orlando Nightclub Shooting: How To Talk To Your Child About Terrorism
And finally I’d like to leave you with the famous quote from Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
I hope these resources help you as you talk with your children over the coming days about this horrific tragedy.
In the particular discussion of the Orlando shooting, you may have the opportunity to talk to your children about the importance of accepting differences in people including who they choose to love.
Children innately understand love and have an easy time accepting that sometimes men want to marry men and women want to marry women. If you haven’t yet talked to your children about how families can take different forms and there can be two moms or two dads, this may be a good time to start talking about it.
We need to ensure this next generation embraces the LGBT community as ours should already be doing.
Let us encourage our kids that love will always win out over hate, and that they have the power to create a better future for everyone.