I was devastated to learn of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, but I was even more heartbroken to discover the majority of fatalities were children. In my eyes, a child’s innocence is the most beautiful thing on this planet, and that’s what makes this event so gut-wrenching. My heart breaks for the victims and their loved ones, and I truly cannot even begin to fathom the heartache and trauma that the Newtown community now faces.
Though many of us –myself included – may be overcome with grief, we also have to remember that we have a delicate situation on our hands. As parents, it’s important to convey a certain level of emotion, but if you feel like you’re going to lose it in front of your young children, try to excuse yourself from the room. Obviously age plays a large factor in our ability to comprehend complex emotions and events like today, so tread lightly when discussing these types of traumatic situations. As outlined by ABC News, here are some guidelines in catering the discussion with your children:
“Children younger than 7 - Shield them from this. They don’t need to know about it.
Children 7-12 - They need to know that they are safe, and they’ll look to you for cues. If you’re sobbing uncontrollably, overly angry or unable to express your feelings, it might affect how they process the tragedy. But if you’re expressing appropriate emotion – like sadness, concern and empathy – they’re going to see that it’s OK to be worried about this. You want them to talk about it. You want to ask, “How do you feel about this?” And then it’s important to support their feelings. If your child says, “I’m really scared,” the worst thing you can do is say, “There’s no need to be scared.” Instead, tell them, “We’re going to keep you safe, and they got the bad guy.”
Children Older Than 12 - With teenagers, you really want to engage them. Ask them why they think this happened? And do they think anything could have prevented this? You can have a real conversation out of that. You might also be able to channel them to a community project, some act of charity so that they believe they are taking positive action.”
Best thing you can do is reassure them of their safety, keep the news coverage/graphic images to a minimum, stick to your normal routines, and give them a great big hug.
On behalf of everyone here at BabyEarth, our deepest condolences go out to all of those affected by this horrific tragedy. Our hearts our heavy for the loss of so many beautiful young children and the wonderful adults that have served them.
Hugs to you and yours today, and always.