How to Talk to Children about Shootings: An Age-by-Age Guide.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
We’re all looking for ways to explain something that’s impossible to explain—because we don’t understand it and talking about terrorism/ shootings is different from other frightening or unsettling news, because it’s very different from a natural disaster. Even as adults we are unprepared for random and atrocious acts of violence.
Whilst we wish we didn’t have to talk about terrorist/ violent acts with our children, it’s important that we do. Due to the world, we live in and the nonstop 24/7 news cycle, you must develop the skills to discuss these topics with your kids.
First, you have to process your own emotional response. What you do will affect them more than what you say. Have your first reaction away from your child.
Toddlers to children under 6
You have to figure out before you talk to them what story you want them understand.
Your stories should reinforce your parenting beliefs. Maybe you want your children to know that someone with a serious illness felt angry and hurt people.
Try to focus on the positives, such as the heroes of the story.
Primary School Children: Shield Them
Again, parents need to decide on the takeaway message. Children in this age group will ask many more interrogative questions and parents need to decide how much they want to share.
Prevent their children from seeing pictures or the news because the images will stick with children longer than words.
If they have seen pictures – replace those memories and balance it out by showing the positive photos of people helping.
Tweens: Listen to their Feelings
Start the conversation by asking tweens if they heard about the latest shooting.
If you are going the shooting start with a pretest. You are going to ask how they feel about it.
If they have heard of it, listen to their feelings. If they haven’t heard of it, you have an opportunity to share your beliefs while gaining better insight into their tweens.
Use this opportunity to ‘Talk and Teach’ your children. It can become an important conversation around your values. Focus on the person you are raising, not the gore and horror.
Teens: Look for solutions
Ask your teens if they have heard of the latest tragedy and allow them to share their feelings.
But teenagers will expect more.
Teenagers are looking for answers and solutions and this generation believes in collaboration and social justice. And they are going to ask ‘What are you doing about it?
You can answer and then ask ‘What would you like to do? What can we do together?”
Teaching teenagers to work toward change will help them be resilient, but listen properly to your teenager and display empathy.
I think for anyone action makes us feel effective, useful and less stressed.