General Question

jonsblond's avatar

How do you tell your young child about the mass shooting that happened today?

Asked by jonsblond (37729 points ) December 14th, 2012

I would like this discussion to only be about telling your young child about the shooting.

They will hear about it if they haven’t already. Many of us have young children. What is the best way to go about this discussion? If they don’t know about it yet, how do you tell them about it before they find out the next day they return to school?

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39 Answers

ucme's avatar

It’s important to let them know that bad stuff happens, it’s a sad fact of life, there’s only so much you can, or should, shield from them.
Reassurance is paramount though, they need to be told that this kind of thing is rare, big lie, but so is santa right?

syz's avatar

From the National Assosciation of School Psychologists : Talking to Children About Violence

ucme's avatar

I just told my 16yr old son about it, he got slightly choked up & quickly changed the subject, our kids remain forever young….bless.

burntbonez's avatar

I don’t have any children in my life, so I can’t really say much. But I’m kind of curious. Why are children so different from the rest of us? Why do people not talk to children as they would talk to people? Are you afraid of their feelings? Will they break down and cry? Will they have nightmares? What are people so afraid will happen to children if you tell them about reality?

Unbroken's avatar

Well you can’t sugar coat it. Vile things happen and they are better off knowing that.

If they express worry or fear about how to handle a situation should it occur tell them the probabilty is low. But maybe it would help to have a plan and be prepared.

Ask if they would like to think of a plan and explain it to you. Or maybe help them. Like they did with earthquake or fire drills.

jonsblond's avatar

@burntbonez I’m not afraid to talk to my children. I know some are, so those are good questions to ask someone who is afraid to discuss difficult subjects with young ones. What @syz posted is very helpful. There are some good and some not so good ways to go about discussing such topics with children. It’s good to know how to handle it best.

Unbroken's avatar

@burntbonez I understand your point of view and I think I agree.

However I think parents feel the imperative to protect children and their innoncence. Possibly a sweet thing but if indulged in to much dangerous.

Seek's avatar

Thank frak my son is both homeschooled and only four years old. Some time before I have to actually think of such things.

At this point, I feel OK discussing sad/scary things he must experience (the funeral of his great-grandfather recently or my surgery, for instance), and avoiding those things which do not directly affect him.

YARNLADY's avatar

My two youngest are only 3 and 5 so I don’t think I will have to talk to them about it, but I appreciate the link provided by @syz

As to the discussion about why or how age matters, I don’t think it does. When I hear of a mall shooting or a movie theater or any such I feel the same pain.

hearkat's avatar

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.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
~~Fred Rogers

wundayatta's avatar

The thing I remember is 9/11. My daughter was 5. I was watching all morning, because both my wife and I were home sick that day, coincidentally. We had to go pick her up at noon, and after that, I couldn’t watch the TV coverage any more, because she was watching PBS or something.

The school is pretty good at dealing with these things. They have meetings and talk about it, and there are school psychologists if anyone wants to talk privately. Plus they send home emails alerting us about things we can do and how to talk to the kids.

So we bring it up, and if the kids have questions, they ask, and I hate to say it, but it has become normal. Here is is again. My kids are teens now (or a couple months away from being a teen), and so they hear the news on their own and they ask questions about things they want to know, except when they don’t want to ask their parents because, well, their parents are their parents.

But like they say, reassure the kids about their safety. Tell them that yes, it can happen here, but it probably won’t. These things are very rare. It almost doesn’t matter what words you use. It’s your attitude. If you are calm and accepting and you aren’t freaking out, they won’t freak out. If you act all worried and scared about what they are thinking, they will get worried for you.

Kids mirror their parents. That’s the way it is. And they mirror what is really in you, not just your surface. So if this freaks you out, you need to prepare yourself to talk to your kids. And if you are calm about it and have it in perspective, it really won’t matter what you say. Kids will pick it up with their super kid radar.

burntbonez's avatar

@rosehips If I had a point of view, I apologize. I really meant to be asking questions with no agenda. I don’t know what makes people worry about talking to their children about things like this. Or why people are grateful their kids are too young.

hearkat's avatar

My son had just started 5th grade on 9/11/2011, and the mother of one of his classmates was one of the few to escape the twin towers with only injuries. I had already had to tell him that his father had died two years earlier, so he’d dealt with personal tragedy before.

With 9/11, it was people from other countries attacking us; but for an attack to occur in their classrooms, it’s hard to imagine what will go through kids’ minds. My heart goes out to all of you who have to talk about this with your young ones. <3

Seek's avatar

I think it’s just a desire to have a good life for the kids, and protect them from the inherent bad stuff in the world. I’m the most realistic person in the world. Yes, Grandpa died. He was very old, and when you’re very old, you’re body is done being alive. He had a hard life and lived a lot longer than most of the people he ever knew. It still sucks when the baby looks back with those big innocent brown eyes and says “But WHY do people have to die, Mama?”

Again, hard enough when the death is natural. That’s why I’m glad my baby’s too young to ask me “Why, Mama, would someone kill all those kids?” I can even imagine his voice saying it, calling it “dying” them instead of “killing”, like he says when he’s playing video games. “That alien just died me!”

Horrid. Just horrid.

hearkat's avatar

Here’s a link that my local newspaper just posted on the topic:
http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx?sf7888483=1

ucme's avatar

I’m just going to come right out & say it, that’s one fine president you got there.
Click on video shown on right, very emotional stuff.

laureth's avatar

Advice for telling kids, from the Mr. Rogers folks.

http://fci.org/new-site/par-tragic-events.html

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I told them just how it happened. That in an elementary school, a person shot over 20 people, and most were children. I said that it hurts and makes me scared for them as they are in schools. I said, however, that lashings out like this can take place anywhere, really, and that violence is a big part of our lives. Which is why their parents explicitly discuss every toy even remotely related to having ‘fun’ with guns or anything else that shoots. Generally, that kind of thing is not tolerated in our house. My kids are aware of our views on pacifism and on the military, etc. I also talked about the general discussion of mental illness and politics.

marinelife's avatar

I just heard an expert. he said tell them that what happened was a one-time event. Thta they are safe and it cannot happen to them.

Here is an article on how to do it from the New York Times.

hearkat's avatar

@marinelife: On CNN they interviewed a dad from that town whose daughter was in the school, and he said that he told his kids that these things are freak incidents and would never happen in their town just a few days ago (presumably after the Oregon mall shooting)... now they’re asking him where will they be safe?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I basically just told my daughters what happened, in a straightforward manner. We talked about how very sad it is, and Told them how much I love them and how glad I am they are safe. I didn’t give any false reassurances that “this could never happen here.”

Unbroken's avatar

@burntbonez. Noted. You weren’t coming from a point of view but you were questioning. I think that is fine personally.

I didn’t feel like you were directing it @jonsblond. If her boy can come away robbed at knife point and be handling it well I say she probably has a good track record.

I also wasn’t insinuating anything. Your questions were just one I have asked myself in general and so have an answer at ready that I supplied without excess thinking. It probably belongs in another thread however.

Although regardless how tragic the situation is and peoples’ understandable relief. I still think its not completely off base here.

majorrich's avatar

They apparently found the shooters Father shot in his home. I would try to explain mental illness in terms my child could understand. It was/is a horrific tragedy, but sometimes mental illness makes you ‘give in to the voices’. And then tell him to duck under the desk.

_Whitetigress's avatar

I would mention that a really bad man did a really bad thing today and it should have never happened. I think the sincerity in my eyes and face would tell him how serious this is.

Bellatrix's avatar

Firstly, they are lucky to have such an aware mum who knows they will hear about this stuff and wants to minimise the damage. You have to be honest and tell them what happened, without too many details. Just a bad person went into a school etc. etc. and we don’t know why some people do these things. I think I would also make it practical by telling them who they can talk to if they feel a bit scared about this or upset and that is normal. I always think moving to the practical ‘what can I do’ idea helps.

augustlan's avatar

When my kids were young, we went through 9/11, the DC sniper(s) (who were caught in our home town), and a classmate’s father who killed the mother, the classmate, and the classmate’s sibling, before killing himself.

They were all so hard to talk to the kids about, but of course it had to be done. We told them the truth in age-appropriate language; that “bad men” and/or “a sick man”, respectively, had done this terrible thing. That we don’t really understand why some people do these things, but we will do our best to keep them safe.

jonsblond's avatar

I thought our daughter might have heard the news when she rode the bus home from school yesterday, but she didn’t hear anything. Her school bus runs a rural route, so children from all ages are on that bus, including some high school kids. I really am surprised the older kids weren’t talking about it. Most teens around here have cell phones. I’m sure they were aware of what happened.

Our daughter was in a great mood when she got off the bus. She knew we had plans to decorate our Christmas tree. I told our oldest son not to mention anything if he happened to come across the news when he was on Facebook. I wanted to have an enjoyable night with the family and forget about the sadness of the day. We put on some Christmas music and had a nice time as a family.

Our daughter will hear the news for the first time from her father and me. It just seems so strange to bring up the subject out of the blue when she has no idea what happened. But as I said in my details, I know she will hear other children talking about this come Monday, and I don’t want her to be surprised. She needs to hear from us, not her classmates.

Thanks for all the suggestions here and links that were provided. I think this shooting is hard enough for adults to understand, let alone a young mind that has never heard of such a terrible tragedy before.

wundayatta's avatar

No, we can’t understand it. I think it’s ok to share that with kids. There are hints that the shooter might have had Aspergers. He were apparently socially maladroit, according to classmates. His mother may have worked in the kindergarten.

This is pure speculation and I don’t know if we could ever know, but I wonder if he felt his mother paid more attention to her kindergarten kids than she did to him, and he lashed out by killing them all before killing himself. Even if this were true, I’m not sure how it would help us avoid future incidents like this. In our society, you can’t butt into other people’s lives in a way that would have been necessary to deal with a problem like that. Although not allowing them guns would help. But that’ll never happen in this country.

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YARNLADY's avatar

I can’t help wondering what kind of family keeps numerous dangerous (non-hunting) guns in their house?

Unbroken's avatar

@YARNLADY People who are gun enthusiasts. They have gun safes and teach gun safety.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we fear less. -Marie Curie

wundayatta's avatar

Seems to me people should be a little more fearful of guns. Maybe they’d be more respectful and actually keep them in a place where no one could get them. That does not mean under lock and key. Anyway can get a key and unlock them.

What it really means is making it hard for anyone to get a gun. Period.

Unbroken's avatar

@wundayatta You are referring to gun control. Sigh.

I don’t think that is the solution I am biased. I was raised around guns. We subsisted for meat. A couple caribou in the freezers meant we would have meat all winter.

We were taught to respect guns that fearing them or handling them inappropriately was dangerous.

We were taught that guns could save lives and we had a bear rug from when my father had to use a gun to save his life. We had a dog that had a mashed in scarred face because once he didn’t have a gun and the dog saved him bought him enough time to get away.

Do most people subsist, or need one for self protection.

Not so much. Well maybe. Gun violence does drop when criminalized. When there are attacks people are rendered even more defenceless.

Do other crimes jump? Rapes robbery, other forms of violence? Do these people live in a free society? Or for example do they make Hoa’s look dreamy or make it illegal to have satire esp involving Hitler.

Seems to me they might still be living in Hitler’s world without torture. I penpaled someone of color there. She said that discrimination while covert was quite alive.

My point is gun control won’t stop violence. And grants government even more power.

jonsblond's avatar

@wundayatta Spend a year or two with your family living on a farm or rural location and you will realize how helpful it can be to own a gun. I don’t have the time now to make a list of reasons why guns are helpful, (and I was hoping this discussion would be about talking with young children, not about gun control) but there is a need when you live in such a location. I wish there could be a happy medium. I think a person should be able to own a gun if they want to hunt, or to own one for protection from others and wildlife, but we don’t need this.

wundayatta's avatar

I understand that guns can be useful on the farm. But do you need semi-automatic weapons made for war? A rifle. A shotgun—isn’t that what you need? Do you need handguns? Do you need weapons whose only point is to kill other people?

Here in the city, we don’t need these weapons. Nobody goes hunting here. Nobody shoots bears or rattle snakes. We don’t have any of those things. The only thing people shoot in the city is other people. We have a lot of murders here. Do you have a lot of murders? You’re in the country. People don’t do that in the country. There aren’t enough people for others to get mad at.

You can have all the guns you want in the country if you keep them from coming to the city. I don’t care. But keep those guns and hold onto them tight. We don’t need them here. Really, there is no reason for guns in the city except to kill people. I’d rather get rid of them. Keep people from owning them. And of course, the person a gun is most likely to kill is the owner. It makes no sense.

jonsblond's avatar

There aren’t enough people for others to get mad at. Oh believe me, there is. You just need one crazy neighbor to make your life miserable, even if the neighbor lives miles from you. No, we don’t have a lot of murders, but we do have gossip. Gossip may not kill you, but it can ruin your life. ;)

Bellatrix's avatar

There are actually quite a few articles about to tell your children I have discovered since I had to go looking for the one I mentioned privately @jonsblond. I said I would post this so here it is. The article does highlight the far reaching effects of such an event. The shooting is all over our media too so even little people here can be disturbed by the event.

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