I am utterly horrified by the terrible shooting in Newton, Connecticut, just as you probably are. The mall in Portland, Oregon, last week was bad enough – especially since I have a friend who lives in Portland.
But this one happened to children – little children. Kindergarteners. How do you process that? You can’t entirely. It is truly horrible and tragic.
What is freaking me out is how many of my parent friends are saying they’re not going to talk to their children about it.
Look, I totally get the protective impulse behind the desire to avoid talking to your little ones about this tragedy. We can barely process the news as adults. Why on earth would we want to dump that kind of horror on our little ones? It seems like a no-brainer. But this is seriously one of those times when that protective impulse is actually one of the worst things you can do.
Your child already knows something is wrong, no matter how young he or she is. They are wonderful at picking up our feelings and reacting to them, even as infants. And these types of events evoke strong feelings. You’re not going to be able to hide it. Period. If your child is old enough to go to some sort of pre-school or elementary school, there are decent odds someone has already heard about the event and mentioned it.
So which would you rather have happen – your kid stressing out, wondering what is so horrible that Mommy or Daddy can’t talk about it and whether he or she is at fault? Or the both of you dealing together with the fears and sadness these kinds of events always bring up and coming out stronger for it?
You can tell a 3-year-old that you’re sad because something very bad happened to some young children, but that it happened in a place that’s relatively far away and while it is horrible, it is also something that does not happen very often. Yes, it is scary, but you are there to protect your child and will always, always love her or him.
Finding a way to talk about the horror is the best and healthiest way to deal with these kinds of tragedies, even with very young children. Not only does it give your kids the tools to deal with these kinds of tragedies, which will always happen, it sets up the lines of communication that will be firmly in place by the time they are teens. And if a school shooting isn’t too terrible to talk about, then maybe the pregnancy won’t be either.