Telling My Child About the Massacre of Children in Newtown
We decided kind-of last minute to tell our 6-year-old about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Since the horrific news broke on Friday, my wife and I had been in agreement that we’d do our best to shield Adira from the news. But a few things came together Sunday night to change our minds: a message from the school assuring us that teachers would be available to discuss the tragedy with the kids; my friends’ Facebook; this extremely helpful post from my colleague, Kara Corridan about talking to kids about Sandy Hook; and the dawning realization that Adira is at the age where we simply cannot shield her anymore. She was bound to hear–from a friend with an older sibling, from a snippet of conversation or radio news she may overhear, from a teacher answering another child’s questions.
We decided it was better for her to hear the news from us, and so this morning, while rushing to get dressed and out the door, we told her, hewing closely to the suggested script in Kara’s post. I told her that a bad man went into a school in a place called Connecticut and hurt some children with a gun, and some children and some teachers died. I assured her that her school was safe and that her teachers, principal, and the security guard are making double sure of that.
Her immediate reaction bordered on the comical, and was certainly unexpected. “What do you want me to do about it?” she asked. “I’m not a doctor or anything like that.”
Kind of funny, kind of sad that she immediately got defensive. I felt bad, like I’d presented it all wrong.
But before we could really respond to that, she shifted gears and asked some of the questions we’d expected. She quickly honed in on the shooter, asking what happened to him. When I said that he, too, died, she asked if a teacher killed him or if the police did. That question made me realize she was processing this thoughtfully and ruminating on the details. I told her that the man killed himself with his gun, and reiterated that her school is safe and that she could ask any questions. She soon moved on to other conversations, but picked it up again on the walk to school, asking how many kids and teachers died, focusing on whether it was “most of the school.”
I am sure we will talk more about it later, and I assume there will be discussion at school. The principal said in his message that the school would only discuss the tragedy with younger grades in response to questions (while they would proactively lead discussion with the older kids). All in all, I felt like it was a good start and I was glad we decided to discuss it with Adira.
I am wondering: Did you talk about the Sandy Hook tragedy with your young children? How did the conversations go? More broadly, I am wondering how school drop-off went this morning and what your kids’ schools are doing to address the news with children of different ages?
For more information on how to talk to your kids about tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:
- 5 Helpful Resources for Talking to Kids About Tragedies
- Should Children Be Allowed to Watch TV News Reports?
- Explaining Catastrophic Events