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The Aftermath Of The Colorado Shooting: Implications For Parents

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

By now, you’ve probably had a chance to talk to your kid about the Colorado shooting. And you know that professionals agree on many of the principles you should follow when you have those talks, including: 

  • starting a conversation that invites more talk in the future (sometimes it can take a while for kids to warm up to the idea of talking about something troubling)
  • listening more than talking (it’s the best way to find out what your kid thinks)
  • answering truthfully without scaring them (keep your answers short and factual – “yes, people did die” – so they’ll get real information from you without embellishment)
  • paying attention to their follow-up questions (if they want more information, they’ll let you know – and if they don’t, don’t feel like you need to tell them more)
  • gearing your talks to your child’s age and personality (every kid is different)

But what about now? It’s a few days later, and we’ve all gone back to our everyday lives (except for the unfortunate families and friends of those who were killed, injured, or in that theater that night). Are there any things parents should keep in mind?

Well, the big thing is that those tips listed above for talking to your kids still hold and will so for a while. This story will be in the news for quite some time, especially as more details emerge. Beyond that, the issue may come up if your kids are planning on going to the movies this week (or even in the following weeks) with their friends or with your family. You’ll need to keep a close watch on your kid for any signs of worry or anxiety – even if they say they are doing fine. It may hit them as they get ready to go, as they are driving to the movie, or even once they get there. Again, all kids are different – this will not happen to every kid. But it’s possible that your kid might feel anxious even if they aren’t prone to that. So be extra vigilant and supportive – and if your kid gets scared, and the anxiety doesn’t go away, just support them and calm them and tell them they can see the movie another time. Maybe later that day you can remind them that even though what happened was horrible, these things don’t happen very often, and we all go back to living our lives. Focus on the positives and take it a step at a time in your conversation and behavior – and be low key and supportive when they try again to go to the movies.

Of course, the anxiety might not just arise when going to a movie. This is the time of year when kids go camping, have sleepovers, go away to camp – all those great things that make summertime special. These activities could, for some kids, kick up some fears. And they might not verbalize this immediately. So if you find that your kid doesn’t want to do something that they were really looking forward to – or starts to “not feel good” as the time approaches – you may want to gently probe about their feelings and see if they have some fears. And then you can use your instincts and the principles listed above to get into deeper discussions and try to help your kids deal with their fears.

The unfortunate reality for all of us is that this shooting reminds us of our vulnerability. But we all make the decision to go back to living our lives (even if that is tempered by thinking about the tragedy). You are the best resource for your kid and their rock when they are scared or anxious. And if you find that despite your best efforts at being patient and supportive your kid still seems troubled and especially afraid to do things, it’s worthwhile to talk to your pediatrician and gauge the need for seeking out some professional help so that the issue doesn’t spin out of control.

Mom and daughter via Shutterstock.com 

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