Another mass shooting, this time at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. How do we talk to our children about this tragic event? GCP has discussed this issue before, after Newton and Charleston . And now we must talk about Las Vegas.
But what should we say? Experts say it depends on how old our children are:
Preschool:Discuss only if your child brings it up. Since we have a great deal of control over what our preschoolers see or hear, it is possible that your little ones aren’t focused on this. No need to bring it up, and keep them away from news on the tv and other devices. But if they bring it up, tell them the very basics (“a lot of people were hurt, the man who hurt them was stopped”). Assure them that they are safe, and that you will keep them safe.
Elementary School (the early years): Keep it Simple. You should proactively talk to your child about what happened, as they are likely to hear about it in school or elsewhere. Give them a brief and simple version, reassure them that they are safe and that you and the other adults in their lives are there to protect them. Remind them about the safety drills they practice in school. Ask them if they have any questions, and encourage them to come to you if they do. Don’t force them to have a conversation about it if they don’t want to but be sure to bring it up. Monitor the time they spend in front of the TV, especially if the news is on.
Later Elementary school/Middle School: Listen First, Then Talk. Ask what they have heard about it, and what they think, and let their answers guide your conversation. Correct any wildly wrong information, but give them the space to lead the discussion. Children in these ages are likely to be more focused on their safety and what they would do in case of an attack. Encourage them to focus on the number of first responders and ordinary citizens who helped the people who were hurt, and who made a very bad situation better. Talk with them about drills in school, and the importance of following instructions in school when drills happen. Talk about your emergency plans at home as well. (Good time to make some concrete plans if you haven’t already.)
High School: Address Their Concerns. Your older children will likely have been exposed to a lot of coverage of this horrific event, on their devices at home and at school. Discourage them from spending too much time on the media coverage with all of those graphic images. Encourage them to talk with you about how they are feeling, and to continue talking to you as the days go by. They are likely to make the connection to the Manchester bombing during the Ariana Grande concert, and they may express concern about attending future concerts. Talk with them about the importance of focusing on safety (and exits) whenever they are in large crowds. Make yourself available for discussion but don’t force it if your high schoolers are not overly interested in extended conversations. Follow their lead.
In the days to come, more information about this tragedy will flood the media. Continue to monitor your children’s exposure to this onslaught of information as much as you can. Also remember that your children (of all ages) will be watching your reaction as well, so try to keep your emotions in check in their presence. You can agree that it is a scary situation, but try to maintain your cool during these discussions. It may be tough but it is important to do.
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In addition to the earlier GCP posts mentioned above, here are some resources that you may find helpful: