It was with much sadness and disbelief that I found myself watching the news of yet another senseless tragedy where 14 innocent victims in were “shot in cold blood” for no apparent reason except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This shooting in San Bernadino is becoming all too common and how do you discuss these weekly or monthly shootings with your children. I have found myself discussing this issue all too frequently with families.
The statistics surrounding “random” shootings in the U.S. in the last several years are staggering and it seems that we are becoming all to used to “breaking news” with yet another shooting in malls, movie theaters, workplaces, and schools. The pictures from one disastrous event are barely off of the news and screens before another one occurs.
How do you talk about your children about these events? How do you even begin to explain to them that these events should not keep them awake at night or cause them to have bad dreams or nightmares, when these attacks are causing so much concern and even nightmares for their parents? It is a difficult, but unfortunately necessary discussion for families.
Our children need to feel safe and secure and that is the primary role of parents. We all want to protect our children but at the same time prepare them for the “real world”. So, discussions surrounding these news events should be tailored to a child’s age. If you are fortunate to have very young children my hope is that they are unaware of the recent events that have blanketed the news. I am still convinced that having constant news replaying the horrific events of the day is not healthy for anyone. So….with that being said, turn off the TV. Even if you think the news is “only on in the background”, your children are aware of the pictures that replay of bloodied bodies, terrified adults and children, SWAT teams and sirens.
If your children are older then they have probably seen the breaking news and have watched the situations on their social media sites as they evolved. In this case, I think it is appropriate to have family discussions about violence, guns, politics, terrorism and the world we live in. Tailor your conversations to your children’s ages. Let them ask questions, answer them honestly and succinctly and let them guide how much detail needs to be discussed.
Talking to your children and teaching them to be aware of their surroundings and to have a plan in case of emergency is now a reality. But at the same time, reassuring even a cynical teenager that they will be safe needs to be part of that discussion. We cannot allow the recent violent news to change our daily lives….we just need to be aware.
Remind your children that adults are all around to protect them. This includes not only parents, but teachers, administrators, police and security ( that most schools now have). It saddens me that schools now have “lock down drills”, but again this should be another reassurance that adults have plans to protect children in any number of circumstances.
Lastly, once you have had a discussion….let your child guide you if they have further concerns or questions. And I pray…we will not have to have these discussions again.