How to talk to your kids about the Aurora Theater Shootings (and additional resources on how to help)
I’m currently holed up in my childhood home in Canada but the shock and tragedy of the Aurora theater shootings are reverberating thousands of miles away.
I was walking out the door to go biking with my dad when I first heard the news. “Fifty shot, 12 dead” kept replaying in my mind as I biked. It was early in the news day and we only had one name for the deceased: victims.
Nameless, faceless innocents who have families and loved ones who woke up to a nightmare.
As a parent, I often wonder how much to tell my children. It is better to shelter them or start exposing them to the difficult things of the world? According to Children Now (the leading, nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health), research shows that children, especially those between the ages of 8 and 12, want their parents to talk with them about today’s toughest issues, including violence.
The American Humane Association offers these tips for parents and other caregivers to help children cope with the fear and uncertainty caused by the Aurora theater shooting tragedy:
* Keep an eye on children’s emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.
* Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.
* Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details and terms such as “smoke grenades” and “sniper.”
* Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the enormity of the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.
* Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.
* Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.
* If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.
“Children are especially vulnerable at a time like this,” notes Dr. Robin Ganzert, the AHA’s president and chief executive officer. “Parents, teachers, and other caregivers need to be especially sensitive to how children are reacting and help them cope with their fears and feelings. The best thing is to talk to children now and in the weeks to come to ensure they receive the attention they need in dealing with this tragedy.”
Be sure to also go here for advice from Children Now on talking to kids about tragedy.
And hold your kids tighter today.
Have you talked to the kids about the tragedy?
• On Sunday, the Thrive with Confidence Foundation is having an open house at the Thrive Community Recreation Center, 15528 E. Hampden Circle, Aurora. Hours are 1-5 p.m. “We open our doors and arms to embrace our community in a time of great need,” says executive director Brad Askren.
• Children’s Hospital Colorado has opened a family support line, 720-777-2300.
• Aurora Mental Health Center offers its support by having trained counselors available by phone 303-617-2300.