Sandy Hook Anniversary: 5 Ways to Talk to Your Kids

Sandy Hook

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the tragedy in Sandy Hook. The story was horrifying and the press coverage was massive. As innocent faces were splashed across the news, hitting us all right in the heart, parents were left wondering how they should handle talking to their children. As much as parents wished they could close their eyes and hope their daughters and sons wouldn’t hear about it, instinctively we all knew that many of our children were bound to hear about it somehow.

How should parents handle it when a large-scale tragedy happens and the tough conversations about it seem inevitable?

1. Don’t wait

Since you want to be the one who is talking to your own children about the event, do it as soon as you can. You know your child best and you are a trusted source. If you feel that you are unable to talk about a particular tragedy with your child in a timely fashion, ask someone you trust to do it for you. The key is to talk to your children before they hear it from their friends or a media source.

2. Be age-appropriate

Your children don’t need to know all the scary details.  Let them know what they need to know without additional embellishments. For example; you might tell a six year old: “A sick man came into a school and hurt children and teachers. People are very sad and angry. Now the man is dead and can’t hurt anyone else anymore.” That may be sufficient for a young child. If your child asks more questions, you can answer them as they come. Older children can hear more facts, as you deem appropriate.

3. Let them know they are safe

The main concern for children is that they are safe. Make sure you underscore that adults are working on the problem and ensuring that everyone is safe and getting what they need. For example, when the Boston Marathon Bombing happened, you might have told your child: “The police, the doctors and the leaders are making sure that people who got hurt are being helped and the people who caused the hurt are stopped and punished for what they did. You are safe and the people in charge are on it.”

4. Be open and available

Some children will find what you say sufficient. Others might have questions and concerns right away. Still others might say nothing at first but will want to talk at a later date. Let your children know that you are open and available to have these conversations. You want to be the one they turn to if they need further explanation or they just want to talk about their fears.

5. Honor the loss

It’s important to remember those we lost in recent tragedies. You can involve your children in charitable contributions that honor those who were lost in the Sandy Hook murders or other horrific events that have happened in 2013. Children (and adults) feel better when they can do something to help — and that kind of helping may even ease the pain of others.

In the end, we must also remember to be grateful for our lives, our safety and of course, our families. Hug your children tight and tell them how much you love them. At this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Perhaps on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, we can stop, and take a breath. And simply be grateful for what we have.

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