Addressing the Las Vegas shootings with your children
On Monday morning we woke up to the worst mass shooting in United States history. While the news outlets continue to report the story and social media outlets provide a place for people to share their thoughts and opinions, the question many parents struggle with is “how do I handle this with my children?”
Let me offer these suggestions to help parents talk about this tragedy.
Be present and listen to your children.
They have questions about the shooting and they need you. Some of their questions will be about the facts and some of their questions will be more concerned with motive and things we don’t have answers for. All of their questions are important, and they need to know you are a safe person to talk to.
Answer the question they ask and hold your opinions and political ideologies for your adult friends.
Often, we get flustered by a difficult question and end up saying a lot more than we intend. For example, “Mom, how did that man kill so many people from that far away?” What we know to be true is that he used high-powered rifles and had a lot of ammunition with more guns in the room. Tell them what you know. Avoid going into your disdain for the 2nd Amendment and why all guns should be melted down.
Share your emotions.
Tell your child how you feel about the shooting. Use words they can understand. If you are upset, say you are upset. If you are angry, say you are angry. Reassure your child it is ok to be emotional about the shooting. Having emotions after an event like this is natural and normal. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be confused. Your child needs to hear that from you.
Be informed about the news, but turn the TV off.
During events like these, it is easy to keep the news on all the time so we can catch the latest, breaking news. As much as we want to know more, too much information isn’t helpful for you or your children. Check in with the news for updates. Don’t let the news control you. Control how much you want to know. Don’t ignore the event or pretend it never happened, but don’t let it consume you, either.
Tell the truth.
This goes back to answering your child’s questions. They want to know the truth and are looking to their most trusted source – you – for the answers. Tell the truth. Don’t make up something just to have an answer. If you don’t have the answer, tell your child, “I don’t know. Hopefully, we will find out.”
Reassure your child and give extra emotional support.
Children crave safety. Events like the shooting in Las Vegas shatter their idea of safety. Reassure them they can feel safe at home, in school, on the athletic fields, and in their community. Remind them of the men and women who have committed their lives to help keep us safe—police, firefighters, hospital workers, and government workers.
Pay closer attention to your child’s mood as the news of the shooting continues to be reported. Even though we know the shooter is no longer a threat, your children might not be so sure the danger has passed. Be present and support your children with love.
No matter how you choose to talk to your child about this horrible event, remind your child that you love them. When bad things happen, it is always good to know we are loved.
God’s blessings to you as you minister to your children and to your family during these days. Know that you are loved, too.
Rev. David Woody is Minister of Faith Development for Providence Baptist Church