As parents, our natural instinct is to want to shield our kids from sadness and tragedy. Unfortunately, avoiding scary topics may negatively shape the way children view themselves, others, and the world. They’re bound to hear about tragedies, like the recent Las Vegas shooting, from other kids or adults, so it might as well come from you first. By you initiating this discussion, you can shape the conversation to be more useful rather than detrimental to them.
How Should Parents Address the Las Vegas Shooting with Our Kids?
Don’t let them watch the news. News channels often deliver news in a way that is disturbing, even for adults. This can cause more anxiety for your child. Your kids don’t need to know all the graphic details. You know what your child can handle, so it’s best to tell them in a way that informs them without causing undue stress.
Share a brief summary of the event. Just as you talk to kids about all the happy things in life, kids need to know that bad things do happen in the world. Being open about real life situations gives them the green light to ask questions and share their feelings. For young children, keep the story simple like: “A sick man used a gun to hurt other people. And that’s not ok.” But balance the conversation with the positive side of tragedy, like acts of heroism, to make them feel safe.
Focus on the positive side of humanity. Make sure you emphasize more of the good things that have come out of the tragedy, like the first responders and policeman who are real life superheroes. Reaffirm their sense of security by letting them how these heroes work hard to protect our country and are counted on to save people’s lives.
Encourage them to get involved. Turn a negative into a positive by teaching your kids how they can get involved. Look into fundraising for the victims’ families of the Las Vegas shooting, sending thank you letters to first responders, or joining a petition for better gun control. Focus on making the world a better place rather than on the tragedy.
Avoid negative generalizations of people. When it comes to mass shootings, it’s easy to get caught up in generalizations about religion, mental health, and politics. But your kids don’t need to hear this. The last thing you want to do is create more fear of other people. Instead, ask them their thoughts on why they think people may want to cause harm to others. When you reply, respond with compassion for all who were involved in the tragedy.
Leave the floor open for questions or future discussions. Let your child know they can talk to you about anything. Allow them to ask questions about the tragedy and respond in a simple way that they will understand.