TALKING TO KIDS (OR NOT) ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN CONNECTICUT
There are no good words to explain to anyone—let alone to kids—what happened at the elementary school in Connecticut this morning. The horrific incident is every parent’s worst nightmare, unfathomable and unspeakable. The air is heavy with the horror. The president of our country wept during his speech to the nation.
This is one of those times when parents’ confidence disappears; they are rendered tongue-tied. How do you explain that twenty young children (and some grown-ups) were killed while they were at school?
Unless your child has been exposed to this incident–by radio, TV, internet or overhearing your loose talk—there is absolutely no reason to bring it up to him. Period.
But if you are unsure, as many will be, about whether your child has heard anything about the incident, you can ask, “Did anything happen (at school) today that you want to talk about?” This question leaves a wide berth for your child to bring up anything he may be thinking.
If your child exclaims, “Did you hear what happened at the school in Connecticut?” you need to find out what he knows. Ask him to share what he heard. Then you can begin your conversation based on what he knows, answering his questions honestly, minimally, and be able to correct any misinformation to the best of your ability.
Here are some possible scripts or starting points for talking with your child about the tragedy.
Say as little as possible and state the bare facts:
Some grown-ups and children were killed at a school. That is as much as I know.
Who did it?
I only know that he was a man named Adam.
Why did he do that?
After you share the correct information, and your child asks, “Why did he do that?” you can explain:
No one knows why he did it. We only know that he was not well. He had a serious problem with his thinking. He was sick in his mind, and he did a terrible thing.