Talking with kids about the CO movie theater massacre

Even kids who weren’t directly affected by the Colorado movie theater massacre can still be affected by coverage of the event in that it can shake their sense of the security, safety, and predictability of their world.  In response to inquiries, here are some general thoughts and suggestions for parents:

1) Listen to your children — they may not have paid as much attention to the coverage or be as anxious about it as you think (and you can minimize their further exposure to it by keeping it off of televisions, radios, and computers in the children’s presence).

2) Validate feelings and fears that they do have, e.g. by acknowledging, at age-appropriate levels of course, that there are some bad people in the world who do some bad things sometimes, and that it’s sad and scary for all of us.

3) Reassure them that they’re very safe and secure with you, that the majority of people in their world are good, and that we can work together to make the number of bad things that happen even smaller, e.g. if we take reasonable precautions, stick together, stay alert, report suspicious behavior, support and assist our first responders, etc.

4) Refocus them off of the gruesome details of the event and toward the good in people that was exhibited in the context of it, e.g. pointing out the heroism of the first responders and, as the President did in his remarks on Sunday, of the survivors who looked out for one another as that terrible event happened.

5) Act — e.g., maybe let them go with you to the blood bank if you donate blood, do something to show appreciation to your local first responders, donate to the victims’ relief fund, make a card to send to a hospitalized survivor, etc. — to help demonstrate that the “good guys” are back in control and thereby hopefully help to reactivate some of that resilient optimism that many kids characteristically exhibit.

And if those measures don’t seem to be adequate for your child(ren), seek consultation with a mental health professional near you; that’s what they’re there for.

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