How to Effectively Talk to Your Kids About Mass Shootings

Posted on Posted in Parenting

America’s worst mass shooting

Just 4 days ago, our country experienced the worst mass shootings in its history. The whole world watched with horror as a madman shot concert goers in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel.shootings

Amazingly, the police were able to locate the man within 11 minutes after the first bullets started to fly. In the ultimate act of cowardice, the man who killed 59 people and injured more than 500 took his own life.

Since then, most Americans have been shocked by this new level of evil. Just when we think things could not get worse, something more devastating happens.

Our parental responsibility

As parents, we have a responsibility to talk to our kids about what is happening in our country. Ultimately, they take their cues from us.

What should I say? How and when should I say it? Are they too young? Have I said too much? I have found myself asking these questions again after the latest shootings.

shootingsUnfortunately, there are no textbook answers. Every child is different and perceives the world around them in a unique way. Here are some things parents should consider when talking to their children about mass shootings.

Hearing it from you first

It’s important that we as parents talk to our kids about it first before they hear it from their friends. Let’s face it, their friends at school will be talking about it. I would much rather my kid hear about it from his friends after I have spoken to him.

A child will naturally compare what he or she hears to what you have said to them. At times, my kids have come home and told me about what their friends were saying. This is a perfect time to remind your kids of one of your recent conversation with them on that subject.

Consider their age

Most professionals say that kids under that age of 6 should only be told a one-sentence story. As parents, we need to acknowledge that there are bad people in the world. However, we must let them know that they don’t have to be afraid.

shootingsIt’s always good to talk to them about the heroes in the story. At this young age, they must be assured that good is more powerful than evil.

I think it’s so important as well that we are careful to limit our younger children’s exposure to the media coverage about it. This is not easy. Let’s face it! We have media coming at us from all directions.

Parents, this may mean locking your phones so your children can’t see the notifications you get. It could be that we need to change the radio station in the car when they are with us.

I have to admit, some of the cell phone coverage of the latest shooting was absolutely horrific. I usually am not bothered by this kind of thing. However, this time, it really affected me deeply. I saw more blood and dead people than I had ever seen in this context.

Talking to tweens

Do you have a tween? One of the good ways to talk to your tween is to ask them if they have heard about the shootings and how these events making them feel. Let them ask questions and give them honest answers.

Put the focus more on the principles that should guide their life. If you are a believer in Christ, use it as a chance to talk about some of the terrible things in scripture that happened and how God made himself known in the midst of it.

Remember, every kid is different. As a parent, take your tween’s personality into consideration when talking to them.

Engaging your teenager

shootingsZachary is not bothered emotionally by violence around him. He can watch action movies or talk about tragedies and not really be affected by it. Trevor, on the other hand, refuses to watch a tv show about a murder.

Whether your teen is more like Zachary or more like Trevor, it’s important that we talk to them about what happened. With a teenager, it’s best to focus on possible solutions or other things that can be done to keep tragedies such as shootings from happening again and again.

As you do with a tween, be a good listener and help them think spiritually and practically about it. Sometimes a discussion like this may open the door for you to talk to them about what they believe and why.

Get help when you need it

In 2006, my wife was driving down the road with our 2 boys in the back of our van. A car pulled across the road and she wound up hitting it head-on. The airbag shattered her wrist and bruised her pregnant belly and legs.

Thankfully, our boys were not injured. It did seem that the accident affected Zachary from an emotional standpoint. He was scared to get back in the car and struggled with this for a couple of months.

shootingsA couple of weeks after the accident, a house in our neighborhood got struck by lightning and burned to the ground. The combination of the car accident and the house fire took a toll on Zachary. He was only 5 years old. We realized that we could not help him on our own so we sought out a Christian counselor.

We brought him to talk to the counselor for 2-3 months and started to see a difference in him.

Sometimes, as parents, we cannot help our children with their fears on our own. When this happens, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to a professional for help. Your kids will be better off in the long run because of it.

Looking ahead…more shootings?

It’s important that we keep the discussion about the violence around us going with our kids. As parents, we won’t always have all the answers. Regardless, we need to make our best effort so that they will know how to cope with the things that they see and hear. 

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