Back to school after the Newtown shooting

When my daughter ran to me from the bus on Friday afternoon, I held her a little longer and tighter than usual. And this morning, I tried to memorize her face and the feel of her tiny hand in mine as we walked to her kindergarten classroom.

This morning was not simply another day back to school. I’m sure every parent in the nation lingered a little longer with their goodbye after the deaths of 20 children in Newtown, CT.

My daughter has no idea about the Connecticut shootings. My husband and I debated whether to tell her, but concluded we would discuss it only if our daughter indicated she had heard about what happened.

She goes to kindergarten everyday. She needs to feel it is a safe haven and that her teacher is a superhero that can protect her.

I hope I haven’t done the wrong thing. I am doing what I think is best for my sensitive, 5-year-old daughter. If she does hear the news, I am ready to talk with her, although I’m not quite sure what to say. How do you describe a tragedy for which there are no words?

How do you discuss the shootings with a child without making them scared it could happen to them?

Several pieces of advice I’ve gleaned in the last few days are this:

  • Start with what your kids know: Find out what they’ve already heard and begin there. Don’t tell them more than they need to know to understand what happened, and make sure you are answering their questions rather than talking at them.
  • Keep Talking: Kids often act like they get it or aren’t scared. But children are going to continue to process this information internally for along time. So after that initial conversation about what happened, keep talking about issues that may still be bothering your child. Bring it up while you’re cooking dinner. Bring it up while driving. Make sure your children know it’s safe to talk about so they don’t have to face their fears alone.

I am heartsick for all the parents who couldn’t send their children to school this morning – the ones whose children never came home on Friday. I can’t even imagine what they are going through.

And while I’d love to wax eloquent or offer some profound sentiment, I have few words to describe my feelings about the tragedy. So instead, I offer some well-known Christmas lyrics that seem particularly fitting this week:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Are you talking with your children about the shootings? Any tips or advice on what to say?


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