I was in Buffalo this past weekend speaking at a church. As I’m sure you’ve seen on the news, there was a shooting there at a local grocery store.
In the church where I was speaking, there were several people who personally knew some of the people that were killed.
One of victims was a precious senior citizen lady. She came to that grocery store every Saturday to buy food for the homeless.
The world we live in can be a scary place. Today’s kids live with the reality that they could be shot at school, in a store, in a movie theater, at a concert and yes…even at church. All of these are places where shootings have taken place in recent years.
When kids see or hear about shootings, it can cause anxiety, fear, grief, helplessness and anger. It is important that we guide them toward stability and trust in God. Here are some key tips you can use when talking with kids about tragic events like this shooting.
First of all, remember that each child is unique and there is not one way to address tragedies. But here are some tips that can help you and their parents know what to say during times of crisis.
Examine yourself first. See how you react before you ask children how they are feeling about this. Young children will be more affected by their parents’ and caregivers’ distress than by the actual tragedy itself. They will pick up on your reactions. Be ready to present yourself in a calm manner. They will be comforted more by your actions than your words.
Talk about the heroes. Let them know about the brave people who stepped in to help, even at the cost of their own life. This will help kids think about the positive things rather than just all the negatives.
Consider their age. Many psychiatrists recommend avoiding the topic with children who are under the age of 8. But again, it depends on the child. Share information based on your child’s individual personality and developmental stage.
Reassure them that it’s all right for them to be upset, and that you’ll do everything you can to protect them from harm. Let them know that you are there to protect them.
With young children, many doctors recommend to keep the story you tell short and simple. One sentence or two will suffice for anyone under the age of 6.
Elementary children will ask many questions. Encourage them to ask questions and answer their questions directly.