Parents want to know how to talk to their children about the shooting in Connecticut. Some advice:
- Turn the news off. The intense media attention is likely to increase anxiety and make it seem as though there are many shootings, not just one.
- Get your own emotions under control. Parents are the rocks at the center of their children’s universe. If they sense you are falling apart, they become even more afraid.
- Respond briefly to questions. Just like sex, only answer what they ask. If they can handle more, they will ask more questions.
- Acknowledge their feelings and validate them – “it’s normal to feel this way after such a terrible event.
- Dwell on the fact that despite this incident, schools are among the safest places to be. School shootings are very rare, they hardly ever happen. But the intense media attention makes it seem like they are common.
- Most kids will settle down within a week or two with their normal routine. If they have persistent worries about it, they may need counseling.
- And then there’s Mr Rogers’ advice:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” Fred Rogers
There is an unconfirmed report that the shooter was on the autism spectrum. Please read the following statement from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network:
“Today’s violence was the act of an individual. We urge media, government and community leaders to speak out against any effort to spuriously link the Autistic or broader disability community with violent crime. Autistic Americans and other groups of people with disabilities persist in facing discrimination and segregation in school, the workplace and the general community. In this terrible time, our society should not further stigmatize our community. As our great nation has so many times in the past, let us come together to both mourn those killed by acts of heinous murder and defend all parts of our country from the scourge of stigma and prejudice.”
Most people on the autism spectrum are not violent. They are more likely than others to become victims. If you are worried your family member is at risk for committing violence in a copy cat event, remove all weapons from your home immediately. If they can’t access guns, they can’t use guns.
I hope everyone recovers well from this event. Let us all pray for the families who lost loved ones, for all the “helpers” involved, and for each other that we can celebrate the holidays as we usually do, if perhaps a bit wistfully this year.