Connecticut School Shooting – What Do I Tell My Kids?
To be completely honest, I don’t know.
I’ll warn you, this may turn into a stream of conscious blog. I may jump from thought to thought for no reason because I didn’t sit and plan it out ahead of time, because I still am not quite sure how I feel about the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut Friday morning. What I do know is that I just want to curse — a lot.
Let me clarify, I do feel something, a lot of things actually. Confusion more than anything really. I’m
angry, scratch that, I’m pissed, and fear has nestled itself in the corner. My wife is a teacher at my kids school, so the thought of something similar to Friday events happening at their school that puts them all in danger is that much more frightening.
20 children and seven adults (that was the last count when I started writing this) died for absolutely no reason other than they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t even know if that’s a reason to be honest. They went to school just like they’ve done every day for how ever many days. So to say it was the “wrong place” is not probably not accurate. It was school. School is and should always be the right place for a kid to be. And it should always be a safe place for a kid to be. Although I don’t know that any level of security outside of several armed police officers or security would have been able to stop what happened. Keep the death toll down maybe, but stop it altogether to me is unlikely.
So if I can’t wrap my head around what happened, how do I explain it to my kids? Do I even try? My wife said it wasn’t mentioned to the students at all, but I have to think that as the weekend continues, they’re going to see something on TV, or hear something on the radio. If we somehow manage to make it through the weekend without them finding out, they undoubtedly will hear about from a classmate on Monday. We can’t shield them from it forever.
The question is, do we wait until they find out on their own and answer any questions they have, or talk with them beforehand? I’m not sure there is a right way. Part of me feels like not being up front with them and waiting to see if they hear it on their own is copping out on my parental duty, but on the flip side, maybe we should wait and see what they hear at school to get a feel for how other kids their age are dealing with it, if they’re dealing with it at all.
Let’s say they do ask questions. What kind of answers to I give them? I can’t tell them that it won’t happen here. I can’t guarantee that. I’d like to think it won’t happen here, but I’m sure the community of Newtown thought that too as recently as yesterday. Whatever, answer I give, it must be carefully worded. I don’t want to say anything that will make them afraid to go to school.
Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my kids aren’t naive to the fact that there are bad people in this world. Turn on the national news at 5:30 in the evening or the local news at 6:00 and there is bound to be a story about someone doing something they weren’t supposed to to someone else. In those cases, if the kids ask, we just try to explain it in short, simple terms they will hopefully understand. If they ask, “Why” (they’re kids, they always do), we try to explain to them that when some people get mad, they can’t control themselves because their brains don’t work like every one else’s.
Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe we do our best to explain that this lunatic had a brain that didn’t quite work like ours and he couldn’t control himself, but didn’t get the help he needed before he did something bad.
Or maybe we tell them what I told you — “I don’t know.”
If you’re unsure on how to talk with your children about the tragedy in Connecticut, the Children’s National Medical Center offers some suggestions on their website.