To Talk or Not to Talk about Sandy Hook with Kids
That is the Question
By Krista Martinelli
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, I was stunned. The news was almost impossible to take in, and for a few days in a row as I watched the morning news, I found myself weeping for the lives lost. As a parent, you cannot help but see through the eyes of another suffering parent and ask, “What if this had happened to our child?” Everyone was hugging their kids a little tighter, and schools are still locking down with tighter security too.
If you’re a parent of young children, you probably struggled (as I did), deciding whether to talk to your kids about this horrific event. At first I was leaning toward NOT talking about it. They are seven and five years old. “What good will it do to tell them? What if they become too scared to go back to school?” I wondered.
But then about three days after the tragedy, I was listening to a local radio show when the DJs were trying to decide this same thing. They mentioned that some schools in our area would be addressing the topic with students. I listened to various callers with differing points of view. After sifting through many perspectives, I decided it was important to talk about it with my kids. So when they came home from school that day, I was prepared to take the issue head on. Here’s my reasoning for talking about it with them.
- They were probably going to hear about it anyway – either overhearing the news or being told by a classmate. And what if a classmate tells them an inaccurate or even worse story?
- They would have questions. And who better to try to field their questions than the people who know and love them best – their parents?
- If they experienced tighter security in school, they would understand why the precautions are being taken.
- I felt that a child psychologist on the news had given me the right words to say what I wanted to say – without telling a lie. “There are some bad people in the world who do bad things. But Mommy & Daddy will do everything we can to keep you safe for the rest of your lives.” In other words, I couldn’t say that they will always be safe, but at least I can honestly say that we will do EVERYTHING we can to keep them safe every day.
When they arrived home from school and started getting out homework, I asked if they had heard anything in the news. My seven-year-old daughter said “no.” But I was surprised that my kindergartener son said, “Oh yeah – that guy who shot twenty kids in an elementary school.” He seemed to know all about it. When pressed further about how he knew, he said that he heard it on the news at home. We didn’t even realize it had seeped in while he was very busily playing games, but it had. I was already glad that we were talking about it – instead of not talking about it. Of course, this decision (about talking about a tragedy) falls on every parent, and depending on your kids, their ages, their sensitivity, you will know the best path to take.
So we had a very brief discussion about guns, safety, how people can be “crazy” and do bad things and then they had a chance for some questions. It was a good introduction to the topic of mental illness, which unfortunately they are going to be exposed to when they meet a family member in California in about two weeks anyway. And yes, I wish that the world could go on without mental illness and without guns. But since we haven’t adequately addressed these things, especially in the United States, we have to prepare our children for a not-so-perfect future.
As almost every other parent I’ve talked to, I’m left with a feeling of sadness and a feeling that there are two areas where we need to take action – improved services for mentally ill people and serious gun control.
For a helpful discussion on how deplorable the resources are for any family dealing with the issue of mental illness, visit the Diane Rehm radio website (link) and click on “listen.” There are many cases of family members begging for mental health professionals to help, after receiving a death threat or faced with the violent behavior of their son or daughter – but there are simply not enough beds in mental health facilities. So they go to jail. Or a mental hospital for just a few days, and then they are released again. It’s a complex issue, but needs to be addressed.
If you’d like to sign a petition about reducing gun violence, here’s a quick one that you can sign – including the introduction. And don’t tell me that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” because that slogan is just not going to work anymore. Not after Sandy Hook. Guns kill people – a lot of them.
At Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, at least 20 very young children were shot and killed, likely at close range, along with several adults. Imagine, for just a moment, your child getting killed this way. Every day in America, 86 people are killed with guns and families are devastated. President Obama has yet to give Americans a real, detailed plan about how he will reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country. Mr. President, today IS the day to talk about real solutions. And today, we demand that you tell us your plan.
That’s why I signed a petition to President Barack Obama, which says:
“President Obama: Today is the day to talk about the deadly toll of gun violence on American families, communities, and especially, our kids.
Will you sign this petition? Click here:
Last but not least, I just wanted to share this beautiful tribute (link) from “The Voice” with you, in case you missed it. It’s dedicated to all of the children and adults, who lost their lives on that terrible day in Newtown, CT. And of course, I will be giving my kids extra hugs and kisses every day in the coming new year. We cannot take any day for granted.
Krista Martinelli is the editor of AroundWellington.com, the online local publication for Wellington, FL and beyond. She is the mother of two kids and enjoys tennis & playwriting.