This tragedy is so horrible I almost can’t bear it. My heart hurts, and I know yours does, too. And yet, we still have to keep going, because we are our children’s first protector, explainer and comforter. So take a deep breath, send some love to those families, yourself and your kids, and then you can begin to help your child understand.
However, that being said– if you can avoid the conversation, that’s probably your best bet. Young children can’t cognitively or emotionally process this event (it’s challenging for adults, too) so if they don’t already know, perhaps you can protect them from this news. I certainly, strongly recommend turning off the TV tonight. News programs don’t present information in a way that is appropriate for children. If your child already knows what happened, or has some inkling of what happened, you may need to help them understand, process, or put it in to context.
Remember that the most important thing you can do for your kids is to be and stay open to their communication. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need to give your child a particular piece of information, or say a particular phrase. Parenting is never accomplished in one moment. Parenting is all about repeated experiences/events/conversations. Remember–it’s all about the RELATIONSHIP, and you want to have the kind of relationship where your children know that they can come to you to talk about difficult, awkward, or emotional topics. So: make this a “talkable moment,” be honest, calm, serious, supportive, loving, and listenlistenlisten.
As far as specific language, you might say something like:
- A man killed children and teachers today in Connecticut.
- He shot them with a gun in their school.
- He also killed himself.
- We don’t know why he did it.
- He might have been mentally ill, which is when your brain doesn’t work properly.
If your child has questions or unspoken fears about his or her own safety at school, it might be helpful to share information about that.
- Your school does things to keep you and your classmates safe. Your school has (locked doors, a buzzer system, metal detectors, etc… whatever is true.)
- Although the idea of someone shooting at school is very scary, it is actually very rare. It seems scary right now because it just happened and because people are talking about it. Your scared feelings will get smaller and smaller as time passes.
And for children who are having a hard time moving past their big feelings about this, you might remind them that there are things we can all do to help manage big feelings, for example:
- Put our attention on parts of our lives that we have happy or secure feelings about—for example make a list of 10 things in our life that we love, 10 things that happened this week that were funny, or 10 people who care about us and help us.
- Older children might be able to look backwards at something that they felt frightened of in the past and be able to compare how their feelings have since changed. This can help them to imagine how today’s feelings might get better with time, too.
- Write a note/draw a picture expressing condolences to be sent to the school or the first responders in the situation.
And then, for yourself, consider limiting your own exposure to this tragedy. Check in tomorrow if you need to, but spend tonight away from a screen, and with your own precious family.
I have the pleasure of writing for SWParents.org occasionally. One of my latest articles has basic information that is important, and so potentially helpful in protecting kids, that although I don’t usually cross-post, I will today.
This is a topic that pretty much every one of us would rather not think about. But please do spend at least a minute on it–parents need this critical information. We can take steps to protect our kids from predators. Click the link below to read the article in full.
Calling all Austin families!
Would you like to improve your children’s behavior? Stop arguing with your spouse about discipline? Improve your parent/child relationship? Help get your kids to go to bed on time and eat their veggies? Katie and Kate can help!
Kate Raidt, author of The Million-Dollar Parent, and Katie Malinski, licensed clinical social worker and parenting coach, are looking for an Austin family to cast for an upcoming reality show and parent coaching course.
As part of creating course content for their online parent coaching course called the “Five Factor Advantage,” Southwestern Parents is going to film at least 1 episode of a reality show here in Austin. With a camera crew in tow, myself and Kate will come to your house, observe and film parent and child, and then give parents real-time coaching and support in being more peaceful, connected, and effective in managing their kid’s behaviors. This reality show is different from what you might normally think of, because our goal is truly to help the family we work with, and to use the resulting video to educate and help other families, too. (This video is not for entertainment!) More info below.
Get professional, customized parent coaching for your family, and feel good about helping other families, too.
The family we are looking for will have most/all of these characteristics:
- 2-3 kids ages 1-10
- Having a hard time with discipline
- You feel like your kids don’t “listen”
- Parents are motivated to learn about more effective ways of responding to misbehavior
- You and your spouse don’t agree on responding to misbehavior
- Parents who want to do things a little (or a lot!) differently from the way they themselves were raised.
- Parents who are interested in understanding misbehavior in children
- Parents who are want feedback on what THEY can do differently to improve overall family harmony and to foster a better parent-child relationship.
- Live in the Austin area
- Available in early March 2012 for filming at your home
Interested? We’d LOVE to hear from you.
Please visit this webpage to apply: www.KatieMalinski.com/casting
Or email us at FiveFactorAdvantage@gmail.com with any questions.
Yesterday, I spoke with Tara Trower of the Austin American Statesman for an article she was writing about talking with kids about the local wildfires. I smiled a little when I read the article, because the other therapist she spoke with (Seanna Crosbie of ACGC) apparently said the same exact things I did. Reassuring, actually :^).
The February 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has an article in it that I found to be practically earth-shaking. The journal’s editors and the article’s author, Alison Schonwald, MD, FAAP, review a very recent British study that looked for possible links between hyperactivity and food preservatives and/or artificial colorings. And the short answer is-they found it.
This study, which is described by the AAP editors as “a carefully conducted study in which the investigators went to great lengths to eliminate bias and to rigorously measure outcomes” concludes that there is a connection between hyperactive behavior and food preservatives (particularly sodium benzoate) and artificial food colorings.
Just to repeat myself a third time-this reliable, peer-reviewed, double-blind etc etc etc study found a connection between some of the foods that our kids eat (the junky, chemical-laden ones) and hyperactive behaviors. Wow.
Of course, this isn’t news to some. Parents have anecdotally found this link themselves over the years. It’s just that this is the long-awaited “scientific study” that ‘proves’ it.
Another interesting note in the AAP article-they state that they were skeptical in the past and now acknowledge that they were wrong.
Did you feel that tremor? ;^)
If you’d like to read the AAP article, or the full text of the original British study, they can be found here: http://www.feingold.org/aap.html
Please note that I have no connection with this website nor the association behind it. (But I do think their ideas are very interesting!)
Update: Here is a link to another article describing a food-ADHD connection.
Update #2: Here are the food colorings that were connected:
• Tartrazine (E102): Yellow food coloring
• Quinoline yellow (E104): Yellow Food coloring
• Sunset yellow (E110): Orange yellow coloring
• Carmoisine (E122): Red food coloring
• Ponceau 4R (E124): Red food coloring
• Allura red (E129): Red food coloring
• Sodium benzoate (E211): Artificial preservative