How to Help Your Kids Deal with the Colorado Shooting Tragedy

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I can’t believe it; but I can believe it. A shooting in a crowded movie theater of children and adults. Innocents. Precious lives destroyed. I feel sadness and anger.

You may not want to talk to your school-age kids about this – and because school is out, that’s a more viable option than normally. However, if your children are around other kids, they will hear about the shooting at some point. It happened with Columbine and with 9/11. Kids talk.

That’s why I recommend you address the violence before your kids hear it from someone that isn’t you. Think about it, read this to get some ideas, and you’ll know what is right for your family. I wish you peace with whatever you decide.

(Oh, and if you do talk to your kids, ask them NOT talk to other kids about it. Tell them it’s a family decision and other kids may not know about it.)

How to Start / What to Say?

Fred Rogers says the most important thing children need to know is

1. They can talk about anything with you.

2. We will do everything to keep them safe.


3. Share your own feelings. Encourage your kids to share how they feel.

4. Listen.

5. Keep it truthful but appropriate for the child’s age.

Look for the Helpers

Rogers also says, “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.

Turn Off the TV

Try not to obsess about the news. Limit how much television or internet news your kids are exposed to.

Draw or Write

I’ve found that kids can express themselves non-verbally more easily than verbally. Help your children write or draw about their feelings. Make cards for the families or the injured. Write prayers to God. Draw pictures of how you feel.

Helping Kids Deal with Tragedy and Grief – Links

* National Association for School Psychologists Handout

* 40 Books About Peace and Justice

* Rabbi Shmuley on Oprah’s radio show: “Children need to know, at an early age, that although there is suffering and death in the world, there is a lot more joy and health; that for every one evil person, there are a thousand very loving people.”

* Art Therapy Learned from 9/11

Drawing Your Feelings (art therapy activity)

* Red Cross – Safe and Well site to search for loved ones

* Children’s Colorado has posted a tips article about how to talk to your kids about the Aurora movie theater shooting. The hospital also has set up a Family Support line (720-777-2300) to help families who need advice or help finding additional resources. A behavioral health specialist will return their call within 24 hours.

A Hug to You and Your Kids

Sending you all a big hug. We will get through this together. Look for more information and ideas on my Facebook page.

~ Melissa

Attribution Some rights reserved by thisreidwrites

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  1. I really like the quote, “Look for the helpers” and hope to remember this in the future. I also believe it’s my ultimate goal as a mother to protect my children’s childhood. We will not talk about this with our children since they are out of school, with me at all times during the next few weeks and we don’t watch TV. I’ll be keeping the radio off in the car too since their little ears will perk up at the mention of Batman.

  2. This is a great article. Thank you for reaching out at this time. My daughter is very little right now, and we don’t watch TV with her (I’m catching up during nap time). I hope we never, ever have to have a talk about tragedies like this, but that may be a little too optimistic. Much better to be prepared and think about what I might say to her in the future.

    I can remember when I was a kid I would listen to the news my mom watched (while I was playing) and I used to have horrible nightmares about nuclear war from what was being said.(Late 70’s, early 80’s). And my dad worked for the airlines, so every time there was a plane crash, they would talk about the incident or accident ad nauseum- I wish now looking back on it, that someone would have talked to me about either of those things.
    Maybe I wouldn’t have been so frightened all the time.