A few days ago, a deranged* 24 year-old gunman named James Holmes entered a crowded movie theater in a Denver suburb during a showing of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, killed 12 people and wounded several others. Holmes took both the joy and life out of what should have been a relaxing evening.
We generally do not associate murder and mayhem with movies. Nor should we have to. But, I am always searching for teachable moments — even in life's most unexpected moments, no matter how wondrous or gruesome. It is my life's work and passion to identify them. And so, I suggest the following to parents:
1. If your kids are very young and seem unaware of the tragedy in Colorado, you should not feel compelled to tell them about it. They may at these young ages be unable to deal with such complicated and confusing information. If, on the other hand, they ask questions then you must explain that yes there are bad people who do very bad things but reassure them that most people are well-intended.
2. If you have tweens or teens — who have likely heard about the tragedy — ask them about their feelings. My best guess is that they are anxious and confused. You will want to help restore faith, reduce anxiety and provide them with some understanding of the event. Listen Up, Parents! 5 Ways To Communicate With Your Kids
Explain that there are disturbed individuals in this world, but they make up the minority of our population. Empower them in the face of a situation where things got tragically out of control. Remind them that if they are concerned about a peer or anyone else's behavior, they should bring it to the attention of a trustworthy adult.
3. Remind your preteens and teens to be aware of their surroundings. If they sense danger, they should try to find a safe escape route for themselves and their friends.
4. Finally, consider reaching out, as a family, to the Colorado families whose lives were forever changed. Involve your kids in this effort.There is great comfort in helping others, compassion, and empathy. It is the human condition to want to help not to hurt.
These suggestions will certainly not bring back those who were tragically killed, or heal the hearts and bodies of those who were wounded, but they may help your own children deal with feelings of bewilderment , sadness and anxiety. Help! I Have Trust Issues Because Of My Childhood
* I use the word deranged because we have not yet learned if anger, mental illness — or what else may have triggered this young man's life-shattering behavior.
More love advice from YourTango: