Friday, December 14, 2012

Hug Your Children Tightly...and Talk

Another heart stopping school shooting.

This time at an elementary school not far from where I live, work, and worship.  The senseless violence is closer than ever, even in a bucolic Connecticut town.

I've already been asked about how or if to talk to children about it.  I remember too well the day I picked up 6 year old Greg from school on September 11, 2001.  He already knew that something was wrong.  There were teachers and parents crying in the halls.

A lot of parents then wanted to avoid talking to their children about it.  They hoped that their children might not have heard. 

They'll hear about this too.  Even the kindergartners and first graders need to hear from you, their parent or trusted adult, that you are there for them.  They need to know that this type of tragedy is very very rare and that schools are safe.  They need to know that there are procedures to keep children safe in schools and that's why there are things like fire drills and hall monitors and crossing guards.  They need to know that you too feel sad hearing about children who were hurt and killed and that this type of violence should never ever happen.  They need to know your values about guns.  They need to know about all of the adults who came to help: the teachers, the police, and the concerned towns people.

They may need a chance to write or draw or play act their feelings.  You might want to light a memory candle at dinner or look for a community candle light vigil or religious service. Remember to tell your children how much you love them and that you want them to talk with you about their feelings. 

With older children, start by asking what they know.  Listen to their feelings.  Share your feelings and values.  Think about what you can do together, like writing your elected representative about gun control or reaching out through your congregation to families in Newtown.

And pray.  Pray for the families that will never be the same.  Pray for the families that were observers.  Pray for the children who survive.  Pray for the souls of all the victims, including those that caused the violence.  Pray for mental health services for those who need them and laws to ban handguns and assault weapons.  Pray for an end to senseless violence. 

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