How to talk to your kids about the Orlando shooting, or should you?

cary-psychologist-hands2I’ve done a few interviews today for radio and tv news to give tips about how to discuss the Orlando shooting with your kids. The most common question asked is, “What do you say to kids when they hear about or see news about this terrible incident?” I have found most people assume there is no way kids WON’T hear about such tragedies. I am happy to share my tips for how to discuss this tragedy with your kids, but for now, let’s consider for a brief moment the option of just not discussing it.

A quick look inside my own family. Yes, it’s summer time and my 12 year old is out of school. But my 10 year old (year round school) made it an entire day in school without hearing a peep about the shooting. No friends were discussing it at recess and teachers didn’t make an announcement. And since we don’t keep the t.v. or radio on in our house unless we are listening to music, neither child learned about this incident today. It begs the question, “Do kids need to know?”

Our kids (universal “our”) have one thing that we as adults will never have again. We can’t buy it, we can’t rent it for a day, and we certainly can never go back in time and retrieve it. Every single person on the planet was born with it and it’s a gift to be cherished for as long as possible. What is this wonderful gift? It’s innocence. Our kids still believe their dreams will probably come true. They believe that Mom and Dad are big and strong and will always protect them. They know there are “bad guys” in the world, but deep down, most kids imagine they are very far away. Innocence is a fragile thread, and once broken, can never be mended again.

My kids worried today about upcoming End of Grade tests, their first black belt class, and going away to camp for the first time. Do they NEED to worry about the terror and tragedy in Orlando? Do they need to know about this terrible moment in US history? Do they need to face it today….right now? Or can they enjoy a few more days, weeks, months, or even years embracing the warmth of childhood innocence, until they can’t anymore.

My prayers go out to victims and families involved in the shooting in Orlando.

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