Parents often have to have conversations with their children that they never want to have. Most of those conversations are expected; they don’t come out of nowhere.
But when a mass shooting happens near where you live – as it does for hundreds of thousands of families in Milwaukee today after the mass murder at Molson Coors Wednesday – parents suddenly have an unexpected conversation to come with those kids.
“This is something a lot of parents are thinking about this morning. My kids have questions. They’re hearing about it in the news,” said Calie Herbst of MKEwithKids.com. After numerous school shootings, she created a guide of tips for talking to kids about such tragic events. Many of the principles she talks about can sadly apply to the tragic events of Wednesday.
First, she says that much of what to discuss involves a child’s age.
“The experts say that starting around age eight is when it’s really our responsibility to start these discussions and answer as honestly as we can about the questions they have,” Herbst explained on WTMJ’s WIsconsin’s Morning News.
“Younger than that, experts do say kids really struggle to process the information, and it might be better to limit media exposure if it doesn’t directly affect your family.”
Full coverage links:
– How to talk to your kids about tragedies like the Molson Coors shootings
– Multiple people dead including suspect at Molson Coors
– Photo gallery
– Audio: Dispatch call
– Wisconsin Congress members comment about Molson Coors incident on social media
– Presidential candidates chime in about Molson Coors mass shooting
Especially with young children, she believes brevity and establishing confidence in their safety are key.
“Keep the explanation brief and age appropriate that honestly tells what happened, and reassuring kids of all ages tha they’re safe, and you’re doing what you can to keep them safe,” said Herbst.
She really emphasizes making sure the kids know the true facts about what happened, and help them get past mistaken information to make sure they process their thoughts and feelings from true facts.
“As they get older, it’s really important that you’re honest with them, that you ask them what they already know about it and clear up any misconceptions they have heard. You want to find out what it is they understand, what they may be confused about or not understand very well.”
Finally, Herbst suggests having kids use action as a way to process their feelings about such tragedy so close to home.
“One of the things that is really cathartic: What can they do? Maybe you guys can write a letter together or some sort of action to take to help the victim. That can be really cathartic for kids.”