What happened in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. As details emerge from the Las Vegas shooting, your child will have questions and fears. He or she will want to know why this sort of thing happens — and, he or she will need to know how to mature into a healthy, engaged adult in a world where darkness is on the rise. The Las Vegas tragedy presents significant opportunities for you, a parent or guardian, to help your child process the emotional, spiritual and practical aspects of what went down in Las Vegas. You need to know how to talk with your child when tragedy strikes. Here are some suggestions on how you can — and should — help your children process the worst shooting in United States history.
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1. REMEMBER THAT IF YOU DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CHILD, SOMEONE ELSE WILL. If you aren’t the go-to source of information for your children, someone else will be. Are you okay with that? No, you can’t be an expert on everything you child needs
to learn — but you can, and should, be the first source they consult before going elsewhere. It’s a blessing, not a burden, to be the person your child looks up to for credible, timely information on anything they need to know in life. It’s no less true when it comes to processing tragedy.
2. PRAY FOR WISDOM; YOU CAN DO IT. Helping your child process tragedy is not as difficult as it may, at first, seem. Don’t let yourself be intimidated unnecessarily. If you follow the next few steps — and stick to them — you’ll find that you really can help your child process, and this will actually strengthen the bond between you. James 1:5 (NIV) says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
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3. ASSERT YOURSELF — BE THE PARENT OR GUARDIAN YOU ARE MEANT TO BE. A good parent doesn’t wait for his or her child to always bring up issues. Of course, there are times when a child has an issue you can’t anticipate — but when you know an issue is real, and your child will be thinking about it, you need to be proactive, assert yourself, and bring the topic up so they know it’s important to process things, not sweep them under the carpet.
Sit down with your child and tell them, “I want to talk with you about something bad that has happened.” Then, ask them if they are familiar with whatever tragedy it is that needs to be addressed. (In this case, it’s the Las Vegas shooting). If they say they know about it, ask them what they know — and listen. Don’t assume they have accurate or complete information. And, don’t assume they need to have complete information, which brings us to the next point . . .
4. SHARE WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW, NOT NECESSARILY ALL THE DETAILS. I can’t stress it enough that too much information can be harmful information. In the case of the Las Vegas shooting, your children simply need to be told something like this: “A man with mental problems and a very bad temper used rifles to harm people in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, he took the lives of many people, and wounded many others.” That’s your foray into the subject. Ask your child if they understand what you said, and if they have any questions. Patiently wait for them to respond.
Remember to “K.I.S.S.” your child when answering a question: KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE for starters. A good thing to practice is to answer the question as briefly as possible; stick to the realm of what your child asks. Short answers that stick to the question are the most helpful, and will prevent you from making your answer(s) too complex.
Remember that the purpose of answering their questions is to help them process what they need to know. Too much information can provide information they don’t really need, or what will plague them thereafter if they know. They don’t need to seek photos or video of the event, nor do they need to know, as children, the destructive power of high-powered rifles and ballistic bullets. They simply need to know the facts: people were killed and wounded and that a sick individual committed the crimes.
5. ASK YOUR CHILD IF YOUR ANSWERS SATISFIES THEIR CURIOSITY. HELP THEM STAY AWAY FROM SEEKING UNHEALTHY, DAMAGING INFORMATION . This approach helps children process what they know, and will help you know whether they are having a hard time digesting what has transpired. If your child demonstrates a curiosity toward the gruesome details, help them be compassionate, instead, and focus on how the victims and survivors need compassion and love.
6. HELP YOUR CHILD UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE LIVING OUTSIDE OF EDEN, IN A FALLEN WORLD. We’re not in Kansas anymore (i.e. The Garden of Eden). Bad things happen to good people. Sin is the reason for all hardship, pain, suffering and, ultimately, death. We are spiritually separated from God because of sin, and physical death is a consequence of sin, evidence that it is the real, fundamental problem for humanity. Help your child understand these truths as you put the tragedy into the bigger picture of the fallen world in which we live.
7. PRAY WITH YOUR CHILD, SO HE OR SHE LEARNS HOW TO PRAY FOR THE SURVIVORS AND FAMILIES AFFECTED. Children need to learn how to pray, how to develop empathy, and how to process tragedy in ways that are healthy. Your prayer does not need to be lengthy, but it does need to be sincere, engaged and heartfelt. Be real with your child
and real in your praying, and you’ll teach your child that being real with God, and people, is normal, healthy and helpful.
8. DO SOMETHING POSITIVE AND UNIFYING. In the aftermath of tragedy, children need comfort and reassurance. Spend time with your child doing something that will bring you
closer together and help him or her know they are safe at a time when their world (which is much smaller than an adult’s world) is a place where they are cherished and sheltered, thanks to your engagement with them.
9. BE THEIR SHIELD — MONITOR WHAT THEY WATCH OR HEAR FROM THE MEDIA. Radio and television can be graphic, blunt and disturbing — especially in times of tragedy. Your child does not need to watch videos of the tragedy, or have a television or radio personality describe the situation. That’s where you need to be their shield, protecting them from the blunt force trauma of hearing or seeing things from unfiltered sources.
10. BE AVAILABLE AND APPROACHABLE. Your child will potentially have additional questions. Repeat the above steps and you’ll be well on your way toward helping your child process tragedy — and grow into being a positive factor of influence in a day and age when it’s needed most.
ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CHILD PROCESS THE LAS VEGAS TRAGEDY? BY DOING SO, YOU WILL HELP HIM OR HER GROW UP TO BECOME A LOVING, ENGAGED ADULT IN AN AGE OF APATHY AND FEAR.
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