Monday, 17 December 2012

How do you talk to your children about devastating news?

Today Beansey aged 9 came out of school subdued.  He came home and went straight upstairs to his room.  I thought perhaps he was tired or just wanted some "down time" and when I went upstairs, he was lying on his bed quietly crying.

When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that "a very bad man had shot 20 children in America and that he never wanted to go to America and would a bad man come and kill kids in his school?".

I was shocked and upset at his questioning, and on further discussion, it seemed that they had all watched something called "news bites" today and it was reported and then discussed in school.  He said that a few children were crying and that he didn't want to sleep on his own tonight in case someone got him.

What happened in American was tragic and upsetting enough for adults, so how are the little people meant to deal with this?  It meant we had to have a conversation about why the man did it and what his possible motives could be, it made for an uncomfortable discussion that just upset my son further, despite my best efforts to assure him that events like this, whilst devastating are actually incredibly rare.

When we heard the tragic news last week, my husband and I decided that we wouldn't tell the children, this was OUR decision as although they are streetwise in the sense of knowing there are "bad people" out there, we don't want to expose them to every tragic event that does unfold.

Terrorist attacks, shootings, muggings and child aduction are all widely reported and in the 24/7 news cycle that we live in.  It is often quite tricky to sheild them from current events that we are exposed to daily but I do my best to "drip feed" them news as and when I feel it is appropriate.

We made the decision not to mention the tragic shootings in the US as I knew my eldest would be distrubed and upset.

Tonight I have had to reassure him that it won't happen to his school, we had to discuss why God lets the bad people do things to good people (if anyone can guide me on that I'd be very grateful as I struggle myself with this) and I had to hold him until he fell asleep with the light on.

I am a bit miffed that the school chose to tell him, not all children are emotionally mature to deal with such events but most of all, I am sad that my little *big* boy has had to be reassured that what happened is dreadfully sad but also very rare.  

The biggest gift after love that we can give our children is to communicate with them, for them to feel secure and confident and for them to know that no matter what, as parents we do everything we can to keep them safe from harm.

I came across this website tonight which has helped me to assess the situation.  I hope that if you are also facing tricky questions then you'll find some answers here as well.  

Hug those close to you that little bit tighter tonight.  I know I did.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo


  1. Hmm. We never told our eldest either and yes I think I would've been upset if school had done so. At the very least, they could've informed you so that you could be prepared for questions. I think you're doing the right thing- let him talk about it and answer any questions as honestly as you can. Luckily these incidents don't happen every day and there is no reason for him to feel unsafe etc. I guess you can take this opportunity to talk about tragedy etc, although I wish there was no need to do this :(

  2. Id be extremely miffed if I'd decided not to tell Amy then discovered she'd been discussing it with school staff. I honestly don't know what the answer is but I suspect staff were doing it for the right reasons and not to frighten of upset the children. Unfortunately, it is the children who will remember this when the adults have moved on and that's when we parents need to be there.

    Take care, flower. What happened has shocked the world and I don't think there is a right or wrong way to help our children deal with these types of horrific incidences.

    CJ xi

  3. I'm not sure I'd know what to do if I were in that situation. I think you handled it really well. It's such a tragic and shocking incident and it's one even adults are finding hard to accept as reality. I think I would have been miffed at the school too, means it comes as a complete surprise and may not have been explained the way you would have liked it to be. I hope he's now ok though and accepted it as a rare occurrence that hopefully never happens again!

  4. My mobile has just eaten my 2 previous comments... Third time lucky I hope! I'm like you, I would rather give news in my own way than have them hear the cold hard facts at this age. Not sure what your school was hoping to achieve... Anyhow you did what you could, hope he sleeps ok and recovers quickly. All so sad x

  5. I agree with Crystal Jigsaw - I'm sure it was with the best motives. I remember worrying about Nazis when I was young (this was in the late 60s). Children don't have the sense of perspective. Probably the best thing is to listen to your child's concerns and make sure they know they are safe, that it's ok to think about these type of issues and that they are very very rare.

  6. I'd have been annoyed with the school too I think. One good piece of advice I read yesterday was to try and focus on the helpers - all the good people who tried/are trying to help the children - to try and balance what happened with all of the goodness that *is* out there. The teachers who protected children, the police and firefighters, the man who bought coffee for the whole town, the people who are trying to change the laws on gun controls. I hope your son is feeling a bit better about it all today.

  7. that is a fantastic bit of advise to focus on the positives in such a tragic circumstance. I've left a message for the school but not heard back yet. Thank you SO much for commenting.

  8. That's exactly what I did do Jen, at the end of the day though, I still feel that it would have been better coming from me though rather than a teacher. He was still talking about it today so hopefully I can pin down the teacher for a chat.

  9. thank you CJ. Wise words as always xxx


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