Reports of mass shootings or mass attacks, many involving guns and explosions, are increasing difficult to shield my young children from. We recently visited my brother-in-law in Barcelona, just days before an attack in Las Ramblas. Thirteen people were killed and 130 injured, on the streets where we shopped just days before. It was hard to hide the horror in my voice, as my husband and I scrambled to reach his brother and confirm his safety.
This week, we prepared for a typical Monday. I was in a morning fog and fumbled with the coffee maker. I haphazardly turned on the television before watching it myself, or viewing any social media.
I learned of the mass attack, a shooting in Las Vegas, as my children heard it, too.
My children are all under age eight. As most experts recommend, I typically don’t let them view any media content relating to violence. This includes entertainment (such as movies with a violent content), games, and news reports. At this age, children are still learning to differentiate fiction from reality. After age eight, media coverage of violent tragedies can still be very damaging. Viewing can cause a variety of symptoms including fear, and long-term anxiety.
As a parent, I also acknowledge that our world is very volatile. Terrible tragedies happen to good people. I wish I could prevent it, however I cannot. Hiding the truth of inhumanity isn’t a long term strategy I can continue indefinitely. Nor will it prepare my children for perils they may face as adults. Especially on mornings like Monday when I (naively) turned on the television and they hear of a mass attack for themselves.
At 6:30 a.m. we sat around the table and talked about it.
- I reassured them that I would keep them safe.
- I explained that our community is filled with kind, good people. Furthermore, far more good people than those who would elect to hurt others.
- My older children (ages six and seven) spoke of their feelings and fears. I told them it’s okay to feel afraid when they hear of a mass shooting or attack. Especially when it is nearby, or somewhere that we visit. But, at the same time we would be okay. In the end, the best way for our family to handle the aftermath of a mass attack is for us to mobilize and help others. To make our community stronger.
You can learn more about talking with your children about terrorism and mass attacks at parents.com. I prepared myself to answer any additional question when my children arrive home from school.
I know that my children will learn about mass attacks, and catastrophic events as they grow. For now I can simply do my part to minimize their exposure to violence until their brain has developed enough to process the information in health ways, and reassure them of their own safety.
Tonight the news was off when I make dinner. This decision is mostly due to the mass attack in Las Vegas. But it’s also a reminder that our family needs to unplug. We need to talk with each other, ask questions, become involved, and take every opportunity to strengthen our communities.