The church massacre in Charleston South Carolina has many parents and adults wondering how to talk to their children about acts of hatred and violence. As adults, we are often left feeling helpless to address the core questions that the children around us are asking. This is because we too feel vulnerable and without answers about such acts of violence.
When something such as the shooting in Charleston occurs it’s hard to know if children are aware of what happened. Let alone, if they are thinking or worried about what they have seen or heard. Unless a child in our lives brings up the event it’s often hard to know what they saw or heard. In a digital era, where media is ever present, we should assume that children as young as 3 or 4 are aware that something scary, violent, and mean happened last week.
When events like these occur, I encourage the parents of my counseling clients to bring up the event with their kids. This opens the door for their kids to ask questions and express fears they might be having. Keep in mind that kids often have fears surrounding news events that they don’t share unless they are asked. However, not every child will have questions or reactions to what they have seen/heard. It is essential, as parents and caregivers, to let children in our lives know that adults and kids are alike – we all have the potential to struggle with strong reactions and feelings when we hear about the church massacre or other acts of violence. Remind the children in your life that they don’t have to keep quiet or hide about what they are feeling or thinking.
In her book ‘Daring Greatly,’ researcher and storyteller Brene Brown says that, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” Vulnerability is key and often the hardest when there aren’t concrete answers or the ability to make the promise that they will never face violence, discrimination or acts of hatred. As adults, let’s remember not to avoid the scary, difficult, helpless and anxiety producing topics with kids just because we don’t know all the answers. What the kids around us need most is to know that WE, as family and community, are facing these big feelings and challenges together. Because of that they can feel safe in sharing their thoughts and feelings.