Parenting

What Do I Tell My Children About Sandy Hook?

December 20, 2012

I have gotten repeated requests to write an article about Sandy Hook, about what we should say to our kids. I have been mulling it over all weekend. I realized that I am not sure that I can.

It takes me a long time to process news like this. First, I avoid the newspapers completely. Then I start reading everything I can get my hands on.

My husband urges me to talk to my kids but I can’t. I want to pretend that these things don’t happen. I don’t want to educate my children to the very real horrors that occur in the world.
So my husband tells them about the massacre in Newton, Connecticut. How we need to pray for the victims. We send you to school where we believe it is safe and we know that everyday that you come home is a blessing. I think to myself, Is that enough? No, I don’t think it is.

I search the internet for more ideas on how to talk to our kids about the tragedy. Many articles urge parents to ask if their children heard anything and then act as a sounding board. Just listen. That sounds good to me.

I asked my nine-year-old daughter if she heard anything beside what Daddy told her about the massacre. She said, “Of course Mommy. I saw it in the newspaper before you woke up. There are lots of dead children and adults.”

I should not have left the newspaper out. I asked her what she thought about it. “I don’t know, it happens,” she shrugged. She was strangely matter of fact.

I asked her if she had any questions. She didn’t. But I am sure deep down she does. I see that this is just the beginning of a discussion where I don’t think I have too many answers.
As I write this though, I think I know where I want to direct this conversation. A quote by Mr. Fred Rogers is floating around Facebook,

When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially during times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing there are so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.

Victoria Soto, Sandy Hook teacher who died to save her students.
Victoria Soto, Sandy Hook teacher who died to save her students.

This is a very Jewish response to tragedy. To help. From Abraham, who offered hospitality in his tent in the desert, and Joseph, who saved the Egyptian people during a time of famine. More recently, I think of the Jewish organizations that raced to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the Israelis who were the first to set up a makeshift hospital in Haiti during this last earthquake.

Maybe that is the only way to deal with this. Think about the helpers. Think about the amazing teachers who risked their lives for their students. Think about courage. Pray and support the people who have just sustained such an awful loss.

I hope I can continue this dialogue with my kids and help them focus on the good people in the world.

I hope this is how we can respect and honor the victims. I hope it is enough for now.

 

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com