Talking to Children About the Sandy Hook Tragedy

Here is the letter we are passing out to parents this weekend to help them navigate talking with their children about the tragedy.

Dear Parents,

Our hearts are broken for the children and families of Sandy Hook Elementary and the community.  It is overwhelming for all of us. 

Let’s be praying for comfort and peace for the families.  God has promised to be with us in times of great pain and suffering.  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” wrote the Psalmist, “and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).  His presence and peace abides though our words fall short.

When children find out about tragedy, they want to know how it affects them and their families.  Parental guidance and input is crucial.  You know your own children best.  

To respect your role as a parent, we will not be discussing the tragedy with the children.  We will be glad to sit down with you and your child if you would like help in discussing the tragedy with your child.

As a parent, you may be wondering how to talk with your child about this tragedy if they hear about it or you decide to discuss it with them.  Here are some strategies to help bolster your child’s sense of security and counterbalance negative emotions. 
Let your children know that you are there for them.  Tell your children that you love them.  Spend time holding them.  Allow them to experience the warmth and security of your touch. 

Keep them in a routine. Maintain an atmosphere of normalcy, balance, and predictability.  

Protect your kids from media overload.  Read a book together instead of watching the evening news. 

Don’t overreact in front of your children.  They will pick up on your emotions and reactions.

Assure them that you will keep them safe.  Let them know about the safety measures that you have in place because you love them and want them to be safe.
Accept your child’s emotions.  Validate his or her feelings.  Enter into them with him or her.  Let him or her know that it’s healthy and normal to feel sad or fearful when bad things happen.  It’s good to be honest about their feelings.  

Assure your children that trained people are on the job doing everything possible to meet the needs of the victims.  Children find comfort in knowing that someone is in charge and is ministering to those affected.
Observe their behavior and moods carefully.  Keep an eye out for any obvious signs of distress, insecurity, and confusion.  A key factor to watch is sleep patterns.

If they ask why this happened, assure your child that this was not from God.  Jesus came to bring life and life more abundantly.  We live in a broken world where tragedy occurs.

Pray with your child.  Pray together for the families of the victims, the rescue and medical workers, and civic leaders.

May God’s peace and presence be experienced during this time.