We want to shield our children. Protect them. Keep them safe.
We want to make the truth of what happened this morning untrue. We worry about what to say. We worry because we don’t want to say anything at all. So how do we parent in a moment when our own humanity feels so vulnerable and fragile?
We walk bravely into the face of love.
We talk with our children. Because if we don’t, they will hear the news from a hundred other sources. We need them to know that we are here. That we are bigger and stronger than any disaster. That we will be present for them, no matter how overwhelming life feels. We give them the briefest information, not the gory details. And then, we listen. We listen to their concerns, their confusion, their worries. We allow them the space to weep and wonder, and we model for them the river of tears that is our grief. We cannot solve this for them, nor should we. These are the deep mysteries of life. We can be their guides. We can show them how we wrestle with understanding events that can never be fully understood.
And we show them love. We point out that while there is only one shooter, there are hundreds of responders. Hundreds of adults who are right there helping each one of the children. As Mister Rogers reminded us: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
And then we can ask for their love. Is there anything you’d like to do for the families in Connecticut? They may initially not know. And that’s ok. We can circle back later and ask again. Or offer up possible ideas- do you want to draw a picture? Start a fund to help hire grief counselors? Hold a vigil? Say a prayer? Create a paper chain – each link a hug for the children of Newtown. By finding their own voice in this tragedy, they learn that they can make a difference in the world, no matter what events unfold.
Don’t fret about the words you use. Simply start the conversation. See where you child takes you. Listen for the emotions that are under their words, assure them that all of their feelings matter. Hug them tightly. Let them feel your tears. Then hug them again once more.
My love to you all.