‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Shootings: How to Talk to Kids About It
How do you talk to kids about a tragedy? In the wake of the Aurora shootings, experts weigh in.
-Piper Weiss, Yahoo! Shine
The local news footage is chilling. Hoards of people stumble out of the Colorado theater where a gunman opened fire on a packed audience for The Dark Knight Rises. One limping man’s shirt is streaked with blood, and a child dressed head-to-toe in as Batman walks behind him, bewildered.
For the victims who witnessed the horrific act, some as young as 6 and even 4-months-old, the trauma is incalculable. But even for kids around the country following the news coverage, the incident is devastating.
“Batman is supposed to be their protector,” child trauma expert and psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro tells Yahoo! Shine. “With any type of tragedy spread over news, a child’s own feelings of fear emerge, but parents need to take the ‘hero stance’ to restore their children’s sense of security.”
The first step is monitoring how much access kids have to the news story. “I wouldn’t make a big deal about it -I would subtly limit their amount of TV or time,” advises Heather Turgeon, a psychotherapist and Babble columnist. “If you want to know more details about the story yourself, do it when your kids are not around. You need to be their filter of information.”
Between Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates and a constantly swirling news cycle, there’s only so much control a parent can have. So the next step is helping kids process what they’ve already heard, by asking questions and reassuring them of their safety.
“Parents can acknowledge what happened,” says Dr. Shapiro, “but they also need to be saying ‘I’m here for you, you’re safe,’ and letting the child know they’re protected.”
This would seem intuitive, but Dr. Shapiro says, parents sometimes, nervously or forgetfully, brush off kids’ concerns about news events, making fears feel more potent and shameful. In a tragedy like this, kids are bound to have concerns, if not questions. Because the shooting happened at a super-hero movie, in a room dotted with children in costumes, it’s likely to feel closer to home than other news stories.