I posted this this morning on a parenting blog to which I contribute. I thought I would share what I wrote here as well.
Emotionally, it has been a tough several days.
There is no making sense of a person walking into a nightclub and killing 49 people and wounding that many more. Whether you blame gun laws or lack of mental health services or homophobia which stigmatizes the LGBT community or…
It doesn’t change what happened.
This is not meant to be a debate about why or who to blame, but an invitation for us think about how we help our children deal with tragedies and events like this. Whether our children actually hear the news or hear it from a friend and ask about it, or pick up signals from how we are acting and ask us what is wrong, most of the time our children are smart enough or intuitive enough to know something has happened or something is wrong. We need to be ready to respond to their questions and concerns. What we say and how much we say depends on the age of our children, but I think the least helpful response is to pretend that everything is okay, because our children already know it is not.
At moments like this I find myself thinking about the response the late Fred Rogers, of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, gave. He told the story of when he was young being upset by something. When he asked his mother about it, her response was when tragedy strikes to “look for the helpers.” In the midst of the most difficult and challenging circumstances, look for those who are stepping forward to do what they can to help in whatever way they can. I would take his suggestion a step forward. Be the helpers. Do something positive to make a difference. Bake cookies and take them a neighbor or to the police station or to the fire house. Go shopping with your son and daughter and drop off food at the food pantry. Buy a toy and drop it off at the domestic abuse shelter.
In the face of tragedies, whatever the cause, we often feel helpless. By being a helper we not only do something, but we model, that while we cannot stop or change what happened, we can still do our part to help others and make our communities better.