Family Therapist Susan Stiffelman shared several tips for how you can help your children understand what happened in Las Vegas with the mass shooting, and it’s been helping parents all over help talk to their children about what happened.
One of the tips she offered is that you should only answer the questions that were asked. When they ask “what happened?” you should ask them in return what they heard, that way you can find out what they know, and you don’t give them a ton of information that the don’t need to hear, but rather “tailor” your response to the level of information they know already.
Another tip is to “steer clear of abstract concepts.” For example, you shouldn’t talk to them about complex views or religious extremes or beliefs. You should simply say (about the Las Vegas event specifically) that nobody really knows why he did that, but that he seemed to be “very confused in his mind.”
Her third tip is that you should help them to explain their feelings. If you just tell them to “not worry,” they’ll learn that they should hide or “repress” their worries, and that could lead to pretty bad anxiety later in life. Instead, Stiffelman says that you should tell them you’re glad that they came to you for help to understand what they’re feeling, and that helps them understand that they can rely on you for comfort.
Give them reassurance. Susan says that children will often put themselves into situations, like a “what if this was me” kind of feeling. She says that if they begin to worry about going out into public or to an event, you should remind them of all the other happy events where nothing but good things happen, like a birthday party or similar, and that there are a lot of people working to keep everyone safe.
Be a good example. Susan says that we need to “conduct ourselves in a way that makes it clear to our children that all people are worthy of respect.” Be the “model” for your children, and they’ll learn your ways.
Check out more of her tips and some extra detail here.