with author Jackie Morgan MacDougall
why i won't tell my kids about the movie theater massacre
As reports of the movie theater tragedy streamed in from Aurora, CO, many parents wondered what to tell their childre -- but not me. Hearing about the monster (who I refuse to give attention to by mentioning by name) sprayed bullets into a packed movie theater, killing 12 and injuring another 59, was too much for me to even process, how would my three kids (8, 6 and 5) handle it? I wanted to do the right thing as a mom but, when I do share difficult information with my children, I try to provide them with a lesson they can't take away from the conversation and I just can't find a lesson here in this disturbing turn of events.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not one to avoid reality. As the Sandusky verdict came down a few weeks ago, our whole family sat and watched the video (on mute) as my husband and I talked to the kids (age-appropriately) about the case. They know enough details about September 11 to participate in memorials at school and understand what happened. But a shooting in the middle of a Batman movie? I just couldn't figure out how telling them would actually benefit them. My kids absolutely love anything and everything Batman (even though they're not allowed to see the movies). They're out of school right now, so it's not huge topic of discussion on the playground. And there's nothing those innocent victims could have done to prevent this nightmare from happening, no lesson I can provide the kids -- so what's the point in scaring them?
Not sure this was the right thing to do, I turned to psychotherapist and child development expert Stacy Kaiser for her advice. Kaiser wholeheartedly (yet politely) disagreed with my decision, and shared her own insight as a therapist -- and fellow mom. "Your kids are going to hear about it elsewhere," Kaiser advised. "Even not at school, it will come up -- whether it's today or a month from now. It's best for the news to come from you."
Kaiser explained that my kids already know who Batman is -- in fact, all three of them dressed up as Batman for Halloween one year -- and there will come a time when they're playing Batman and another child will associate Batman with the shooting. "You can talk to them, while at the same time, explaining that this isn't something that's going to happen to them. Let them know that in a city far away, a man did something that has never happened ever before."
But how do I explain an act so random and incomprehensible? Kaiser says that's exactly how. "Kids need to understand that random things do happen. There are circumstances in life that we can't understand and can't explain. But easing their fears, letting them know this was far away and something that's a freak, random occurrance, while still preparing them for what they might hear later, that's the way to empower our kids to cope and feel secure as they experience scary situations throughout their lives."
I try to follow my instincts when making parenting decisions like talking to my kids about difficult topics, but it's important to keep an open mind and not be afraid to turn to more those more experienced and knowledgeable in areas we may not be. Stacy Kaiser definitely helped me shift my way of thinking about talking to my kids and gave me the tools to start the conversation in the best way possible.
Did you talk to your kids about the Aurora, CO shooting?