Talking to My Kids About Tragedy

As you all know, Orlando has been in shock for the past two weeks as we deal with a horrific tragedy in our community.  Chris and I weren’t really sure what to tell the kids yet, and since we are home for summer, we weren’t really worried about them hearing about it from friends or anything.  So, we were completely unprepared when both of them came running into our bedroom one morning,  yelling, “MOM!  DAD!  49 PEOPLE WERE KILLED IN ORLANDO THIS PAST WEEKEND!”

Chris and I hardly ever have cable on.  At night, we watch Netflicks or sports, so when the kids come down in the mornings, they just turn on Netflicks and go.  But because we had been watching the news the night before after the kids had gone to bed, when they came down the next morning, they flipped the TV on, expecting to find Netflicks, but instead found this horrible news.

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We talked to them generally about what had happened.  We explained that there was a bad person who had killed and hurt a lot of really good people.  But we focused on there being so many more good people in the world than bad people.  We talked about ways our community was helping each other and ways that our family would be helping.  Later, when Gracie wasn’t around, we asked Bean if he had any questions about the shooting or anything else he wanted to know.

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“Well, why do bad people do bad things if they know it’s not the right thing to do?” he asked.

We sat there for a second or two and thought about it.  Chris and I try to be as honest as their age allows with our kids, and so instead of giving some BS reason, we told him that we didn’t know.  That some people just didn’t have good hearts and that since our hearts are what guide us, they were guided in the wrong direction.

“They probably should have had Jesus in their hearts,” Bean said.

Amen, Bean Man.  Amen.

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This past weekend, we decided to take the kids downtown to the memorial that has been set up.  We explained to them as we walked up that even though it was outside in a park, it wasn’t really the time to play and be loud.

“The people here are remembering the people who died, and some of them might even be saying prayers in their heads for them, so we should be pretty quiet,” I explained.  And I was amazed at how well the kids behaved and how curious they were about what we were seeing.

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They didn’t say much, but looked around at the notes and flowers and people.  Chris and I stopped and pointed out particularly special things to them, and then we said a prayer as a family.

Across the street from the memorial site is City Hall, where wreaths have been set up for each victim.  We walked over there, too.  We looked at the wreaths with the kids and talked about some of the people and the stories we had heard about over the past week come out in the news, one who worked at Harry Potter at Universal, one who worked at Disney World, one who was friends with some of our friends, etc.  Anything we thought they might understand.

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“There are so many wreaths,” Bean said, as we walked in.  “So many people died.”

“Yes,” I said.  “Now, think about how many good people loved each one of these people and imagine if this room were filled with all those good, loving people!”

“They wouldn’t even fit in the room!” Bean said, grinning.

“That’s right.  So much goodness, even when things are really sad.”

When tragedies arise, I don’t know what the right way is to talk to children.  But I know how to talk to MY children.  I know that Chris and I try to give them just enough information to make them better people, to open their hearts.  And then we wrap that information in our faith in God and lots, lots, LOTS of love for other people.

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2 thoughts on “Talking to My Kids About Tragedy

  1. This blessed my heart! Way to go Katie!

  2. Lisa Backovsky

    This was great. I am always very comfortable with how I talk to my kids, but it’s great to have some sort of validation as a parent. To see other people, with kids the same age as mine, handle the situation in a similar manner, it makes me feel good. Thanks for sharing!

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