All of us have been deeply horrified and saddened by the shooting in Connecticut. Some information about the shooter has been published by the media and he is portrayed as a teen who was isolated and different from his peers. The information about the victims is staggering - beautiful kindergarten children and the brave teachers, principal, psychologist who died trying to protect them. Every murder is horrific and brings sadness to us all. But how do we deal with a young teen who kills - and who by reports appeared to have problems of his own - and his victims deaths?
As parents we cannot help but relate to the parents who have lost their children. I have been thinking about life as the mother of a kindergarten child, and I remember how my own emotions were daily stirred by her. Losing a child at this age to a senseless murder would be a pain I cannot even imagine. And many teens have expressed sadness as they relate the deaths of these children as to how they might feel if they lost their younger siblings.
One other theme I am hearing from teens is "how do I know that somebody I go to school with won't be like the guy who killed these kids?" This is a good question to be raised, and one that adults and school authorities should be thinking about more these days. Going back, we can see signs that the killer had some difficulties as a teen. Could an intervention have occurred with him that could have changed the outcome of December 14 in Connecticut?
So how do you talk to your teens about this tragedy?
1.) Encourage them to talk and use the following questions to encourage conversation.
2.) How did you hear about this?
3.) What was your reaction?
4.) Did hearing about this make you feel worried or afraid?
5.) Talk with your teen about he might react if he is in a situation where gunfire begins. The people who survive are those who run and hide. Many times people freeze in this situation - discussing with your teen in advance will probably help him not be one of those people who freeze.
6.) Reassure your teen but also let him know you are always there to talk about any issues that may occur.
I am so deeply saddened by the loss of these children and their teachers. And I am so deeply saddened that we live in a world where we have to educate our children about what to do in the event of a crisis such as this one. But I know that we have to do our best as parents to mentally prepare our teens to be alert and aware and ready to take action in a crisis.