10/02/2017 14:20 EDT | Updated 10/02/2017 14:34 EDT

How To Respond To Your Child's Questions About The Las Vegas Shooting

I worry for the children who are growing up in this age of terror.

A cowboy hat lays in the street after shots were fired near a country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nev.
David Becker via Getty Images
A cowboy hat lays in the street after shots were fired near a country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nev.

As with most of the world, I woke up today to the horrific news of the worst mass shooting in American history. Although these terrible events are occurring more and more frequently, I was still, like most of you, in a place of shock. My heart and prayers are with the people directly affected as well as with the American people as a whole.

There seems to be a trend in the choice of event targeted by terrorists. I believe the choice of event was a psychological strategy — to inflict as much fear, chaos and terror into the general public as possible. The choice of city was also likely chosen on purpose, to send a message that the joy and fun of Las Vegas was being judged and punished. The ultimate goal here is to take away people's freedoms and to take away their love of life.

We may not be able to control world events, but we can control how we respond to them. We can choose to respond in a way that asserts our values of love, liberty and community. Terrorists can only take away what we allow them to take away. We can, and should, stand firmly together in rejection of terror's key objectives.

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I worry for the children who are growing up in this age of terror. It is critical that we focus on their psychological needs and that adults reassure children and young people that they are safe. Limit young children's access to streaming media content that shows footage of the evening. And be ready and willing to process this event with children as it will guide their emerging understanding of death and disaster.

If you have a child in your life asking, "Why did this happen?" try responding in this way.

  1. Put down your device and be truly present to the child asking the question. They need to know that it was OK to ask this question and that their questions matter.
  2. Thank the child for coming to you with such an important question. You want them to return to you time and time again when they need important answers to life's questions.
  3. Empathize with — and validate — the emotion of the child. Try saying something like, "I know that times like this are confusing and frightening. It is completely understandable to feel that way. I feel that way too."
  4. It is OK to admit that you do not know why bad things happen or why there are bad people in the world who hurt others. But stress to the child that there are hundreds of times more good people in the world than bad. The good people are coming together to help those that are hurting right now.
  5. Help the child to feel hopeful. Explain that tragedies allow us to be brave and strong. Communities come together and people are kind and compassionate to each other.

Mr. Rogers encouraged us to "look for the helpers" in times of great tragedy and I echo this advice. When we look for those helping, we can see that there is hope in times of great darkness. Helpers shine a kind of light that helps us find our way. We can then see beauty in the totality of the human experience. When we come together and show strength, courage, kindness and compassion we help make the world around us a much better place.

At FamilySparks, we have just finished a course helping little ones process death. Introducing your child to the concept of death isn't easy. Although not yet perfected, it was posted today and will be completely free of charge. We hope it is of some help. Here is the link.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you or your community need help and resources to get through this difficult time. Hold each other close today.

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