Helping Our Kids Handle Tragedy

This past week has been filled with tragedy. The week began with a shooting at Clackamas Town Center, the mall I grew up shopping at with friends on weekends. I have spent hours in that mall, and even spent an afternoon there a couple months ago shopping with Carl and the kids. So when I read the news stories about the shooting in the food court, I could easily picture us living through that nightmare. My heart ached for the poor people who lived through such a senseless tragedy.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the school week was concluded with another shooting, equally tragic, equally senseless, but on a much larger scale. While all mass shootings strike a sense of helplessness and despair, the one in Connecticut was particularly hard to read about. Children and death are not words you want to hear in the same sentence. I’ve heard that living through your child’s death is worse than death itself for any parent, and for me personally it is one of my biggest fears. I cannot begin to fathom what those poor families are living through right now.



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Since we only have a Roku, we don’t ever watch the news. Therefore, we only hear about current events online, where we just read what we want, when we want. One neat thing about this is that we are able to easily choose what we expose our kids to. We initially didn’t talk about this week’s tragedies in front of the kids, because I wasn’t sure how to approach heartache of this nature. I also have a hard time sharing something this sad with them when I don’t have an answer as to why things like this happen. I hate that I live in a world where I even have to consider how to share this kind of information with my kids.

There is a part of me, a large part, that doesn’t want to tell them about these tragic events. I don’t want them to feel the feelings this kind of tragedy elicits. I want them to remain innocent, tender-hearted, and trusting. I don’t want to see fear in their big eyes or answer their scared, curious questions. But there is another part of me, a smaller part, that wants them to be aware of current events. I want them to know that life isn’t perfect, I want them to be prepared to handle sad news. I want them to know that the safe little bubble they live in is a blessing they shouldn’t take for granted, because it is not the norm for many people in our world. I want them to be thoughtful of others who are suffering or less fortunate than they are.




Unlike Bill Maher, I have been giving my kids extra hugs, kisses and I love you’s this weekend. While it may not help the families who are grieving, and it may not change the world, it does make me feel close to them. It reminds me to be thankful, and thankfulness is the best way to combat sadness, helplessness, and frustration. I don’t want to take for granted the little blessings in my life. I cherish them, and I want them to know that every single day. Every time I feel that twinge of guilt when I look at my vibrant, healthy children I say a prayer for the mama’s and daddy’s who are in a valley of darkness right now.

How do you handle heartache where your kids are concerned? If they’re old enough to be aware of the news, do they know about the shootings in Connecticut and Portland?

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  1. Kelli -  December 16, 2012 - 5:03 pm

    We have a two year old and a baby so they are very much in their own little worlds. We have, however, told our two year old that something very sad happened to some children and their families and she has been praying for them. She hasn’t asked anymore questions, just says “I pray for all the kids,” but we decided that if she does, we will tell her that a bad person hurt some children and grown ups and their families are very sad.

  2. Amanda M S -  December 16, 2012 - 5:39 pm

    Brody isn’t old enough at 18 months to understand but if I had older children I would tell them the truth and be as honest as I could without too much disturbing detail. I heard one parent on CNN say that her son keeps asking about his teacher and that he is hopeful his teacher is still alive. They aren’t telling him she is dead and keeps avoiding it. I completely disagree with that. I would be totally honest. If my child flat out asked me if his teacher was dead I would tell him the truth. Even at ages 6-7, they know what’s going on. I feel like they can tell when something’s not right and when you’re keeping stuff from them. This week has been extremely tragic and I am devastated for the families effected. I hope I never am in the situation where I have to figure out how to tell Brody tragic news 🙁

  3. Laurie -  December 16, 2012 - 5:56 pm

    I am grateful that my daughter is only two and I don’t have to explain this kind of stuff to her yet. What I will tell her if something like this happens again….well, I will just try to go with my instincts and be as honest as possible, which is about the best I can do!

  4. Chrissy -  December 16, 2012 - 9:06 pm

    My children are 7 and almost 5. This tragedy hit particularly close to home. I have yet to discuss it with them. I have kept the news off. They both go to school and may hear things. I will tell them the truth of whatever questions they ask but I’m not offering up more info than necessary. No need for them to worry. I still want them to feel safe at school.

  5. Laney K -  December 16, 2012 - 9:57 pm

    Our kids are 5 and 1. I was having trouble keeping my composure after I heard it had happened, and our 5 year old knew something was up and asked. We told her that someone very mean hurt a lot of kids and they are now in heaven, where they don’t hurt anymore. We have been praying for their families and for their friends who miss them. We talked about a few vague safety precautions. My biggest fear is that her preschool classmates or the neighbor kids will share the details more graphically with her, as they did in a horrific way after a little girl here was murdered a short time ago, which resulted in a lot of nightmares. 🙁

  6. Heidi -  December 16, 2012 - 9:58 pm

    We constantly have Fox News or CNN on in our house (depending on which crazy reporter is on we will avoid jack asses such as you posted above) so my kids are exposed to war and crime and violence all of the time. Being a military family it’s hard NOT to be exposed to that. So although we didn’t bring it up on Friday I would have no issue nor would my husband to explain to them what happened. Karoline saw it and she saw mommy cry. She looked at the TV with a terrible look on her face and asked if TV made mommy sad. I said yes the tv has sad news so it made mommy sad. That was that.

  7. Rachael -  December 20, 2012 - 9:22 am

    I think it’s important to talk to kids about it especially when they are in school and away from their parents. Who knows what they may be hearing from other people. I didn’t talk to my 4 year old about it but my 7 year old I told him the basics. I told him in another state a very bad person went in a school and shot a gun and some people died including little kids. We aren’t watching the news when he’s around but I made sure he understood that he is safe at school and he could ask us any questions he had. I also told him this makes people sad and scared so he shouldn’t bring it up to his classmates but could to us if he wanted.

    He came home with crazy stories he heard during election time so I wanted him to know the truth before he heard stuff from other kids.

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