My kids saw on the news that a man killed people in a movie theater, and they are afraid now. What do I tell them?

Everyone watched with total sorrow and confusion as this horrific story unfolded and about all of the lives lost in a Colorado movie theater. It is tough to watch, but also hard to pull ourselves away from viewing this tragedy. That, of course, leaves our kids in the middle of it, seeing what we are watching and wondering what that means to them.

So, parents, use this unfortunate opportunity as a reminder to teach your child a life lesson about how to DEAL with the way they FEEL:

  1. Tell your kids that it is scary to hear about this senseless crime. But what you do when you are scared makes a big difference in how fast that feeling will turn into a happier feeling.
  2. Then say, “When you feel the black feeling of scared, remember that ‘Feelings are REAL and something you feel, what matters the most is the way that you DEAL!’”*
  3. Say “Thanks for telling me how you feel. Grab your favorite feel good toy, stuffed animal, picture, etc. and give it a hug. Remember these help you feel safe. Tell yourself you are okay, be brave and remember when the scared feeling comes you now know exactly what to do.”

Young children aren’t always sure what is a realistic fear. In order to help them DEAL, you need to tell them, “We will always be here to make sure nothing happens to you. There is nothing to be scared about as the man who hurt those people is in jail now.”

Remember to help your children recognize, identify and discuss feelings with you and make the connection between their feelings and behaviors, and finally, teach your kids new ways to DEAL appropriately with their feelings!

My prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to all of the families who have suffered this Colorado tragedy, Dr. Ann

*Coming soon: Pocket Full of Feelings, a product for family emotional literacy learning.