The first thing I did when I read about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was weep.
The second thing I did was tell myself that I would never let my children, ages 3 and 8, know that something so horrific had happened in the world that they live in.
It would be easy for me to shield them from it. We don't have cable and we never watch the news with them in the room. My 8-year-old is very sensitive and we shield him from the many horrors of the world, regardless. I didn't want something so terrifying to even enter his consciousness.
The fact the the tragedy happened on Friday gave me the weekend to ruminate on whether or not we should share the news with our sweet boy. It started to sink in that children at his school may know about the tragedy and tell him about it. Somehow, the news is always scarier, the details more graphic, when it comes from another child.
It suddenly felt like the great unknown. Would his teacher talk to the class about it? Would other kids spread the news on the playground? If he were to find out, I wanted him to hear it from us so that we could comfort him.
I began to research how to handle telling your children about a school shooting. Obviously, we would not tell our 3-year-old but most of what I read said that it would be appropriate to talk to a child over the age of 7.
With heavy hearts, my husband and I decided that we would talk to him about it Sunday afternoon. We knew better than to tell him too close to bedtime or before school on Monday morning.
I felt sick at the thought of even uttering the words to him.
When we chose to tell him, he was in the kitchen playing with his remote control monster truck. We kept it short and simple with very few details, specifically that a man with a mental illness went into a school with a gun and hurt some of the children We quickly talked about all the teachers who protected the children and told him about the kids who helped each other.
We told him that scary times like these create heroes and that the bad guy had been stopped. We assured him that his teachers would do everything in their power to keep him safe.
We also told him that not all parents of the kids in his class will have shared the news with them and that he should keep it to himself unless his teacher mentioned it. We explained that it was something that kids should hear from a grown up, which he agreed to do.
He was sad but didn't ask questions. He hasn't mentioned it again and my plan is to let it go unless he brings it up. My hope is that we told him in a way that was gentle enough to keep his small world feeling safe.
In the end, it seems that there was no mention of it at school on Monday, which was a relief. If I could go back in time and erase the tragedy from his memory, I would. Yet, I'm glad that I could be the one to tell him and follow up the news with the tightest hug that I'll probably ever give him.
Did you tell your children about the shootings? If so, what did you tell them? Did the teachers discuss this with them at their school? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.