Talking with Kids about the Chiefs Parade Shooting

Nearly a million people were celebrating the Kansas City Chiefs and their Super Bowl win when shots rang out, killing one person and injuring twenty others, eleven of them children. While doctors say that all of the kids will survive, three remain hospitalized, and many more are traumatized by the fear and chaos of the event.

Gun violence has become an inescapable reality for children. They wonder about the seeming randomness of attacks. They fear being caught up in a mass shooting. They practice active shooter drills at school. They are anxious and afraid, even as some also grow numb to the danger because it seems so commonplace.

If your child is asking questions about what happened, there are ways you can reduce their stress about the event. The first step is to assess your own response. Tune into how you are feeling about the news. Are you angry? Sad? Anxious? Resigned? Paying attention to your own emotions helps you manage them while talking about the event.

The next step is to listen to children’s concerns. Resist the urge to minimize or dismiss their questions and emotions. We often want to protect kids from bad things. However, setting aside their questions sends the message that we are unwilling to help them process difficult experiences. So if they bring it up, encourage them to tell you how the shooting affects them.

Not all children feel comfortable initiating conversation. If you notice your child is quieter than usual or withdrawing from family activities, ask if something is bothering them. Even if you think you have sheltered them from the news, they may have heard about what happened from others or seen a report elsewhere. And if it turns out their behavior is unrelated to this event, you still have an opportunity to talk about whatever has upset them.

If your child does want to talk, provide factual answers to questions about the shooting and its aftermath. Children want to know that we are trustworthy conversation partners who will tell them the truth. Explain that the police do not believe that this was an act of terrorism. Confirm that children were indeed among those injured and that they are expected to recover. Acknowledge that someone died. Share that the authorities think two teens were having a dispute and that’s why they started shooting, but we still don’t know for sure. Assure them that you will answer any future questions they might have.

Some questions children may ask will go beyond what we can answer with facts. In those cases, reassure children that you care how they feel and want to protect them from danger. Affirm their emotional reactions and share some of what you are feeling as well. Tell them what you and others are doing to keep them safe. Describe social action opportunities that can help reduce violence and encourage them to participate if they want. The goal here is to let kids know that they are not alone or without power to make the world a better place for themselves and others.



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