Mighty Life List
Dec 15 2012

Explaining the Incomprehensible: What to Tell Kids About Sandy Hook

My friend Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan is a family therapist, and I agree with her take:

“I don’t think that talking to my kids about mass shootings would in any way equip them for such an event. In truth.”

Hank was with his dad yesterday, and Bryan went over a plan for what to do if Hank ever “saw a gun at school,” but didn’t cite yesterday’s murders specifically. Unless Hank comes to us with questions, we’ve agreed not to mention it.

Now the grownups can resume waiting for someone to explain it to us.

To the parents, family, and loved ones who lost babies and educators yesterday, I am so sorry. To the teachers who were able to protect so many children from harm, and those who died in the attempt, our deepest gratitude.

13 Responses to “Explaining the Incomprehensible: What to Tell Kids About Sandy Hook”

  • Fatemeh Says:

    And to those responders who witnessed the horror of 20 slaughtered children, may you find peace again in the future.

  • Christian Says:

    I 100% agree with you. My worry is that when my son returns to elementary school on Monday he will hear about it from other kids, which seems like a rough route to learn about it. It all gets so different once they get around loads of kids whose parents all do it differently. If anyone has any advice on that, I am all ears.

  • Amy Says:

    So far my 6 year old knows nothing of this. I am SO hoping it stays that way. She is super-sensitive to conflict these days. She does not need this dumped on her delicate psyche. I think her teacher will have the sense to not discuss it with kids. At least I hope so. I don’t know what the other kids know, but her class is very small and the parents generally care about protecting their children’s innocence.

  • Toni Says:


    I’m 24 and totally willing to admit that this PSA that Mr. Rodgers did for 9/11 helped me yesterday. I don’t know if anyone can reasonably explain an irrational and tragic event, but Mr. Rodgers seems like good place to start.

  • Calypso Says:

    We have to watch what images we allow our children to see.. for it will never leave their brains.. ever. I’m okay with shielding my boy from the world and letting him believe in all good things. It will sustain him when he life throws him into the pit.

  • Kendra Says:

    I told my daughters because I wanted them to hear it from me and not other kids or adults. Impossible to expect kids not talking about it at school, especially for the 4th grader. But I kept it very high-level and we are not allowing them to see any coverage.

  • Absquatulate Says:

    This is good advice. Thanks for posting it.

  • A Day in May Design Says:

    Absolutely. There is no way to prepare any child or adult for something so incomprehensible as this tragedy. All we can do is band together to support those who’ve lost their loved ones. And be thankful for all those who protected the children the best way they could – true heroes.

  • Katie Says:

    Thank you for reaching out to us. It does help.

  • Erin Says:

    What did you tell him as a plan “if he sees a gun at school?” Ugh.

  • Jen C Says:

    Both myself and my husband are educators (counselor and administrator respectively). We talked a little with our kindergarten-aged son over he weekend to suss out what he understood, what he didn’t, and where he stood. I asked him about all the different drills they practice at school (fire/tornado/lock-down) so as not to highlight one over the other. He seemed very knowledgeable on all three. Who to look for, where to go, what to do, etc. I asked him what they are supposed to do if they see a “bad guy” in the school and where they go. He had a very specific answer for all of my questions, which made me feel quite relieved. The teenaged students I work with probably don’t know as much as my 5 year-old! (though our son is detail oriented:) ) We didn’t go into much detail about Sandy Hook with him, but did say something had happened and that little boys and girls had died. His main concern was for their families and friends. Mostly though he was more interested in building with his Legos and watching the International Space Station pass overhead at night. This morning when I arrived at work, the staff had fearful and sad eyes, but the teeangers here-burst into the building with the same crazy joy they always have. It was reassuring to know they feel just the same today as they did last week. I love my students so much (and am tearing up just writing this). It does me good to know they are handling this better than us adults. Though, often I think we analyize these events much deeper than they do. For them this weekend was about the big game, who broke up with who, the party on Saturday night, and how many days left until holiday break. Thank god for our kids.

  • ~Heather Says:

    This was an awesome NYT article to read.

    We don’t watch the news and our kids (6 & 8) don’t know anything about the CT event. Would it help them to know? I don’t think so. They know the safety drills at school. They need to know to be prepared for an emergency, but they don’t need to know the nuanced details of all possible emergencies to be ready for. In my day, our emergencies were for earthquakes and air raids from Russia.

    My big worry is kids at school today who heard stuff from parents who were in hysterical mode or who unintentionally exposed them to the media coverage.

  • Candy Wrapper Says:

    Such a devastating event, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Newtown.