It was supposed to be a typical Friday at the movies for Scott Taylor and his 15-year-old son and, for the most part, it was. But like many other parents, Taylor found he had to take a few minutes to talk with his son about what happened at a movie theater in Colorado.
“It's pretty shocking,” he said. “I explain[ed] that sometimes people out there do crazy things and you know you’ve just got to be careful, be aware of your surroundings and just try to stay safe. You can't ultimately predict everything that's going to happen.”Making your children feel safe and letting them know the tragedy in Colorado is an isolated event and nothing like that has happened here is a starting point for communication, said Becky Wachs, Memorial Hospital Child Life Specialist.
It’s also important to let your child come to you so they can set the stage for the conversation because all children have different levels of experience regarding movie theaters, the character of Batman and death, she added.
“They're going to ask you questions and it's very important to answer them as simply and truthfully as you possibly can without giving too much detail. The kids that need detail will ask more questions,” Wachs explained.
But what if you think what your kids have seen online or on TV might be getting to them and your child doesn’t come to you with questions? Wachs said it’s OK to go to them.
“A great probing question might be, ‘How does this make you feel when you see this on TV?’ and that will kind of open that communication,” she suggested.
Another idea? Take a break from news reports about the incident.
“You can let them see it, just don’t let them see it repetitively. It’s cumulative to children to see something over and over and over and the more they see it, the more anxious they will get,” Wachs said.
It’s also possible for a child to develop anxiety about going to the movies because of what they learn about what happened in Colorado. If that's the case, Wachs suggests considering a break from the movies for a while and perhaps having a movie night at home instead.
She also said the shooting massacre is most likely to affect young adolescents and teenagers ... school age children. However, infants and toddlers often take emotional cues from their parents and might become upset if their parents show a great deal of emotion in relation to the incident.