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Talking to Kids About the Tragedy in Tucson


The horrific shooting in Arizona last weekend has cast a pall over this new year, and news coverage of the event and its aftermath has been inescapable–for adults and children alike. Yesterday evening, First Lady Michelle Obama posted an open letter to parents about the tragedy in Tucson and how we as parents can help our children in their struggle to understand what happened while we try to make sense of it ourselves. She writes:

The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have–and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers. But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons–about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.

“We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis. And we can help them do that in their own small way–whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.

“We can teach them the value of tolerance–the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us. We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.  

“We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families. We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.” 

If you’ve been struggling with how or if to discuss the shooting or other similar tragedies with your children, you can check out Christie Barnes’ guest post on Motherlode yesterday, “Parenting Through Tragedy” about how to assess real risks to children (i.e. the chances of getting shot by a madman at the local grocery are quite slim). The piece offers solid advice on maintaining compassion and concern for the victims of tragedies while avoiding overreacting or making children fearful that the same thing could befall them. Also, check out our 5 tips on talking to older kids about scary news.

Have you talked to your kids about the tragedy in Tucson? What have they asked, and what have you told them?