BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Talking with children about violence and tragedy

As I write this, it has been only a few days since the Orlando shooting. When you read this, most likely gun violence and violence against the Queer community will have subsided from the top of the news cycle again … until the next time.

I know that some of you feel strongly about the rights of gun owners. And some of you are ready to repeal the 2nd amendment and outlaw all or some guns.

I know that some of you are LGBTQ people and some of you are unsure what all of those letters mean.

Some of you are ready to go out and take action, and some of you want desperately to retreat into a safe place and wish everyone could just get along.

Most of you, if you are parents or grandparents or have children in your life, wonder every time a tragedy/outrage like this occurs (and it is often) how to talk with those kids about what has happened.

I think it is important to talk with them. Except for very, very young children who are consuming no media and are not around when you or their other caregivers are, they are going to know that SOMETHING happened. It’s important that they hear your version of what is important to know about what happened.

My children are ages 3 – 12, and even my 3 year old heard from me that someone decided to take a gun to a crowded place and shoot as many people as he could. That crowded place was a place gay and lesbian and transgender and queer people felt safe. And that is terrible. I framed this conversation, though, with several specific stories about what people did in response to be helpful and make things better. The hundreds of people lining up to donate blood. The airlines offering free airfare to families of the victims. The diverse crowd on a New York subway who protected two Muslim women from a man who got on the train and started screaming at them. I want my kids to know that love wins (eventually), evil cannot prevail (not forever), and ordinary people can choose to help (every day). We talk about more detail with our older kids as they express interest.

My way isn’t necessarily the right way – how to discuss things like this is a very personal decision and the exact details are going to vary depending on your beliefs, your emotional capacity, your child’s ability to handle scary things, etc. But try. Try to be honest, open, and hopeful in whatever way you can find with your kids.

Here are some resources you may find useful:

http://www.tolerance.org/blog/please-talk-about-orlando-letter-nervous-educator

http://callandresponse.blogs.uua.org/never-turning-away-never-turning-back/

http://callandresponse.blogs.uua.org/beyond-the-partisan-divide/

Please share them with friends and family, on social media and in real life, as you feel called.

May we be known for our love through our deeds as well as our words.

-Dawn Star

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