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Sandy Hook: What We Can Do Now in Brooklyn

December 18, 2012

This is my first post since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. It is weighing heavily on all of us. I am on a roller coaster of emotion; one minute I feel soul-emptying grief, and at others such intense anger that I almost don’t recognize my own thoughts.  And, then I just feel so nakedly, frighteningly vulnerable. So little of life is in our control; and, that’s terrifying to be reminded of and to see happen to others. I have been thinking of those families and the children who did and did not survive the shooting. It’s all so horribly wrong and sad.

I am thankful to a few local Brooklyn parents who have initiated ways for us to channel our grief through fighting gun control.  We can help change legislation: parents are an immensely powerful voice.

Here are two ways:

  1. A new Brooklyn chapter of One Million Moms For Gun Control was started yesterday. Visit their page and “like” them to show your support for gun control. Their page is here.
  2. Sign a petition for Gun Control here.

What is the Million Moms for Gun Control?

The Indy Star did a feature on the founder of the organization which was started by a mom over the weekend. “For Shannon Watts, the shock of the Connecticut school shootings quickly turned to anger — and then to action.

The Zionsville mother of five, drawing upon her days as a public relations executive with Fortune 500 companies, used social media over the weekend to launch a new organization: One Million Moms for Gun Control. Her goal is to counter the powerful influence of the National Rifle Association.

Watts envisions the new group as a sort of digital-age counterpart to organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an “instant grass-roots” force to lobby local, state and federal officials for stronger gun laws.

While the guns used in the Connecticut shooting were all legal, Watts and many other mothers remain concerned about lax laws, including easy access to assault-type weapons, and guns getting into the hands of criminals and people with mental illness.

And, lastly, our Parent Coach, Alice Kaltman from Family Matters NY, passed on this valuable list of ‘how to speak of the unspeakable” from the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Honestly, it’s the best guide on how to talk to your kids that I have seen so far.

Martha E. Edwards, Ph.D.
Director, Center for the Developing Child and Family

I was in my office this morning with parents of a 7-year-old. On the way to school, after a brief reference to the Newtown shooting on the radio which his mom turned off immediately, he broke the news to her that “something happened” and told her what he had learned from other children the day before.

This is a poignant reminder that we can’t always control the information our children receive and they can easily get the wrong idea. This boy assumed his mother’s silence about the event meant that she didn’t know about it and it was his job to tell her as gently as he could what had happened.

They went on to have a meaningful and developmentally appropriate conversation about what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.

How do we talk about the unspeakable? If we can’t make sense of it ourselves, how can we help our children make sense of it?

We don’t know why this happened, and we may never know what was in the mind and heart of the shooter, but we can help our children process their own experience and to feel they are not alone in their reactions. Here are some ways of helping children in these difficult times:

  • Put away newspapers with huge headlines of the shooting and avoid the 24 hours news cycles that focus heavily on the event. Be the main source of information for your child. Newspapers and TV are not geared toward children’s sensibilities and need to be limited as much as possible.
  • Find out what your children know already and give them opportunities to ask whatever questions they have. Answer honestly and simply. Children don’t need too much detail.
  • Children may need several very small conversations rather than one big one. An important aspect of these conversations is that they know that you know what happened and will join the adults in figuring out what to do about it. This will reassure them and contribute to their feelings of safety and security.
  • Share your own feelings with your children, which will give them a model for paying attention to their own feelings. Feelings of sadness and empathy for the children and their families will be most helpful at this point, rather than airing your own outrage, anger, and helplessness.
  • Some children may worry that they could get so mad that they might hurt someone. Acknowledge that anger is a powerful emotion that we all feel at times. Let them know that you understand and are there to talk about these feelings and help them decide what to do.
  • Let them know that the grown-ups around them are thinking hard about what to do about this and working on solutions that will make things better in the future.