One year later: Talking with kids on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting

     In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead a line of children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 after a shooting at the school. Hundreds of children at the school that day survived, but the horrors have been especially difficult to overcome for some of the 6- and 7-year-olds who witnessed the bloodbath, even as the school year resumed in autumn of 2013. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks, file)

    In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead a line of children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 after a shooting at the school. Hundreds of children at the school that day survived, but the horrors have been especially difficult to overcome for some of the 6- and 7-year-olds who witnessed the bloodbath, even as the school year resumed in autumn of 2013. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks, file)

    December 14 is the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting. I won’t recount the details of that event here because I know the horrors are firmly etched in our collective psyche. But I will say that as the anniversary approaches, we should remember the children — both the ones who were tragically murdered and our own.

    I know there are many parents who do not talk to their school age children about tragic world events, but I do. Not because I want to, nor because I want to “steal their innocence.” I do it because I know they will hear snippets or more out in the world of kids, and I want them to see me as their home base for trying to make sense of it.

    I vividly remember hearing about the shootings last December while doing last minute Christmas and pre-Disney trip shopping. I had spent the morning visiting my own children’s classrooms and was walking through the Target, shell shocked, wondering who else there had heard. I remember calling my own mother and sobbing in the front seat of the car. I finished my to-do list, beat the school bus home, and as the kids were having snack, I gently told them that something awful and really sad had happened. To kids.

    When big, scary, awful things like 9/11 and wars happen, some kids are still able to check out. But when people are gunned down watching a Batman movie, or first-graders and teachers are shot in a school, kids are going to talk about it with each other with a mix of facts and rumors.

    I have no idea what the right words are for a parent to say to a child about these events. I just know that I try to say something. So that when and if my children do hear — whether it’s a whisper, a mention, or a full-blown news account — they know that mom knows too. They know that we can talk and that we can be sad or scared and try to figure things out together.

    So, with the anniversary approaching, let’s try to be mindful of media. On our computers, in our cars, and on TV. Parents should know that schools may even talk about it. Some students are making cards or sending things to the schoolchildren in Sandy Hook. If this is a concern, you may want to ask your child’s teacher what their approach will be. But know that plenty of what kids learn while in school, they learn outside the earshot of adults.

    Most of all, try to pause and remember and honor the lives lost that day. And then try to imagine yourself at six or eight or 10, trying to make sense of people around you talking about the event, and how comforting it would be to have heard it first from someone who loves you.

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