Friday, July 20, 2012

Talking to Your Kids About the Aurora Tragedy

As a Colorado native who has been to that particular theater numerous times, words simply cannot express the sorrow felt for the families who endured this unspeakable crime. But no matter where you are in the nation, as a parent, children are going to watch the news or hear it from friends in school, so you may end up having to talk with them about what occurred. There is no rational way to explain such a senseless act. And in the lack of understanding, a parent's first instinct may be to blame it on a "monster" who did evil things. But this isn't usually the most comforting response -- it's neither true nor helpful information, and will tend to increase fears, not diminish them. Nor does it provide a productive outlet for these negative feelings. After all, evil is a term that disqualifies all else. The only thing to do against evil is to destroy it. Which means all our emotions will focus around destructive thought patterns. Instead, you should explain such maliciousness as being very much like a natural disaster. In the same way that a weather system draws upon a countless number of other variables to assemble the storm that spawns a tornado, people who flare up in destructive ways are the combination of an endless number of influencing factors -- their upbringing, biology, personal experiences, history, fears and desires, mental condition in a particular point in time, etc. -- all coming together to result in this terrible action. This explanation has several benefits. First, it helps diminish the anger or confusion they might feel. But it also allows us to focus our anxieties toward more productive responses. While we may never know what particular ingredients set this person off, we can take action in our life tomorrow to combat the elements that create and feed such malice. We can make sure we are doing our best to create an inclusive society that shows concern for everybody, so that no one feels like an outsider. We can do all we can to spread love toward others, because there is one thing for certain: this act was completely devoid of love. We can act compassionately, not just toward those we normally associate with, but with those who annoy or disturb us as well. We can understand that no baby is born into this world an evil being. We can understand that hurtful action such as this is brought about by different forces in an individual's life that create a storm in their mind which lets them consider such an atrocious act. Let's not waste as much of our own energy focused on hate -- which is precisely the type of emotion that allows soulless acts like this in the first place. Finally, point out how the majority of people are moved with compassion for this tragedy and are coming together and supporting one another. The world is still full of more love than hate, we just have to continue working to ensure everyone is touched with love, understanding, and compassion. It's the only thing that will prevent such flair-ups in the future.

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