My husband, Rob, just happened to be in the hotel next to Mandalay Bay when the Las Vegas shooter killed 59 people Sunday night from a hotel room on the 32nd floor. So, suffice it to say, the tragedy hit a little close to home.
Naturally, our friends in the media turned to us for insight, and it wasn't long before a friend and magazine editor asked me to contribute to an article about how to talk to children about tragedy and tragic events.
As I wrote about age-appropriate language for children, how to help them feel safe, and what kinds of details to include, I made sure to add something I feel is just as important-how to avoid modeling "all or nothing" language for your children. As a therapist in Honolulu, it's also something I encourage parents to do during parent-coaching sessions.
When someone does something to hurt others or, in this case, kill, we often default to calling that person a "monster," "bad" or "evil." But, what we don't realize is that this kind of language can actually cause quite a bit of distress for children. After all, if they're young enough, they may personalize a statement like that - "If I do something really bad, does that mean I'm a monster?"
Better to demonize the behavior and not the person, as difficult as that may seem. After all, we're all a mix of good and bad, kind and selfish, happy and sad. It's not accurate to say one person is ALL this way or ALL that way (even though that's often the message).
This kind of complex thinking is what often guards us from catastophizing events - which is often a hallmark of anxiety. If we can start to look at events and people as layered and not simple "all" this or "all" that, we have a better chance of regulating our own complex feelings.
Hard? Yes. But, if we want to help our keiki, necessary.