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How to be there for your children after the shooting in Colorado

I sent this message out the families of children registered in the program by e-mail last week, and decided that others of you may want to see this message.

Dear Families,
I wanted to let you know that I have been thinking about you and know that this may be a difficult time for you when you children ask why, and if they are safe. News is everywhere and it is likely your children will know something about what occurred. Young children may be confused and frightened. Older children may understand what happened, but they are just as likely to worry about their own safety. As parents we are worried about them and at the same time we want to reassure them that we are there to help keep them safe.

I'd like to offer a few suggestions about how to talk to your children and what you can do to help them and you.

First, let them talk to you about how they feel, and allow them to ask questions. Let them know that this is not a topic that is off limits. Make space for these conversations at times that your children are most likely to want to talk (in the car, at meals, before bed, while on a walk, while doing chores together).

Second find out what your children already know and what they actually want to know. This gives you an opportunity to correct any misconceptions and allows you to provide the information they actually want and need. Be careful not to overload them with more information than they need. They may come back and ask for more later, but shorter answers are better than too much.

Third reassure them that you are there to take care of them. Remind them of ways that you are present and the things you do to protect them. Your children may need more than normal time with you as reassurance, but our children always need love, and hugs to make them feel safe and cared for. Older children may feel a need to "do something'. Consider allowing them to write letters of condolence, or letters to our politicians. Help them think of ways to make their world safer. Doing something may make them feel more in control of their world.

And finally take care of yourself. Check in with other parents. Share your concerns about your children's safety and your ability to talk to them about such difficult topics. Our church community is a place where we share values and talking to parents with shared values can be comforting. Remember that I am available to talk to you as well.

As parents we worry about our children all their lives. May our Church community be a place where you can bring those anxieties and find support from each other.
Liz Jones

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