My son's fifth birthday party had a Batman theme. He's now 6, the same age as the youngest victim of the shootings at the Batman premiere.
Last week, after the horrible shooting tragedy in Colorado, my initial thoughts were of course for the victims and their families. But I have to admit that way down in my mind, after the thoughts for the victims and their families and the horrible sadness for all of us as a society, I felt a slight twinge of worry. What if some little boy was having his own Batman party the next day? What would his parents do, what should they do?
At GigMasters, we work with a lot of performers. Many of them have been in the position of having to perform at an event shortly after a tragedy. Singer Susan Savia remembers making her TV debut the night of the Challenger explosion in 1986. She was told to simply go on as planned and hope for the best. But even she is unsure of what she would do if the event involved children.
At my son's own Batman party, we had a different situation. The night before the party, the father of one of his former classmates had been involved in a local scandal. His mugshot was featured prominently on the nightly news. Parents walking in to the party were eager to discuss the arrest and had to be reminded that the kids could hear them.
Although the situations aren't that similar, in my mind the lesson remains the same. Things need to be kept on an age-appropriate level. That includes remembering that your child's reaction to the news might be different than your own.
If your pre-teen or teen seems more upset about the impact an event has on her party than the event itself, it doesn't mean she's uncaring. It just means that she's processing the tragedy in the way that works for her. This is doubly the case for a younger child. Don't judge or react strongly to selfish statements, but try to encourage the child to think about the actual events rather than herself.
If you believe your child is going to come across difficult information at a party, you may wish to let him or her know about it beforehand. That way, you control the flow of information. This will also help to ensure that the child feels comfortable coming to you with questions after the party. If you're the host of the party and you hear children talking about a difficult event, you'll want to try to steer the conversation and activity back to the party. A simple, "I'm sure your parents would rather be the ones to give you information on this," can be enough to redirect the conversation.
As hard as these situations may be for us as parents, it's also important to remember that if we're the ones worrying about how to tell our children about the event, not the ones involved in it, we're the lucky ones.
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