Nearly everyday this past week, while standing in the schoolyard waiting for our kids to be dismissed, my mom friends and I have discussed Newtown, Connecticut. More specifically, we chatted about safe our school is, what extra precautions might we take, and the home life and mental status of the shooter. However, by and large the topic most talked about centered on what we say to our children.
Some parents opted to remove all media from their home for the past week, and hope the kids did not hear of it in school. Others chose to tell their kids nearly everything that happened, details and all. The majority decided to carefully address the situation with their children, purposely leaving out scary details.
While our approaches differed, what we all could agree on is that sometimes we had no idea what to say to our kids. We wanted to reassure them that they were safe and tell them ourselves instead of them hearing it in a scary way at school, but many of us simply know what to say, largely because it was fathomable that t actually happened even to our adult brain. O how could we process it and find the right words?
First Lady Michelle Obama eloquently released an open letter to parents on the White House blog today, addressing the tragedy in order to help us process it ourselves.
Read the full text below:
Like every American, Barack and I are absolutely heartbroken about the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, Connecticut. And like so many of you, our first reactions were not as a President and First Lady, but as a Mom and Dad. We were asking ourselves, what if this had been our town, or our school, or our girls?
And we know that all across the country, it’s not just adults who are asking questions right now our children are looking for answers as well. Like us, they want to know, why did this happen?
Could it happen again? And as parents, all of us can take the time to hold our kids close and talk with them about the things that truly matter: our love for them, the importance of extending that love to those affected by this tragedy, and how that love truly defines our great American community.
We can tell our kids that we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe and make sure they feel loved and so are their teachers, coaches, faith leaders, Scout leaders and everyone else who plays a role in their lives.
We can remind them to be grateful for the educators who work every day to help them achieve their dreams and for the first responders who risk their lives at a moment’s notice to protect ours.
We can tell them about the extraordinary people of Newtown and how they have responded to unspeakable tragedy: the educators who sprang into action; the children who carefully followed instructions and comforted each other amidst the chaos; the neighbors and faith leaders who have come together to support one another.
And finally, we can tell them that it’s our job now to stand with the people of Newtown to pray for them and to find ways, large and small, to show them that they are not alone in their grief. It is now up to us to carry the memory of those who were lost in our hearts and to follow their example every day, living our lives as they lived theirs with courage, determination, hope and love. Those are the values that give us our strength as Americans and that we return to in times of crisis not just because they help us heal, but because they define who we are, as a people and as a nation.
May the memories of those we lost be a blessing to their families, their community and our country, and may God be with the people of Newtown as they begin the slow and painful work of healing and moving forward.
For more on discussing the tragedy with your children, read How Do I Talk to My Kids About Tragedy? 10 Expert Tips.
MORE FROM DANIELLE: