Talking to Toddlers About Tragedy

Last Friday all of America watched a tragedy unfold. For our family here in Connecticut, this took place a mere 15 minute drive from our house. As the morning went on and the schools went into lockdown, I counted down the minutes until my oldest son got off the school bus and was home safely. I thanked god my preschool-bound toddler was home with pink eye.

But as the day continued, the Facebook posts looking for our friend Vicki began to appear on my timeline. Had anyone heard from her? Was she at the school that day? Lots of replies saying that she was probably too busy to get on Facebook with all that was happened.

Our friend Vicki had been teaching at Sandy Hook Elementary school for five years, and it was the highlight of her life. She was born to be a teacher and, as far back as I can remember, it was her dream.

The news stories continued to get worse and worse, talking about poor innocent babies who had been gunned down by a madman when they were only trying to learn. My heart broke into a million pieces for these parents, mere miles up the road waiting for their babies to be reunited with them safe and sound, but never getting that chance.

By that evening, we learned through Facebook once again that our Vicki had been killed by the gunman. She died protecting her class full of first graders, using herself as a shield as some hid and some ran to safety. In the days after this incident, as my children watched bits and pieces of the coverage that I turned on, or witnessed one of several bits of hysterics, I had to open a line of communication about what happened.

My 3-year-old seemed to be the one with the most questions.

I told my children, “Sometimes people are very sick and sad, and they do mean things to other people. These are the bad guys. Sometimes these bad guys do bad things and send people to heaven before they are expected there. This is what happened. These beautiful children are with God now, and they are safe.”

There are only so many ways you can explain such evil and tragedy to a small child without crossing a delicate line.

I would love to talk with other parents and open up a discussion about how we have all addressed this horrible act with our own children.

Photo Credit: Photo I took at the Vicki Soto Candlelit Vigil on 12/15/12

Tagged as: , , ,

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Learn More.