It is difficult to recognize the world we are living in these days. The horrific and heartbreaking attack in Pittsburgh over the weekend has left us dazed and disgusted. Even when you know there is hate in the world; and even when you know that hate has no boundaries, it doesn’t make the horrifying nature of these events easier to swallow. Those people were just attending Synagogue like they do most every Saturday. Just like those souls in Charleston were going to worship the night of that horrible tragedy. And just like those children were attending class like they did every week day in Columbine, at Sandy Hook, at Virginia Tech, and the list goes on and on …and on.
Our amazing local Jewish Education Alliance and preschool sent a heartfelt and encouraging note to our community. The words suggested taking a moment to process these horrible actions and what specific feelings emerge. This exercise along with the resources they offered were incredibly comforting when explaining this situation to our older child. The Fred Rogers Organization resource was specifically helpful, and it was noted that ironically, Fred Rogers happened to grow up three blocks from the Tree of Life Synagogue (in Pittsburgh).
While I know we are all looking for answers to the unknown in tough moments like this, maybe this will lend a hand in gathering or identifying your emotions. Even if you are not relaying comfort to a small child, sometimes I find that when things are broken down on a lighter level, they become more soothing to my inner turmoil.
- Adults should first process their own feelings so that when they speak to children they are clear on what they feel and think.
2. With young children, a simple message is more appropriate than a story with details. Here are a few sentences. “There was a very sad event that happened at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A person used a gun to hurt and kill people. The police will make sure he never hurts people again. If you have any questions, you can talk to me and know the adults in your life are keeping you safe.” Of course, this script will change based on the age of the child and the information they know.
3. Allowing children to ask questions is important. Remember that children process information by asking questions repeated times (often the same question).
4. Check back in with the child at a later time during the day to to see if there are any other questions.
During these (all too often) terrifying times, we must find a way to maintain strength and resilience in the face of frustration and the maddening threat of defeat…(once again). Coming together is the way we battle these demons the best. Strength in numbers, as they say.
Much love and comfort to those in Pittsburgh and, sadly, to those involved in the handful of (“smaller scale”) shootings taking place over the weekend; not making headline news, though still carrying the devastating punch to so many.
I remain cautiously hopeful for our future, and I’ve got to be okay with that.