When tragic events like the Las Vegas shooting occur, it can be hard to know what to say to your kids. After all, it doesn’t make sense why someone would do something so horrific. So how can you possibly explain it to your kids?

Many parents’ first instinct might be to avoid the subject and hope their kids don’t hear about it. And while there may be a few kids who don’t catch wind of the incident, most of them will.

Whether their classmates bring it up at school, they stumble across a news story on their digital devices, or they overhear someone talking about it in the store, most kids will learn that something terrible happened.

Your response will shape your child’s core beliefs

The conversations you have with your kids—as well as the conversations you avoid—will impact their core beliefs about themselves, other people, and the world in general.

For example, will your child decide the world is a terrifying place filled with bad people who want to hurt her? Or will she grow to believe that there are a few bad people out there, but for the most part, there are good people who are working hard to keep her safe?

Even your silence on the subject could lay the foundation for unhealthy core beliefs. When parents don’t acknowledge a tragic incident, a child might think, “My parents don’t talk about what happened because you shouldn’t talk about sad things.” Ultimately that child may think sharing sad feelings is unhealthy.

Or, a child whose parents never mention the incident might conclude, “My parents don’t think I can handle hearing about bad things.” He may grow up to believe he’s fragile and weak.

So it’s important to proactively instill healthy chore beliefs in your kids. Rather than saying, “Bad things don’t happen,” tell them, “Bad things do happen, but we’re strong enough to deal with those things.”

That doesn’t mean you should share every detail of a tragic event. Instead, it means you should carefully give your kids as much information as they can safely handle and use it as a teachable moment to build mental strength and foster resilience.

– Amy Morin

Read more: How to Talk to Children About the Las Vegas Shooting

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