We were as shocked as the nation was to wake up on Friday morning and hear of the attack on moviegoers at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” This senseless, random horror makes no sense to us—or anyone—and our hearts and thoughts go out to the families and friends of all those affected.
What should have been an exciting premiere and the talk of the day from a movie/story/legend perspective has become, tragically, another incident of insanity and violence. Already this morning, I’ve talked to many parents who are concerned and vulnerable. As one mother said to me, “This is what my daughter does. She’s 16, and she loves going to midnight screenings with her friends. What am I supposed to do now?”
We hope that this is an isolated incident, and while there is stepped up security at theaters here in New York and most likely around the nation. But what do we tell parents and each other and our kids?
The movie has a PG-13 rating, is dark and not appropriate for many younger kids, so many of them will not see it. But all kids can potentially be affected by this tragedy and the emotions it creates. If you have planned to go to the movies and your kids are clearly upset about this, you might do well to make another plan—at least for this weekend. Even if you were planning to go to the movies and leave your kids with a sitter, you might want to change that plan for this weekend, as that could be stressful for kids who could worry.
You might also try keeping young kids away from TV news coverage of this event. Young kids especially are more likely to think that this could happen to them, however unlikely we hope that is. They won’t gain anything by watching ongoing coverage of this, which will saturate the news media for days, if past events are any indication.
As with many other tragedies, it’s important to listen to your young kids and let them take the lead in conversations. Every kid will respond to this event differently, and young kids especially tend to see things in absolutes. You can reassure them that this was one terrible person who did something that was very bad but that this type of thing is very unusual. If you have a favorite movie theater you go to, for example, you might want to drive by it to show them things are going on as normal.
The scary thing for kids—and adults—is the random nature of this horrible event. That’s what makes it tough for people of any age to get their minds around it. The challenge is trying to explain that to kids in a way they understand, which is all the more difficult when we don’t understand. Do your best to reassure them, and allow this to take time to heal. And don’t be surprised if it comes up for a while in your kids’ conversation. Will things get back to normal? Sure, but that’s small consolation today. For more information about how to talk to your kids about tragedies, here’s an excellent article from the Child Development Institute.
We send our thoughts and prayers to all the families and individuals directly and indirectly affected by this tragedy, and we join everyone in expressing our grief, frustration and upset at this event.