Parents struggle to explain Orlando shootings to children

8 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Maria Nickerson of Houlton, like many others across the country, was “stunned, shocked and horrified” about the shooting of 49 people and the injury to more than 50 others on the morning of June 12, 2016 at Pulse, a popular gay bar and dance club in Orlando, Florida.

Minutes after she saw the news on television, her thoughts not only went to the victims and their families, they also went immediately to her 9-year-old son, Ian.

“He loves to watch the news and read the newspaper, and he continues to ask questions about all of these mass shootings that are going on across the nation,” she said on Monday. “I don’t know how to protect him.”

Nickerson agreed that her thoughts were likely echoed by millions of parents across the United States, as news of mass shootings dominate discussions at schools, businesses, hospitals and restaurants.

Kara Henderson of Presque Isle said that she “struggled” to explain to her 11-year-old daughter Isabella about the shootings, as she was already “very frightened” after the killings in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“I tried to shield her as much as possible from the news,” said Henderson. “But you can’t control what they hear at school. She came home shortly after the Orlando shootings and asked me ‘did any kids die?’”

Henderson said she even consulted with a social worker friend about how to explain the shootings. The friend urged her to stress in general terms that while there was violence in the world, her daughter was safe.

Jessica Mays of Caribou said she has been “controlling the television remote” in her home since the day that the news emerged. She said she came into the living room last week and happened to see a video on the news showing some of the nightclub survivors huddled in a bathroom stall in terror as they tried to hide from the gunman.

“First of all, I was shocked they showed it,” she recounted. “Second, I knew that I had to stop my son [12-year-old Michael,] from seeing images and videos like that.

“It is hard enough for adults to see,” she said.