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Parenting in the Aftermath of the Movie Theater Massacre

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 20: NYPD officers keep watch in front of an AMC move theater where the film 'The Dark Knight Rises' is playing in Times Square on July 20, 2012 in New York City. NYPD is maintaining security around city movie theaters following the deadly rampage by a gunman inside a Colorado screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' early this morning. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Just a few days ago you would not have thought twice about your child’s request to spend the day at the movies with his friends. Perhaps you have already approved this plan. You are anxious and stressed. You don’t want to disappoint your son or even worse make him feel the anxiety and fear that you are currently experiencing. You are left however feeling stuck in a real quandary. Since the shootings you now have one more concern regarding your child’s safety to consider.

 In reality you are indeed a rational and intelligent individual. You know that as time passes the fear and anxiety about allowing your kids to go to the movies will indeed quell. Your concerns however, are not so far fetched. It is not uncommon for there to be a succession of ‘copy cat’ incidents after a major incident such as this occurs.

 We all remember Columbine. In the aftermath of that tragedy there were in fact a series of other similar incidents and near incidents reported. Indeed, stories of kids making threats to attack their schools or episodes of kids carrying weapons to school still make the local and on occasion the national news.

 So what’s a parent to do? How can you create a balance between overprotective parenting and a rational response to the recent tragedy?

 Here are a few things to consider:

 1.)   Has your local community reacted? There is no doubt that in an effort to protect patrons and promote business many movie theaters will set up their own safety responses. It is sad to think that you may have to resign yourself to a pat down for weapons when you go to enjoy a favorite summer pastime.

 2.)   How have your kids reacted? Do they seem anxious, concerned or fearful about this recent incident? It is important to check with them. Due to the media coverage, news of the events is hard to miss. A good time to discuss this with them is while watching the news coverage. Hear them out. Listen to what they have to say. This will give you a gauge of what they may be experiencing internally.

 3.)   Simply saying ‘no’ to a summer blockbuster maybe the easy way to avoid dealing with your own anxiety but is it rational or even plausible? If your child has had her heart set on going to a specific movie, such a proclamation could cause much controversy and strife. Your kids may indeed be less concerned than you are about the thought of a similar incident occurring somewhere else, especially in their hometown. Kids have an uncanny way of being able to perceive things that happen to others as discreet incidents which do not directly affect them. Focus instead on creating a plan that satisfies both of you.

 4.)   Consider a compromise. Perhaps under normal circumstances you would not expect your tween or teen to check in with you so frequently if he was going to a movie with his friends. Instead of barring him from attending completely come up with a plan that assuages your anxiety but allows him to enjoy a movie. Toward this end, perhaps you would feel more comfortable if you waited in the movie theater parking lot while he and his friend watch the movie. Maybe you would rather sit in the theater with him. If in the past you were open to simply dropping him off at the start and picking him up at the end chance are, your presence in the theater will not go over too well. After all, he does have a reputation to keep up with his friends! Offer a compromise by agreeing not to sit too close.

If your daughter is a teen, you may want to request that she check in with you a few times via text during the movie. Ask her to put her phone on silent but request that she not turn it off. Just knowing you have a direct line of communication may help you feel better.

There is no doubt in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy there be new tension and concern related to movie going. Perhaps the focus will simply center on specific types of movies, such as superheroes and fantasy crusaders. Maybe a conversation about the violence portrayed on the big screen will result in new screening policies. At minimum, there will surely be a new interest on safety in the movie theater. It is sad to think that as a result of one mad man’s violent acts we will have to rethink how we respond to our children when they want to go to a movie.






Fear in the Theater: Talking to Your Tweens About the Colorado Shootings

AURORA, CO - JULY 20: Police break the window of the apartment of of James Holmes, the suspect of a shooting in a movie theater July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and 59 wounded when James allegedly opened fire inside the a movie theater showing the 'The Dark Knight Rises.' Police have James, 24, of Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)

As the news of the fatal midnight shootings during a first release showing of the latest Batman Dark Night movie series circulates, parents should take the time to talk with their kids about the incident.

 Since movie going is a common activity during the hazy days and sultry nights of summer especially among tweens and teens, parents should be aware of the impact this tragic news may have upon their kids.

 In response it is recommended that parents talk with their kids about the incomprehensible incident. Here are some suggested guidelines:

 1.) Carefully check-in with your kids. Younger children will probably be completely unaware of the events. in this case leave well enough alone unless they ask.  Your older kids especially your tweens and teens may be more aware and interested. Because the tragedy transpired at a well known and anticipated showing of a popular movie series, they may be talking more about the incident than if it occurred in another venue such as a college or workplace.

 2.) Ensure accuracy by going over the known details with your kids. Rumors and embellishments can cause unnecessary ruminations.

 3.) Let your kids express their thoughts, fears, concerns and emotions about the event. Try not to interrupt them even if you are trying to offer reassurance or comfort. Your kids could take an interruption as an indication that expressing these things is not something you want to hear.

 4.) Be sure you are in touch with your own thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Your kids often take their cues from you; if you have intense reactions they may react in kind.

 5.) Carefully consider their requests without over reaction. It is not uncommon for events such as this one to have more of an immediate impact on adults than on kids. This is often the case with tweens and teens because developmentally they often believe in the 'illusion of invulnerability,' the idea that bad things only happen to other people. If your kids for example, ask to go to the movies or the mall, be aware of your own reactions. Keep in mind that although devastating and quite tragic, the incident itself was random and unpredictable.

 Tragedies such as this one can put a damper on an enjoyable summer pastime such as going to a movie. As devastating and difficult as it can be to deal with such events, we are best keeping in mind FDR's famous observation: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

 Our thoughts and prayers will of course be with the victims and their families.  The stories of heroism related to this event  are already being reported in the news.This incident is indeed a reminder that although we may live in trying times, kindness, concern, caring and sacrifice for others is still alive and well. What a lovely lesson to teach to and higlight for our children.

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