A Child's View of Guns and Violence

By: Litsa Pappas Email
By: Litsa Pappas Email

HARRISONBURG -- WHSV's Litsa Pappas sat down with a group of kids, all from different schools in the Valley, to find out what they knew about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and how they see violence. The children, who were in second, third and fourth grades, had some surprising things to say.

Many of them knew more details about the shooting than their parents had told them.

"We didn't understand it any more than they did, so how do you explain it to a child who you want to protect their innocence?" said Sandy Minskoff, a mother.

Despite their parents' wishes to protect them, many of the children found out about the shooting in different ways. A few kids noticed the changes at school, from more frequent safety drills to a new doorbell at the school's entrance.

Others found out through technology.

"I was watching CNN that was behind me and my dad told me not to watch it, and then later that night on my iPod I found out about it," said 10-year-old Katy Singerling.

April Howard, a psychologist for Harrisonburg schools, explained how parents can talk to their kids about tragedies like this.

"Please be a good listener, listen to what the children have to say, and then answer the questions," said Howard.

Some of the questions these parents faced weren't easy to answer.

"The one I got stuck on was 'Why?' and I sat there, and that's when I tried to get into and said, 'You know how people get sick with their bodies? Well, some people get sick with their head,'" said Lee Ann Lees, a mother.

Several children mentioned mental illness after being asked what they knew about the Sandy Hook tragedy.

When asked about why people use guns, they had a range of answers.

"I understand for like safety, if someone was about to hurt you with a gun, it would be okay to have one, or like hunting, but you shouldn't have a gun if you're a person that wants to hurt other people," said 8-year-old Julienne Butler.

"Sometimes when people are really mad, they try to kill the people they're fighting with," said 7-year-old Natalie Singerling.

Howard said it's important for parents to talk to their kids about violence. She also mentioned that if parents are having difficulty talking about these subjects with their children, there are counselors at schools that can help.

"Violence is not a way to handle personal problems,” said Howard, “I think that's key to send the message to our children and to learn constructive ways to deal with anger."

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