Monday, December 7, 2009

Update: What Do We Tell Our Kids About the Pittsfield Township Shooting Now?

Late on Friday, the shooter in the Pittsfield Township shooting was released.  Police are still investigating the case, but the key issue appears to be whether the shooter acted in self-defense.  What we know is that the dead man had an unregistered gun with him but did not fire it.  The two men were sitting in the shooter's car when the incident happened.  Whatever else police know, they're not telling.

When I wrote about this incident last week, I suggested taking a straightforward approach in talking about this with children:
What you do tell them is that yes, this was scary.  Yes, you understand they are upset.  And then you offer them some perspective.  These two men knew each other.  No one is going around the neighborhood shooting -- this was a problem between those two people and only those two people.  You remind them that the man who did the shooting is in jail until this gets sorted out.  You tell them this is rare -- this has never happened before.
But now we have a problem, which is that the man is not in jail anymore but this still hasn't been sorted out.  Whatever went on in that car seems a little shady, and the adults are worried enough, let alone the kids.

So what do you tell your kids, when they say they're scared because the man isn't in jail anymore?  You tell them that you understand why that would worry them, and you're glad they told you.  Then, you remind them again that whatever happened was between these two men and no one else.  The neighbor is the same person he was before this happened, and there is no reason at all to think that he is a danger to anyone in the neighborhood.

In the end, what we have to hope is that the police investigation will uncover enough information about what happened to put the neighbors' minds at ease, at least a little.  Uncertainty is hard.  Uncertainty when your neighbor has killed someone, it seems obvious, is harder.


Sally Wright Day said...

Makes me wonder if the police would be this reticent if a newspaper of longstanding were en garde. This is definitely a time and situation when we need to know more.

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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
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