The Global Indian

How to discuss hate crime with children

“I don’t want to go,” Simran said to her father (name changed). She had listened to her family talk about the tragic shooting at the gurudwara (Sikh temple) in Oak Creek in the United States and did not feel safe to visit the Sikh temple.

She heard how an armed man opened fire on helpless devotees in the Sikh temple and took two lives while injuring many in the bloodshed that followed.

Talking to kids about trauma can be challenging. For children, the events can cause a range of emotions. The idea that Sikhs were killed in the Gurdwara could effect their sense of safety, cause confusion or leave them upset, says The Sikh Coalition.

The attack on the gurdwara has prompted  a few Sikh groups in America to release a guide on how to talk to your children about the gurdwara attack.

“The guidelines are a first step in how to engage your children,” says a joint statement.

So how do you explain the mindless shooting to a five-year old? “Emphasizing the fact that this was someone who was so angry he needed to take out his anger on other people might help,” the guidelines suggest.

“Also emphasizing on how many people had responded in support may help.”

The best thing you can do is listen to them talk about what they have heard. “Talking, journaling, drawing and chatting during play activities are healthy and natural ways for for children to work through their reactions.”

Hold and comfort your child more during this time. “They are reaching out to you for security right now.”

Also, whatever they feel is okay. “We may say ‘don’t feel that way.’ Realize that feelings are all valid – it is only what we do with them that can be problematic. Instead, validate the feeling and meet it with compassionate reasoning.”

Finally, realise that children are resilient. They can handle more than we think.

Following the gurdwara shooting, the Sikh organisations in Oak Creek are coming together on the ground in Oak Creek to help provide resources for the needs of the local community in Oak Creek. If you are a trained professional local to the area, and interested in helping out, please contact The Sikh Coalition at contact@sikhcoalition.org.