By Jacoba Urist
As more details and personal accounts emerge, parents across the country are trying to grapple with what happened in a suburban Colorado movie theater early Friday morning. Tragically, a 6-year old girl, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, is the youngest victim of the massacre and reports confirm that other babies and young children witnessed the horrifying events.
Despite the outpouring of grief for families this weekend there also has been some criticism about parents who would take young children to see a midnight screening of “The Dark Night Rises.”
Some folks, commenting on Twitter, have asked:
“Why were there a six year old and 3 month old at a midnight viewing?!? Of a violent, PG-13 movie no less!”
"Questions need to be asked of the parents that felt it was wise to take a three-month old baby to a midnight film screening. Ridiculous.”
On Friday, Heather Spohr at Babble called on everyone to stand behind the parents in Colorado, and to not judge them for their parenting decisions. Spohr lost her 17-month-old daughter, Madeline, in 2009 from complications related to Madeline's premature birth.
“I’m going to say this as ‘loudly’ as I possibly can. Stop shaming the victims. You don’t think a child or baby should go to a midnight showing of a comic book movie? Don’t take your child to a midnight showing of a comic book movie. It’s that simple. But don’t you DARE heap your judgment onto these parents suffering the kind of horror and loss few people can comprehend.”
Others who've endured the loss of a child can also offer insight into the calamity. On a personal note, my own mother and father lost a child, my younger brother, in 1982.
When I asked them how you can possibly comfort parents in a situation like this, my dad said relatives and friends of the victims in Colorado should not have unrealistic expectations that they can console parents.
Psychotherapist and TODAY contributor Stacy Kaiser also encourages parents not to isolate themselves after a tragic event. And the most important thing you can do for a grieving friend? Don’t use the old cliché that everything will be better with time.
“Whether your child dies or an awful, scary experience happens to your family, as a parent, it can linger for a very long time,” says Kaiser.
For many parents, the senseless violence on Friday was a rude awakening: We are vulnerable in places we take our children to all the time, like malls and movie theaters.
And that may explain why some people want to judge the families of the victims for their “poor parenting decisions.” It’s a way of compartmentalizing the horror in Colorado and convincing ourselves that something so shocking could never happen to us.
Kaiser encourages parents around the water cooler or the playground this week to educate anyone who’s faulting a parent for taking their child to the Batman movie premier.
“Don’t get angry with them,” she says. “Tell them calmly, this is not any parent’s fault and they clearly didn’t think they were putting their kids in harm's way.”
So when is a child ready to see a PG-13 movie? It really depends on how your particular kid is hardwired, making it one of those difficult, but deeply personal parenting choices.
Dr. Susan Samuels, a pediatrician and assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, tells parents to look at how their children respond to day-to-day events or other potentially scary triggers that they encounter in their ordinary life to determine their ability to tolerate violent or alarming movies.
At the end of the day, this is just one of the decisions that only you can make for yourself, your child, and your family.
Jacoba Urist is a lawyer, mom, and writer in Manhattan. She is a Forbes Contributor with a weekly column, The Happiest Parent, about financial, legal and current news for families. Follow her on twitter @thehappiestpare. Her website is: www.JacobaUrist.com.
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