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North Texas Families Talk To Kids About CO Shooting

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The deadly suburban Denver movie theater shooting is affecting North Texans too.

Children were among the victims. For some local parents and children, planning to see the Batman movie had become a long-anticipated family affair. Now some moms and dads are asking how they explain the events at the Colorado theater to their kids.

Many parents said it’s especially hard because their children have been eagerly waiting to see the caped crime fighter on the big screen.

A case in point is 5-year-old Dominic Santiago, who went prepared to cheer on his hero, The Dark Knight, at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas.

“He just fights the Joker, and Joker wears a mask!” Dominic exclaimed.

The youngster’s dad, Albert Santiago, said The Joker made an impression on his son in an earlier movie.

“Why is he [Joker] bad?” Albert Santiago said. Dominic answered, “Because he fights everyone and destroys a town.”

Dominic’s parents approve the underlying message their son is receiving.

“He knows what not to do, he knows what’s bad; he roots for Batman so he knows he’s going to do something good,” Albert Santiago said.

Dominic’s mom, Marisol Santiago said the real understanding of things like today’s events will have to wait for later.

“Yeah, but I still think he’s a little young, he doesn’t quite understand everything, because he’s five.”

Licensed marriage and family therapist Melody Brooke says the key to communication is simply having parents discuss issues with kids of any age, especially when it comes to movies, television, and video games.

“You have to be willing to watch it with them and discuss it with them,” she said.

Brooke says helping kids understand reality from Hollywood fantasy takes patient, in-person communication.

“Ask them what they think. Ask them what they feel. Ask them what the events, the movies whatever it is, impacts them. And them help them reframe it in a way that’s healthy.”

Movie-going parents agree that talking things out helps.

One parent said, “Understand what’s a movie and entertainment and not necessarily something to take out into the real world.”

Understanding what’s real includes helping children know an Aurora-type shooting isn’t something they should expect when they go to a film.

North Texas mother Vanessa Wolfe said the idea of going to a movie with her 5-year-old has changed a bit.

“It’s a little scary knowing that [shooting] can happen. You don’t want to put your child at risk, but at the same time you can’t live your life scared all.”

Teacher Nona Townsend agrees that you have to go on with life.

“Kids want to know, they’re not stupid. It’s something you have to explain, but like I said, you don’t want to be living where you’re scared.”

It appears theater chains are sensitive to the need for normalcy.

The Studio Movie Grill released this statement:

“Studio Movie Grill (SMG) is devastated by the recent tragedy that unfolded in Aurora and our hearts and prayers go out to all of the families who lost loved ones or were affected by this random act of violence.”
“We have security measures in place, but for the continued safety of our patrons and staff, we are actively working with local law enforcement to add additional security to our theaters immediately and are reviewing current safety and security procedures. Being a safe place for all our guests and staff is and will continue to be a top priority for SMG and we take that responsibility very seriously.” – SMG President Brian Schultz

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