Columbine shooter’s mom: Don’t try to fix your kids
Rocky Mountain PBS News
“As parents we often try to fix our children’s problems,” said Sue Klebold, author of “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy,” a memoir exploring what she has learned about her son, Dylan Klebold, one of two teenage shooters who killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
Sue Klebold said that she has learned over the years that her desire to fix her son’s problems might have harmed her communication with him.
“Our children say, ‘I don’t like how I look,’ and we say, ‘Oh no, you look great,’” Klebold said. “But instead, we should say, ‘Tell me more about that.’”
She said it is much more important to try to listen as children and teens share their thoughts.
“Don’t try to fix your children — try to draw them out,” Klebold said in an interview with Rocky Mountain PBS News.
“When the tragedy first happened, I was really in a state of denial. I couldn’t believe that he did those things people were saying that he did — I thought he had been tricked, something had gone wrong.”
She says that it was months later when she saw evidence from police investigators that she “really got to see Dylan the way others had seen him during this tragedy.”
As she worked with mental health experts and evaluated the journals and websites where Dylan and Eric Harris, the other killer, detailed their deadly plans, she said: “I could see for Dylan, he just wanted his life to be over, and I think that was his main motivator.
“The real challenge is knowing when a change in behavior could be life-threatening,” she said.
“It’s very difficult to distinguish between normal adolescent behavior and when someone is really struggling,” Klebold said. She is donating the book’s proceeds to mental health research.
Coni Sanders, whose father, Dave Sanders, was a teacher at Columbine, and among those murdered, said, “It’s not natural to suspect these kinds of horrifying acts — we don’t look for it. Why would we?”
Sanders now runs her own counseling and assessment private practice, where she works with adults undergoing court-ordered mental health treatment for violent crimes.
“I wondered from the first moments what happened to those boys,” Sanders said in an interview with Rocky Mountain PBS News, referring to Harris and Klebold.
“It felt shameful to wonder what happened to them, since my father was murdered and the whole nation was at a standstill.”
But that question stayed with her throughout her studies, and guides her in the work she does now as a mental health care provider.
“It bothers me that we have to have such a horror before mental health becomes a priority,” Sanders said. “Why are we focusing on first responders — and not pre-responders?”
The Sue Klebold interview was shown Friday on “Colorado State of Mind” on Rocky Mountain PBS Friday. It can be seen online at http://video.rmpbs.org/show/colorado-state-mind/. Also appearing on the show are Coni Sanders, daughter of Dave Sanders, the teacher murdered at Columbine, and former Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis.
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