By: Janie Lacy
How can anyone explain tragedies like the on going mass shootings, especially school shootings, to kids? There are a few things that parents can do to address any questions or any fears that may come up in children after being exposed to news reports or conversations from classmates.
1) Be Flexible
It is important that you realize there is no exact right or wrong way to answer any difficult questions about any of these tragedies. What matters the most is that children know that they can talk to you about their feelings and ask questions (i.e. that it is safe to talk about it).
2) Ask Open-Ended Questions
You want to ask kids open-ended questions such as, “what happened in school today? What did you see today? How do you feel about that conversation? This may help facilitate them expressing their feelings.
3) Maintain Routines
Encourage your child to go to school if they want to stay home. When they are at school with other children and teachers, this can be the best place for them to confront any anxieties. If your child is really upset and wants the day off with you, that is ok too. Just make sure any changes in routine don’t become permanent.
4) Be Reassuring
Use language to distance the child from the tragedy and reassure them that they will be safe at school. You can say things like, “that happened far away and I will do everything I can to keep you safe.”
5) Use Developmentally Appropriate Language
Children as young as 2 can be aware that something is happening, but the amount of information they need still changes age by age. It is not advisable to give them point-by-point explanation of the shooting but avoid being silent about it too.
6) Stay Calm
It is important that you do not convey your own fears to your children. You want to also stay alert to any possible anxieties in your child. There potential anxiety can be unrelated, but you want to just stay aware of any changes in their emotions. It is also ok to tell them that you are sad too.
7) Be Alert
You want to talk to your child if you notice any changes in behavior such as irritability, social withdrawal, increased tearfulness and any startled responses.
There will continue to be events that your child may be exposed to in their life that are upsetting, so remember the importance of how you respond, be open to discuss the tragedy. This will set the stage for how your child can process and move through their own feelings about being exposed to the tragedy.
If you need advice or assistance in helping your child move through being exposed to tragedies, call us today at 407-622-1770 or schedule an appointment with us here. We are here to help!