Parents should talk to children of every age
Recently there was a school shooting not far from my home. One of the most chilling realizations to come from the recent shootings is how vulnerable schools are to attacks. This has evoked many emotions – sadness, grief, helplessness, anxiety and anger. As families and educators responds to children’s questions about to help children cope with tragedy. Some adults may wonder how much information children should be exposed to, or what to say to reassure their children about their safety.
Tragedies can cause real anxiety in children (teens included, especially since the most recent shooting happened at a high school), even when they are not personally affected by them.
The need to feel safe, to feel protheir children about theirtected is a basic need of childhood. The increased violence that has occurred over the past years doesn’t change that need. It only means that parents need to work even harder to make sure their children feel safe.
Increase parental availability
Parents should be accessible to their kids physically and emotionally. Kids are likely to be scared and anxious in the aftermath of a crisis, and they may identify with the victims. Nurturing and supportive parents provide a safe space for children to vent their emotions.
Be careful about what you say in front of your children. Keep your own emotions in check. Kids pick up on everything and if we are lamenting the terrible state of the world, particularly about their child returning to school after a shooting, and saying things like “I’m afraid to go anywhere any more,” children are likely to be nervous as well. Parents should project stability and calmness in relation to the event. . Let them know that you are still in control and that, no matter what, you will protect them just as you always have.
Be open to kids’ fears
After a crisis, kids are most likely to fear the possibility of fear returning. They are less afraid of the event happening again than they are of re-experiencing the anxiety of that day. Kids need to tell their story, and parents should give them plenty of time and space to do so.
Be prepared for questions
Many questions kids ask will be difficult, if not impossible to answer. Parents should explain that a school shooting is a random event and discuss steps the school will take to ensure students’ safety. Remind kids that the teachers are there to protect them.
Topics for Tweens and Teens
It is important to talk to your teenager about school violence whether they are at home or attending college, and listen to his or her thoughts and concerns on this issue. The following are some topics to discuss with older children and teens related to school violence:
- Let your teen know that it’s okay to express fear at what has been happening and compassion for the students and families who have survived this tragedy.
- Explain the distinction between being different from other students and having severe problems that lead to extreme violence.
- Express to your teen how important it is to let you or another adult know if they hear another student threatening violence towards himself or others.
- Talk about what it might feel like to be an outcast at school, and find out if your teen is having trouble fitting in.
- Talk with your teen about solving problems constructively and peacefully; help them to find appropriate solutions to problems without using violence.
Some children may glorify a school shooting by saying it was “cool.” We need to emphasize that violence is an unacceptable way to settle issues or solve problems. We need to stress with children and teens that violence does not work.
What are your friends saying?”
Tweens and teens — and boys especially — might be reluctant to open up and let you know that they’re afraid or worried for their own safety. But they might be more apt to come clean with “Kyle was really upset about what happened,” says Michele Borba, EdD, educational psychologist. Asking this question is also another way to ensure your child and his friends have the story straight. ”
Your school is very safe.”
Many children will wonder “Can this happen at my school?” How to respond: “Even if you’re worried about this yourself, there’s no reason to let your kids know that,” says Borba. “Keep your voice very calm and explain that you’re sure his teacher and principal have taken every measure to make sure school is the safest place possible.”
Until things calm down, it will be normal for children to show signs of worry and fear. Just like many adults, they may have trouble eating or sleeping. Two weeks from now, if your child still isn’t eating or sleeping normally, or shows other warning signs such as extreme irritability, weepiness, lethargy and reluctance toward or fear of activities she once enjoyed, call your pediatrician.