It’s a sad reality that horrific crimes like school shootings happen, and when they do, we can be at a loss for how to talk to our kids about the scary world we live in. The American Psychological Association has some excellent tips for how to talk to help your children handle the fear and confusion following a school shooting.
Talk and Listen Making sure that you care about your child’s worries and concerns will help them feel safe and secure — so listen when they talk. If they’re shutting down, ask them open-ended questions or talk about your own feelings. Find times to talk when you know your child is prone to open up — and once they do, don’t interrupt, just provide safety, comfort, and support. Lots of hugs help, too.
Look For Signs of Stress In the aftermath of a traumatic event you may find your child has trouble sleeping, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, or changes in appetites. These types of reactions are normal, but if they persist or become too disruptive it may be worth talking to a licensed mental help professional for help. However, giving your child a productive way to work through negative feelings at home — art projects, exercise, journaling — can help them through the healing process.
Turn the TV Off News overload isn’t good for anyone, so take breaks from social media, TV coverage, and even re-hashing the details. The APA says that contact exposure to new coverage can actually heighten fear and anxiety. It’s important to stay informed, but not freaked out.
Make Home a Safe Zone When the outside world is stressful and scary, children need to know that home is a safe place for them to be filled with love and people who care about them. Plan a family activity — movie night or a board game — and try to keep things positive. Even just cooking a meal together can help children feel safe at home.
Don’t Forget Yourself Children aren’t the only ones who suffer distress of school shootings. Be aware of your own signs of stress and anxiety, and use this opportunity to be a role model for your kids. Stick to your routines and regular schedules — the sense of normalcy will go a long way in helping everyone feel safe and secure.