Helping Children and Teens Deal with Senseless Violence
With the prevalence of social media even young children will be exposed to news of horrifying events like the recent tragedy in Connecticut. Both the adults and children who came for their appointments on Friday were traumatized by the events of that morning. Parents were especially concerned because they know they no longer can control what information their kids are exposed. Here are some tips for what we can do and say to help them process this senseless violence.
- Parents need to deal with their own fears first so our communication can be caring and thoughtful instead of tinged with our own raw emotions.
- Then open a discussion about what happened as soon as possible, letting your children’s questions, fears and concerns lead your responses.
- Respond openly and honestly, sharing as much detail as is appropriate for their age and level of maturity.
– Shield children seven and younger from as much detail as possible.
– Focus on reassuring older children of their safety.
– Hold open discussions with teens.
- Listen to their feelings and thoughts.
- Dispel rumors.
- Don’t make unrealistic promises like nothing like that could ever happen to you. Instead validate that their fear is natural and that you and their school is doing everything possible to keep them safe.
- Remind an upset child of the coping skills he or she already uses by asking them to remember other times they were frightened and what they did to calm down.
- Make sure you and your child know about the safety plan at school and have a family communication plan in place whereby they can reach you.
- Spend extra time with your children doing normal things together.
- “Continue reassuring them that while horrible events like this get lots of news coverage, they are actually most unusual and that world remains a good place even though sometimes bad things happen and sometimes people do bad things.”