How to Talk to Children about School Shootings
The recent news about a school shooting in Texas caused alarm, panic and distress among parents. It added more confusion and worries over the welfare of their children. Everyone was left bewildered by this tragic event and parents have to deal with the reality that society, itself, is a threat to their children’s safety.
Based on the record of the Statista Research Department, there are 119 school shootings as of May 2022. Given this data, any parent will now have to act on their duty in explaining and helping their children understand and cope with school shootings. Even adults still have a hard time making sense of this tragedy.
Tips for Talking with Children about School Shooting
Discussing any form of violence with children is a delicate and sensitive topic. Many parents are still wondering how much information they are willing to share to avoid scaring their children. There is no easy and foolproof way to address such tragedy. Psychologists and therapists suggest that it is better to consider your child’s age and temperament.
Process your own emotions.
As parents, it breaks your heart upon hearing news about school children who died in a reckless action. You have so many questions including how you can protect your kids from witnessing and hearing this bad news. But you have to compose yourself and deal first with your emotions.
Whatever your response and words are, they are going to affect your children. Choose your words wisely and come up with a way that your child can easily follow.
Find out what your child knows about the incident.
Ask your children what they have read or heard about the school shooting. Children are susceptible and they may have some untrue information. Make sure that you tell them what really happened and why it happened. Their perception of this tragic news may be different from what is real.
Encourage them to tell you honestly how they feel. They need to know that they can always confide in you and share with you their deepest fears.
Keep your narrative simple.
Some therapists believe that it is better not to talk about violence to children under the age of 6 if it does not directly affect them. If your child hears the news by chance, tell them that a person, who needs help, hurts some people. You do not have to elaborate your words because they will just get confused.
However, if your children are around 8 and are starting to get curious about the incident better tell them information that you know they can handle. You do not have to be graphic and detailed. If they ask more questions, keep your answer simple.
Validate your children’s feelings.
Children will feel scared, sad or angry and it is acceptable. Assure them that it is okay to feel those emotions because violence is a bad thing. Hurting innocent and defenseless people will always be unjust and wrong. Their feelings are just a response to what they are hearing in the news.
Teach your children to express their thoughts and emotions. Feeling scared does not mean that they are a coward. Crying and being sad does not make them weak. Emphasize to them that showing their true feelings is a sign of bravery.
Turn off the news.
Whenever there is a school shooting, all news outlets will report the incident nonstop. They may censor their words and images but they can still be disorienting and traumatizing for young audiences. It is advisable to turn off the news to prevent your children from seeing and hearing it without supervision.
Watch the news when you are alone or with your spouse to stay informed. You must bear in mind that you and your spouse are on the same page when telling your children about violence like school shootings.
Tell them about the good people.
Tragic news such as school shootings is painful and heartbreaking. You are worried about how your children can handle this scary event. Even at a young age, they can already feel grief and sadness. As parents, your sole goal is to safeguard their feeble minds by focusing on the good people who have helped during the incident.
Share with them who are the heroes and what they have done in ensuring the safety of other children. Focus on those policemen, firefighters, doctors and private individuals who immediately answer their call of duty. These people can inspire your children to be kind and helpful.
Assure your children that they are safe.
Keep up with your routine. Do not make drastic changes that will cause agitation in your household. If your teenage daughter wants to visit a friend, let her but remind her to be vigilant and careful. If your children want to go to the park but you are hesitant, tell them that it is not a good time.
Being with your children gives them comfort and assurance that nothing bad is going to happen. Knowing how much you love them puts them at ease. Kiss and hug them to let them feel that they are not alone.
Visit a therapist.
School shootings can cause trauma to children even if you have done everything to make them understand. Each child has a different way of handling these tragic events. If your child’s behavior suddenly changes for the worse, contact a trusted therapist.
Getting therapy will help your child manage their thoughts and emotions about school shooting incidents. It will also help you as a parent on how to deal with their behavior and feelings.
If you are looking for a good therapist or counselor, visit Mindshift Psychological Services. Our medical professionals are highly trained in handling various incidents caused by traumas and violence. Learn more about our services on our website. You may also contact us at (714)584-9700 to schedule an appointment.