There are few events that hit home for parents and children like a school shooting. As a parent, you may find yourself struggling to talk to your child about this scary event. When an event like this is seen by children on television and web-based news flashes, it is understandable for them to worry about their own safety at school especially if it happens in a nearby city. It is your job to help them feel safe, no matter what age they are.
Psychologists working in trauma and recovery advise parents to take the opportunity to talk and listen to their children about the troubling news of the recent school shooting. It is important to be honest and acknowledge that bad things happen but also reassure them that many people are working to keep them safe including their parents, school and police.
Young children often convey their concerns through drawings or play. Elementary school children may use the combination of play and talking to communicate their fears. Adolescents are likely to have the communication skills to express their fears and feelings verbally. How and what you talk about depends on the child’s age but here are some tips and most importantly let them know you are interested and listening to how they feel.
• Distinguish the best time to talk to them whether in the car, during a meal or before bedtime.
• Begin the conversation by letting them know you are interested in how they are coping with the information they have heard.
• Do not interrupt them. Listen to their point of view and ideas before you respond.
• Acknowledge it is Ok to disagree and then express your point of view without undermining theirs.
• Give them a hug and remind them you are there to provide safety, support and comfort.
When the world around them becomes overwhelming, children often find home to be a safe haven. Remember, that during a crisis your children may seek comfort from the safe feelings they have at home. Take time to encourage that comfort by planning a family night where everyone participates in a fun activity.
You and your children may want to gather information on the school shooting from the internet or television. Remember that you all should take breaks from the news as it may actually heighten anxiety and fears. Take a break and encourage everyone to engage in activities they enjoy.
After any traumatic event, everyone including children experience a wide range of emotions, including stress, fear, anxiety, shock, anger and grief. You may notice changes in their behavior after the event. They may experience changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating on school work or experience trouble sleeping. This is normal and should begin to disappear in a few weeks or months.
The majority of children are resilient and should return to their normal personality and activities quickly but look for prolonged signs of anxiety that suggest your child or teenager needs additional assistance. If you notice changes to your child’s relationships with teachers and peers, school performance, excessive worrying, sleeplessness, nightmares, school refusal, headaches, stomachaches, or loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, you may want to have them see a licensed mental health specialist.
If you think anxiety from a school shooting or any other trauma is affecting your or your child, Family Psychology Associates can help. They have mental health specialists that can help with trauma resolution, anxiety disorders and stress management. Contact us today at 727-725-8820 to schedule an appointment or to find answers to your questions.