Helpful Tips for Parents and Professionals

When Tragedy Strikes: How to Help Your Child Cope

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shutterstock parent having serious conversation with childLast night, a shooting occurred in an Orlando nightclub. In December, 2012, the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting occurred in Connecticut.  These senseless shootings remind us all too often that it won’t be the last. We, as parents, struggle with the news, but how do we tell our children?  What should we say?

5 Helpful Hints for Talking with Your Child about Tragedy
Parents want to shield our children from pain, suffering, and news of trauma.  But, we also want to help children cope if they know some of the situation of senseless violence, but only from their friends.
1) Listen to what your child already knows and find out if there are any misconceptions. You can then know what concerns, questions, or feelings your child is experiencing.
2) Stay calm, be honest, and use simple, age-appropriate language to explain what happened. Resist the temptation to give more details when your child repeats the same questions or statements.
3) Try to reassure your child to help him feel safe.  Let your child know what precautions your school is taking to prevent such harm (for example, “that’s why you have practice lockdowns and everyone must go through the security door before they can enter the school”).
4) Make sure you listen to your child’s feelings and validate and comfort them. Do not minimize them by saying, “you have nothing to worry about”.  Instead, say, “I know hearing this can be scary. I can understand why you would be scared that this could happen to you. But, the school, your teacher, and the staff has plans in place to prevent this from happening.”
5) Finally, watch for signs of anxiety about this (ie. not wanting to go to school, having trouble sleeping or falling asleep, etc) and continue to support your child through this. Seek help, if you need more support.

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