The shock of this latest school shooting is roaring through the media; we wanted to offer some ways to help your family cope with it in the coming days.
1. Get information, but limit exposure to extended news coverage or images of the events. We would recommend limiting media exposure over the weekend. It is important for everyone to stay connected and informed, but watching images and hearing the news over an extended period of time isn’t good for anyone. Seeing images of the school shooting will be disturbing to many kids, especially younger ones. Turn off the TV and find other things to focus on.
2. Model healthy expression of emotions. As upsetting as this story is, it is important to remember that our children will take their lead from watching the grownups in their lives. So approaching this quietly and gently will be more effective and hopefully help relieve some of the fear and anxiety they may be feeling. It is ok to be upset. If your children ask, you might say something like this: “I’m okay. I’m feeling sad about what happened, but we are okay.” Spend some extra time taking care of each other this weekend. Be aware of how you talk about this tragedy. Children often overhear conversations between adults. Keep this in mind as you are discussing the events with other friends and family members.
3. Open the door to open communication. Listen to your kids’ concerns about the school shooting and what they are most afraid of. Reassure them that they are safe and let them know that incidents like this are rare. Acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen, but remind your kids of all the people who are working to keep them safe. If your child doesn’t seem to know about the shooting, you might still watch for signs that they are being affected by it and be prepared to talk about it as needed. Let them know they can come to you with questions. If your children seem anxious or upset, support them in finding something comforting or familiar to do during the weekend.
4. Reach out for more help and information as needed. Talk with your child’s teacher, principal, school psychologist or school counselor about your concerns. School officials are trained in helping children cope with tragedy and will be able to address this in context. Keep in close communication with the school as the week continues. There may be an opportunity for communities to do something to help in response to this tragedy. Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do in times like these is support each other and model open communication.
The following link can be helpful for more information: http://www.nmha.org/go/information/get-info/coping-with-disaster/helping-children-handle-disaster-related-anxiety
About Holly Fields
Holly Fields has worked with children with emotional and physical disabilities for more than 15 years in the home, at school, and in rehabilitation settings, as well as therapeutic riding programs. She was with Legacy Publishing Company as a 1-on-1 Coach for two years. Holly has a Masters Degree in Special Education. She has two adult children, two rescue dogs and one cat.