Talking to Your Child about the Shooting
June 13, 2016, Brewster, NY—Shootings are tragic events that provoke heavy emotions across the country. These emotions spread into the homes of many, raising thoughts and questions within society. Children often struggle emotionally when they hear of such tragedies; they may not understand or know how to deal with the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. Children turn to caretakers or parents for reassurance and explanations. There is no easy answer or one-way approach to try to explain such a catastrophic event to your children. However, it is an important conversation to have because oftentimes children are concerned for their own safety.
Tips for talking to your children:
- Don’t wait—The news, television and social media make it difficult to be the first one to talk about the shooting with your children. However, it is important not to delay the conversation to avoid having your child hear misinformation. The sooner you have the conversation, the sooner you will be able to answer questions, express facts about the incident and provide some emotional ease.
- Recognize behavior—It’s important to pay attention to your children’s emotions. Are they more upset or anxious than usual? Are they talking about nightmares or having trouble sleeping?
- Encourage your child—Allow your child to know this is ok to talk about and it is healthy to express feelings. When your children express emotions, validate their feelings and talk about your own feelings. Encourage questions; however, take note that it is ok not to know all the answers. These events are hard to understand and sometimes there is no why or how answer.
- Listen and share—Listen to your children, let them know they are being heard and share your beliefs. Try to be simple with explanations. Shootings are traumatic events; don’t overwhelm them with too many details.
- Positives are important—Assure your children about their safety and that they are loved. It’s necessary to talk about the heroes and all the people who helped during the crisis. Also encourage your children to take action and discuss solutions with them.
Parents’ approach to talking about shootings should depend on the age of the child. For preschool and kindergartners, speak calmly and explain the situation in a manner that is easily understandable. Children in elementary and middle school will have more questions and will want answers. It’s important to separate fantasy from reality while providing them with accurate information to prevent misinformation or misconceptions. High school teens are able to understand the tragedies, therefore discuss in-depth information about what they have heard and have them share their feelings.
Most importantly, it is ok to seek help if necessary. Don’t be afraid to recognize that tragedies are hard to handle. If you are concerned for your child’s emotional or behavioral well-being contact mental health professionals at school or in your community.
Local resources are:
- The Putnam County Crisis Hotline, the phone number is 845-225-1222 and they are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Putnam Family and Community Services, their phone number is 845-225-2700.
- Putnam Hospital Center Emergency Department, staff is available on call for 24 hours a day.
- Text “GO” to 741-741 or visit crisistextline.com
- Visit putnamcountycares.com
- The Disaster Distress Helpline, the phone number is 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
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