With the school shooting from yesterday, are you wondering how to talk with your children about what happened? Are you confused as to as to what to say or if you even need to say anything? Some of your child’s reactions and feelings may depend on how you are responding and feeling as well. Children, even younger ones, react to the stress of adults, especially their parent’s stress. While you cannot change how you are feeling, you can still help your child if they are responding to your stress. These feelings can also be influenced by what they hear at school.
One way to help your children during more difficult and stressful times is by talking with them. You may be asking how to do this and how do you know what to say. You might even wonder if you need to say anything. How you approach your children will depend on their age, but being open to their questions and providing support and comfort during this conversation is important no matter the age. If your children are asking questions and are concerned about going to school, it is important to answer these questions in a way that makes sense to them. You do not want to lie to them or make up information, but also make sure that the information is appropriate for their age and easy enough for them to understand. Children may be worrying about their safety and whether or not the same thing will happen at their school so helping them understand what to do in that situation and making sure to listen to the teacher can help. You can also talk to them about whatever safety measures are present at their school. Schools are required to have lockdown drills so you can talk about these drills as a reminder.
During the conversation, ask them why they are concerned and what they have heard. If they are in school, other students may have been talking about what they saw and heard. The teachers or staff may have been talking about it and the children overheard. Students may be asking questions or talking about what they have heard in school as well. As a parent, you may have been talking about it or forgot you had the news on and your children overheard. Make sure that you are addressing what they have heard and what is making them nervous. Some of what is making them nervous can be the reactions of adults or even just that they do not understand something that they heard or saw. Some situations can be confusing for children, especially if they only hear part of the story or do not understand all that is happening. Helping them understand what they are seeing and hearing is a great first step to helping your children with difficult situations. You may not be able to answer all of their questions and this is ok. It is better to tell them that you do not know and that you may be able to find the answer to help them understand.
Dealing with tragic events can be difficult for your children and helping them come up with ways of coping with this is helpful. Talking to your children about what can help them to feel calmer is a great place to start. Often your child knows that they need, but they may not know how to do what they need. When you talk with them, ask them about what helps them feel better and what they have done in the past. You can also provide suggestions such as taking deep breaths, taking some time to make art, or going outside for a walk.
There may be difficult conversations you need to have right now with all that is happening in the world. It is important to remember that every conversation may not happen in the way that you want, but one of the most important things is to make sure that you are spending quality time with your children and providing extra comfort and support when it is needed. If you have further questions, please feel free t reach out to me.