Helping children cope with school shootings

Posted by New Horizons Counseling Center

 

Helping our children cope with school shootings Images of the latest school shooting in Parkland FL saturated the news and social media. It is normal for children of all ages to worry that it might happen in their own schools. Although no one can guarantee that a shooting won’t happen in their own schools, we cannot allow children to live in constant fear. What can you do for your children when depression, fear and anxiety take hold? Mental health experts agree that talking with your kids is paramount in helping them cope with the reports of school shootings.

Right now, you can establish a set time where you and your children have one on one time to just talk. This will be something that your child can count on. When he or she is stressed during the day, your child will know that he or she will be able to ask you questions and talk out their feelings, no matter if it’s about grades, problems with peers or teachers. When disasters of any type occur, your children know that they can talk to you to hash out there fears and worries.

After witnessing extensive news coverage of another school shooting, sometimes parents are at a loss about what to say to them. First of all, don’t try to suppress their feelings. They will feel what they feel and it is your job to listen.

When your children see coverage of mass shootings, it is natural for them to fear for their own wellbeing. Take the opportunity to talk to them. Children of different ages communicate their fears differently. Very young kids express themselves through drawings and play while older children might use a combination of play and talk. Adolescents are old enough to express themselves through talk.

Use age appropriate language when talking to your children. With young children, use brief, simple language. These children tend to express themselves through artwork and play. Talk to them about their art and play. To calm their fears, explain that adults are working hard to prevent school shootings. Middle school kids will be vocal about what actions are being taken. The also might express themselves through a combination of talk and play. They too need to be assured that adults are working to prevent shootings.

High school students will have many suggestions on how to keep schools safe. Let them know that they have a role in maintaining a safe environment, such as speaking up when one of their peers talks about gun violence or not letting a stranger into the school building. The can also empower themselves and speak up to legislatures and their communities.

Still, school shootings will in all likelihood continue to occur. It’s important to be honest with children. Don’t make promises that you cannot keep. While you cannot stop school shootings today, you can be a loving and assuring presence for your children.