How to Talk to Your Child About the Newtown School Shooting

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How to Talk to Your Child About the Newtown School Shooting
10 Things to consider when talking to your children about the school shooting.

2.  Understand that children process differently then adults.  They may or may not have questions initially.  They may bring up the topic again when you don't expect it, and may process their thoughts and feelings in stages.  It may also be helpful to check in with them and see if they have more thoughts or if kids are talking about it at school.  Ask them what they are hearing, what kids are saying, and what they think about it.  Stay attuned to their emotional state and let them know they can continue to ask questions or share their thoughts and feelings as they come up.  

3.  Assess the impact on your child.  If it is something that you sense continues to be on their mind, let them know that you notice that.  Talk to them about it and let them know they can share their thoughts and questions as they come up, any time.  Don't buy into the theory that if you don't talk about it, it won't affect them and if you do talk about it you will plant fears in their minds.  Children are looking to you for cues about what is and isn't okay to discuss.  If you bring it up and they clearly don't have any worries or concerns, then you will be able to tell.  Children hear and see way more then parents tend to realize and it's better that you have the conversations with them rather then them seeking information elsewhere.

4.  If you don't know the answer to their question(s), be honest.  If it's something you can find out - let them know you will find out and get back to them.  

5.  Avoid saying things such as, "you shouldn't be thinking about this" or "don't worry about these kinds of things".  Children hear that as your unwillingness to discuss it with them and will feel that their feelings are being discounted.  Parents tend to minimize things that make them uncomfortable, but that ultimately creates a disconnection with your child.

6. Find a way as a family to turn the tragedy into a way of giving and caring.  Do a fundraiser to contribute to the non-profits that are providing support to the families affected by this, write letters or send cards.  There are many ways to help you and your children turn a tragedy into a lesson on compassion and caring for the larger community.

7.  Seek professional help if your child begins to exhibit anxiety, which can be manifested in nightmares or difficulty going to sleep, a change in appetite, or excessive fears.  Professionals who work with children are trained in helping children and coaching parents to help their child work through their anxiety.

8.  Know what your schools safety plan is.  If your child is anxious about going to school let them know what their schools safety plan is and ask them what else would help them to feel safe.  Children can often tell you what they need.

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Leslie Petruk

Marriage and Family Therapist

Leslie Petruk is a Child & Family Therapist

Location: Charlotte, NC
Credentials: BCC, LPC, MA, NCC
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