How can you explain the tragedy that took place last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.? Parents across the country are searching for words to say to their young children. As we try to understand this unthinkable violence, it is important to inform and comfort our children.
Listen and Communicate Simply
Children look to their parents for safety. Your children, at age 3 and at age 18, trust you to ensure their safety. At this time of instability, it is your responsibility to communicate with and support your children. The first step is to talk with your children about what they have heard and what they know. Let them express their opinions and worries completely- don’t interrupt. Use age-appropriate phrases to explain what happened if they ask you. For younger kids, keep the explanation simple and avoid unnecessary details. They do not need to hear excessive details that may scare them more.
Take Care of Yourself
To take care of your kids better, take care of yourself. You may be so overwhelmed occasionally that your children see you cry or talk about the shooting. Be honest, telling your children that you are sad for the other families. However, make sure you handle your emotions effectively and reach out to other adults for support. By keeping up your mental health in this unstable time, you can better help your children.
Watch for Signs of Fear or Anxiety
It is normal for children to experience a range of emotions following a tragedy. Be aware of their behavior as changes could indicate a change in mood or presence of grief or fear. Encourage your children to put their feelings into words by journaling or talking with you.
Keep Home a Safe Place
Your home is a safe haven for your children, especially when things seem chaotic in their world. Help them find peace at home by scheduling favorite family activities and making yourself available.
These strategies should help you prepare to help your children manage their distress and fear. Remember that your children need to be comforted by you. If you feel that you or your children are suffering extensively or you notice a lasting behavioral change in your children, consider speaking with a health professional.