Talking to Children After a School Shooting
Violence, especially acts of violence in the school setting, frightens us. This is especially the case when working with children. They can begin to worry that this might happen at their school, to their classmates and to their friends. Parents, the community and school staff members need to be ready to help quickly by creating an opportunity for students to be able to talk about the event at home, school and at other safe places. Children will ask what happened and as adults, we need to be ready and as open as we can, given the student is developmentally able.
When given the opportunity to talk, adults leading the discussions should first and foremost model calmness. It is important for children to see that they are safe. People, young and old, gain security from calmness and predictability of routines. With this, it is incredibly important to keep their routines as normal as possible.
As we talk to children about school shootings and violence in schools, we should be honest and share as much or as little as they are ready to handle. They should be reassured that the world it a good place, but there are people who make bad decisions and do bad things. Listening to a child’s fears and concerns is key to helping them begin the healing process.
Lastly, it is important to limit news viewing and social media usage, as they might be reporting information that the child is not ready to hear or see. Adults play a huge role in helping children recover from frightening news and we need to keep our own responses to crisis and stress in check! It is also important to continue building relationships with others, as this is what can get us through tough times. Here are some tips for parents, teachers and community members to keep in mind:
- Reassure children that they are safe, and schools are safe places. Teachers and staff members are trained on what to do in a crisis.
- Make time for children to talk at school, home and other safe places.
- Listen to their fears and concerns.
- Keep explanations developmentally appropriate.
- Limit news and social media.
- Maintain normal routines.
- Encourage children to talk to trusted adults whenever they have worries or concerns.