Due to the recent devastating events that have occurred in different schools around the country, most notably at Sandy Hook Elementary in Conneticut, we decided to open up the discussion and talk about how to talk to your children about all the violence going on in schools.
Although many parents’ first instinct is to shield their children from the reality of these types of horrible events, we must acknowledge that children are very perceptive and very intelligent and that they most likely know more about the events going on than we would like them to.
As hard as these situations are for an adult to understand, they are that much harder for an innocent young child. Therefore, parents’ comforting words of reassurance and clarification, to any questions children may have, are essential to them feeling safe again. Be honest and open with your children, and most importantly, allow them to talk about their feelings. Don’t shy away from talking to your kids about school violence. Let them know that they are safe to express their feelings with you and that their feelings are important.
It is also essential that parents control the amount and the type of media coverage children are exposed to, especially coverage concerning violence in schools. There is so much media coverage of these horrible events, causing some children to feel paranoid, scared, sad, and even traumatized. In times like these, children need their parents support, or that of other adults they trust, in order to feel comfortable to ask questions and to talk about how they feel. You as a parent, should model healthy ways of expressing your feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, etc., when talking to your children about school violence. Let your children know that they are not alone in feeling the way they do, but that they are safe and that these events are not the norm.
You should also make an effort to continue with your daily routine. Children often feel a sense of anxiety and stress when they are presented with changes. Thus, continuing with the normal routine makes them feel comfortable, because they feel they can predict what will happen next – in essence they feel they have control of their lives.
You should also know that not all children react the same. While one child may act indifferent when talking about these events, it does not mean they are completely okay. Therefore, it is imperative to pay attention and note if your child is acting differently in any way (i.e. not paying attention in school, not eating enough, not being able to sleep, having nightmares, wetting the bed, acting up in and out of school, etc.). You must take note of these, sometimes subtle, changes in behavior, in order to assess whether or not they are being affected by the current events and to see how you as parents can help them cope.
What do you think is a good tip for parents when talking to children about school violence? If you have had to confront this tough situation, how did you help your child cope?
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