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How to Talk to Your Kids About Violence
Posted on 10/02/2017
talk to kids

 
Mass Shooting in Las Vegas: How to Talk to Students (NEAtoday.org)

http://neatoday.org/2017/10/02/mass-shooting-las-vegas-talk-students/

 

The nation woke up this morning to the horrific news of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history during a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. As the news streams in and images flash across screens, children can’t escape the disturbing scenes. Many will be scared and confused. We are offering advice from the National Association of School Psychologists for talking to your students about violence and other national tragedies:

Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.

Create time to listen and be available to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.

Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.

  • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
  • Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.

Review school safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.

Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional right away if you are at all concerned.

Limit media exposure. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Monitor what kids are viewing online and how they are consuming information about the event through social media. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.

Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

A lot of these tips can also be applied to educators — to take proper care of their students, they must first take care of themselves.

 

MORE RESOURCES FOR HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH TRAUMATIC EVENTS

  • NEA Healthy Futures School Crisis Guide
    Knowing what to do in a crisis can be the difference between stability and upheaval. This step-by-step resource created by educators for educators can make it easier for union leaders, school district administrators, and principals to keep schools safe — before, during, and after a crisis.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network
    NCTSN has several pdfs and other resources for helping parents and children deal with catastrophic mass violence events, including parent tips for helping school-age children after disasters, which lists children’s reactions with examples of how parents should respond and what they should say.
  • Talking to Children About Tragedies and Other News Events 
    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents, teachers, child care providers, and others who work closely with children to filter information about the crisis and present it in a way that their child can accommodate, adjust to, and cope with.
  • How to Help Kids Feel Safe After Tragedy
    It’s normal for both adults and kids to feel anxious after such a publicly devastating event, but there are things you can do to minimize the stress and maintain a sense of normalcy.
  • Incidents of Mass Violence
    Learn about who is most at risk for emotional distress from incidents of mass violence and where to find disaster-related resources. 

 

 

 


 

 

 

How to talk to children about shootings: An age-by-age guide

By Meghan Holohan

https://www.today.com/parents/how-talk-children-about-shootings-age-age-guide-t59626
 

The sinking feeling is becoming all too familiar: When mass shootings occur, parents have to figure out how to talk to their children about violence.

There’s no one way to address tragedies with children, and how parents approach it depends both on the child’s age and temperament. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic with children until they reach a certain age – around 8, but again, it depends on the child.

“If it doesn’t directly affect your family, kids under 8 do not need to hear about this,” says Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert. Before this age, children struggle to process it.

But parents should talk to their younger children about mass shootings if they are at risk of hearing it from others, she says.

While advice varies by age, Gilboa provides a general recommendation for all parents faced with telling their children about the latest mass shooting.

“First, you have to process your own emotional response. What you do will affect them more than what you say,” she says. “Have your first reaction away from your child.”

She also provides the following recommendations for sharing bad news with children of all ages.

Preschool-kindergarten: One-sentence story

“You have to figure out before you talk to them what story you want them to tell themselves,” she says.

With young children, Gilboa recommends that parents keep their stories simple. These stories should reinforce parents’ beliefs. Perhaps, parents want their children to know that a bad man hurt people. Maybe parents want their children to know that someone with a serious illness felt angry and hurt people.

“You are going to give a one-sentence story to anyone under 6,” she says.

This might be a chance to change the conversation, too. Try to focus on the positives, such as the heroes of the story.

 

Elementary school children: Shield them

Again, parents need to decide on the takeaway message. Children in this age group will ask many more interrogative questions and parents need to decide how much they want to share.

Gilboa stresses that parents should prevent their children from seeing pictures or the news because the images will stick with children longer than words. If children do see pictures, she recommends that parents show their children positive photos to counteract the negative.

“Let’s see if we can replace those memories and balance it out by showing the positives and the amazing people who rushed to help,” she says.

 

Tweens: Listen to their feelings

Start the conversation by asking tweens if they heard about the latest shooting.

“If you are going to talk [about] a fraught or laden topic … you start with a pretest. You are going to ask how they feel about it,” Gilboa says.

If they have heard of it, listen to their feelings. If they haven’t heard of it, parents have an opportunity to share their beliefs while gaining better insight into their tweens.

“[This becomes] a great conversation of their values and your values that do not focus on the particular gore [but] more on the person you are raising,” she says.

 
Teens: Look for solutions

Again, Gilboa says parents should ask their teens if they have heard of the latest tragedy and allow them to share their feelings.

But teenagers will expect more.

“Teenagers are looking for hypocrisy and solutions and this generation believes in collaboration and social justice. And they are going to ask ‘What are you doing,’” she says. “You can answer and then ask ‘what are you doing? What would you like to do? What can we do together?”

Teaching teenagers to work toward change will help them be resilient, she says. She stresses that parents still need to listen to their teens’ feelings and display empathy.

“I think for anyone action makes us feel effective,” Gilboa says. “What we want our kids to do when [they] see something wrong is to try to fix it.”