We are all reeling from the scenes of the horrendous school shooting in Connecticut yesterday. The footage of parents running to the school to look for their children, children being led from the school in single file while being escorted by officers carrying huge weapons. It is horrific even for adults to watch, but for children who do not have the coping skills and the maturity to put it in any kind of perspective, it can be overwhelming. This kind of flooding of their coping skills can lead to increased anxiety in many children. Here are a few ways we can minimize the effects this kind of experience can have on our kids:
- Cut off the television when young children are present. The 24 hour news coverage is simply more than a young child can deal with.
- Don’t talk about the event in front of very young children. There is no need for them to know about it if at all possible.
- If they hear others talk about it, answer their questions using minimal and age appropriate details.
- Reassure your children that they are safe. If they ask about safety issues at their own school, remind them of the measures their school takes for safety.
- Keep their normal routines.
- For older children, listen to their worries and fears and allow them to ask questions.
- Monitor how you are dealing with the tragedy yourself. Your kids are watching you to see how they should be handling it.
- Incorporate your family’s spiritual beliefs into your discussion where appropriate.
If your young child begins to get anxious, you may see symptoms such as, fear of sleeping alone, increased clinginess or whining, increased nightmares, bedwetting, or school refusal. If you begin to see these symptoms, pay attention to what they are being exposed to and increase your reassurance while keeping their normal routines. These symptoms will likely dissipate shortly. If they do not, consult your pediatrician or a counselor who specializes in working with children.