WASHINGTON, December 14, 2012 – My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and children who have been impacted by the sad events at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart goes out to you all.
Here are five ways that parents and families can help their younger children deal with horrific and traumatic events like school shootings, discussing events like these when they happen can help prevent school children from having recurring disturbing feelings and thoughts and learn how to feel compassion for others:
1. Talk to your children openly and approach them first, let them know that you understand how they feel and most importantly listen to what they say and how they feel. Watch them closely and make sure they are talking to you about how they feel about what has happened.
2. Talk to them and tell them that while most people can be trusted not to hurt others, sadly there are people who do hurt others in the world and that sometimes life has unexpected events that happen. Remind them that their feelings are normal and that it is ok to feel sad or worried, tell them that they are safe, and reassure them about their own schools.
3. Remind children that what happened today was a sad event that happened because the man that caused it was very sad and disturbed; that he needed help. Teach them to learn how to have compassion for everyone in the world. No one knows what led this man to do the horrible things he did at the school, but he was obviously very, very disturbed.
4. Make sure to monitor their TV watching and remind them that media will always portray the violence to the utmost. Teach them that when they watch television they need to watch it with a careful eye. As parents be sure to monitor their television watching and the TV coverage of horrific events, answer any of their questions about media coverage honestly and openly.
5. Talk to children about world news and events and reassure them that for the most part they will remain safe, but bad stuff does happen all over the world. Talking to them and preparing them for the real world is a scary thing but it must be done. Remind them to always be aware of their world and what is going on and teach them that while violence does happen it is part of how the world works, sadly there are violent events all over the world and it is a part of daily life.
The important thing to remember is to listen and to answer their questions no matter how simple or silly they may sound to you as an adult. Reassure your children often and let them grieve for any loss they may feel, their grief is real respect it, it shows they have compassion for others.
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