The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last week has ignited emotions in people across the nation. Many feel sorrow at the loss of so many young lives and such dedicated educators. Some feel angry at the reoccurrence of this type of violence and angry about the proposed solutions to prevent future tragedies. And many parents are worried about the safety of their own children and wondering about the best ways to talk with their children about this kind of violence.
Most of the broader issues surrounding the shooting – e.g., gun regulations, school security measures and mental health care – are incredibly complex and too politically-charged for EBL to unravel at this point. We can weigh in on what the evidence says about helping children understand and cope with traumatic events.
We have compiled a list of tips and evidence-based advice about explaining trauma and violence to children. Here are some of the highlights:
· Find times when children are most likely to talk, such as during a car ride or dinnertime.
· Start the conversation by letting them know you’re interested in how they are coping.
· Listen to their thoughts and point of view without interrupting before you respond.
· Tell them you are there to provide safety, comfort and support.
You can find more comprehensive advice at:
· The National Center for Toddlers, Infants and Families provides great advice for younger children.
· The Kaiser Family Foundationoffers advice for helping school-aged children cope.
· The National Association of School Psychologists offers advice on discussing school violence specifically.
It is sad that parents need to explain such horrific events to their children. But because this kind of violence does happen in our society, the best action parents can take is to consider the evidence when having these difficult discussions with their children.