We Will Never Have All The Answers: Talking to Your Children About Violence

bullet

Sarah Senst

We first published Sarah’s article in 2012 in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  At that time, she was a counselor a Families First, a front line Colorado resource for families experiencing trauma, violence, or other issues.  

Many people have and will be affected by the horrific event in a Thornton, Colorado Walmart and other recent gun incidents. Here are a few tips to support parents and caregivers during these extremely difficult times:

All people experience trauma and hearing about trauma differently. Here some suggestions for talking to your kids about what they hear on the news and from friends and how to address common fears and concerns: “The American Humane Association offers these tips for parents and other caregivers to help children cope with the fear and uncertainty caused by school shootings:* Keep an eye on children’s emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.

* Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.

* Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details and terms such as “smoke grenades” and “sniper.”

* Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the enormity of the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.

* Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.

* Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinging, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.

* If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.”For more ideas on talking to your children about violence, tragedy and loss  call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family.