Tragic events in the news - video and advice from Fred Rogers
Guidelines for Helping Children Deal with News Violence by Diane E. Levine
Talking About Tragic Events: for parents with elementary school children. From OneToughJob.org
American Psychological Association: Talking to Your Children about the Recent Spate of School Shootings
American Psychological Association: Helping Your Children Manage Distress In the Aftermath of a Shooting
When Children Experience Trauma: A Guide for Parents and Families - An American Psychological Association report as part of the ACT against violence project
National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Age Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event
For those with young children: Talking with Kids about the News: Strategies for Talking and Listening - from PBS
“Helping Children Cope with Tragedy Related Anxiety” - Mental Health America
The MA Department of Early Education and Care has offered up some resources on trauma and guns in the lives of children:
- Children and Firearms
- Children and Grief
- Understanding Violent Behavior in Children and Adolescents
- Disaster and Trauma Resource Center
WGBH in Boston has produced a series of “Arthur” character themed resources that are designed to help families talk with children about scary experience they see in their communities or on television. The materials include pamphlets with tips, and books including “Helping Our Children Feel Safe”. All of the materials are available in both English and Spanish.
Helping Children with Tragic Events
We are all deeply saddened by tragic events such as Sandy Hook Elementary School or the Boston Marathon Bombing. When faced with such a tragedy, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and frightened.
For children, these events can be even more difficult to deal with. As difficult as it is, our role as adults is to reassure our young children that events like these are highly unlikely to occur in their school and that many things are done here to ensure their personal safety. We are here to keep them safe and engaged with each other in play. This is not to say that we should act as though nothing has happened. However it is important to present ourselves as confident in providing a safe home and school and that we can manage our own anxiety, sadness, and outrage. Children read our feelings and react.
We want to share with you some suggestions that others (in particular, our friend Diane Levin) have offered in the past, when having to speak with children about school shootings and tragic public events. I hope you find these articles helpful.
To summarize our approach:
In front of young children who know nothing about these events:
- Avoid bringing up the events when they are within listening range.
- We advise that you not turn on the TV or radio to find more details if your children are around.
For those children who are aware of the events - particularly older children: Your answers need not be long responses, leave room for the child to ask more about what you’ve said. This will guide you in knowing what the child is thinking about.
- Ask them what they think happened or heard, and what it means for them?
- Respond to their statements and their concerns.
- Focus on their current level of safety in their school and home.
- When children ask about the injured? Try saying something like: “People who are injured are taken to hospitals and cared for by trained people.”
- When asked what happens next for those effected? An answer might be: "There are lots of people who are trained as rescue workers, police, health care workers and mental health professionals to support those effected."
In our side bar are links to help you continue to research how to best handle this tragedy in your own family.If you find other resources please share them with us. If you have thoughts, concerns, remember we are a community who is here for each other and can address this tragedy together.