Once again, parents and teachers are faced with the challenge of discussing a tragic incident of community violence with children.
On Friday we saw a tragedy unfold in an elementary school in Newton, Conn.
Here are a few things to help you have this meaningful discussion.
- Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know, or eventually find out, if you’re “making things up.” It may affect their ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future.
- Use words and concepts children can understand. Gear your explanations to the child’s age, language, and developmental level.
- Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard for them to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.
- Acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.
- Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about their own safety or the safety of friends and relatives, especially those who are away at college.
- Let children know that lots of people are helping the students, teachers, and families affected by the recent shootings.
Incidents of community violence are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, some young children may feel frightened or confused. As parents, teachers, and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner.