Talk with your kids about tragedies, mass shootings
June 2022 · Forward in Hope, Strengthening Families, Trauma
Trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and other feelings can show up in children in many different ways. The difficult news from multiple mass shootings — in particular at a school — can be difficult for your children and teenagers to process.
It may even be difficult for you to process.
Resources from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (highlighted below) may be helpful as you move forward.
But our expert on trauma and its effects, Pamela Cornwell, offers a few straight-forward tips that just might be good for all parenting communications:
- Listen well. In fact, listen more than you talk.
- Create a safe relationship for hard conversations. Build a habit of talking about feelings or tough things so that when something happens, your child know they can come to you.
- Understand that your reaction to an event may not be (probably! will not be) the same as your child’s. Help them understand that not everyone feels the same way and that sometimes, feelings about a situation may be delayed.
- Be prepared with some ideas for coping, which may vary depending on the child. Are they artsy? How about drawing their feelings out. Do they want to help? Maybe there’s a way they can help a local organization. Meditation works with very young children (google it!) and may be an option to help a child manage anxiety.
- Be prepared to get outside help and normalize seeking help if it’s needed.
- Understand and cope with your own feelings so you’re able to separate from those feelings to support your child. Sometimes easier said than done.
There are many resources available at NCTSN and other organizations, nationally and locally. You are not alone, and moreover, you know your child best. You know when something is troubling them, and they may need to talk. Don’t hesitate because it’s awkward or not easy or because you have no pattern to follow because your parents never talked about feelings.
You’ve got this. It’s really all about love and kindness.
Resources are available in English and Spanish and include:
- Talking to Children about the Shooting
- Talking to Teens about Violence (En Español)
- Helping School-age Children with Traumatic Grief (En Español)
- After a Crisis: Helping Young Children Heal
- Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event
- Psychological First Aid for Schools (PFA-S) – Field operations guide
- Coping with Stress Following a Mass Shooting
Additional resources can be found on the NCTSN website.