Our hearts and thoughts go out to those impacted by the tragedy in Connecticut. As often is the case following tragedies children will see horrific images on television, through social media and hear conversations from adults and other children about the tragedy. We will be updating this page with resources for parents and children on how to talk about these tragedies.
- Helping Children Cope With National Tragedies: Tips for Families, Educators and Caretakers
- American Psychological Association – Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
- American Psychological Association – Helping your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
- Resources from our friends at Family & Children’s Services
- Mental Health America – HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH TRAGEDY RELATED ANXIETY
Updated Information @ 12/14/2012 – 12:45pm
- Start the conversation. Talk about the shooting with your child. Not talking about it can make the event even more threatening in your child’s mind. Silence suggests that what has occurred is too horrible even to speak about or that you do not know what has happened. With social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, text messages, newsbreaks on favorite radio and TV stations, and others), it is highly unlikely that children and teenagers have not heard about this. Chances are your child has heard about it, too.
- What does your child already know? Start by asking what your child/teen already has heard about the events from the media and from friends. Listen carefully; try to figure out what he or she knows or believes. As your child explains, listen for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns. Understand that this information will change as more facts about the shooting are known.
- Gently correct inaccurate information. If your child/teen has inaccurate information or misconceptions, take time to provide the correct information in simple, clear, age- appropriate language.
- Encourage your child to ask questions, and answer those questions directly. Your child/teen may have some difficult questions about the incident. For example, she may ask if it is possible that it could happen at your local movie theater; she is probably really asking whether it is “likely.” The concern about re-occurrence will be an issue for caregivers and children/teens alike. While it is important to discuss the likelihood of this risk, she is also asking if she is safe. This may be a time to review plans your family has for keeping safe in the event of any crisis situation. Do give any information you have on the help and support the victims and their families are receiving. Let her know that the person responsible is under arrest and cannot hurt anyone else. Like adults, children/teens are better able to cope with a difficult situation when they have the facts about it. Having question-and-answer talks gives your child ongoing support as he or she begins to cope with the range of emotions stirred up by this tragedy.
- Limit media exposure. Limit your child’s exposure to media images and sounds of the shooting, and do not allow your very young children to see or hear any TV/radio shooting- related messages. Even if they appear to be engrossed in play, children often are aware of what you are watching on TV or listening to on the radio. What may not be upsetting to an adult may be very upsetting and confusing for a child. Limit your own exposure as well. Adults may become more distressed with nonstop exposure to media coverage of this shooting.
- Common reactions. Children/Teens may have reactions to this tragedy. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, they may have more problems paying attention and concentrating. They may become more irritable or defiant. Children and even teens may have trouble separating from caregivers, wanting to stay at home or close by them. It’s common for young people to feel anxious about what has happened, what may happen in the future, and how it will impact their lives. Many who attended openings in other cities around the country (and the world) may dwell on the thought “it could have happened to me.” Children/Teens may think about this event, even when they try not to. Their sleep and appetite routines may change. In general, you should see these reactions lessen within a few weeks.
- Be a positive role model. Consider sharing your feelings about the events in Colorado with your child/teen, but at a level they can understand. You may express sadness and empathy for the victims and their families. You may share some worry, but it is important to also share ideas for coping with difficult situations like this tragedy. When you speak of the quick response by law enforcement and medical personnel to help the victims (and the heroic or generous efforts of ordinary citizens), you help your child/teen see that there can be good, even in the midst of such a horrific event.
- Be patient. In times of stress, children/teens may have trouble with their behavior, concentration, and attention. While they may not openly ask for your guidance or support, they will want it. Adolescents who are seeking increased independence may have difficulty expressing their needs. Both children and teens will need a little extra patience, care, and love. (Be patient with yourself, too!).
- Extra help. Should reactions continue or at any point interfere with your children’s/teens’ abilities to function or if you are worried, contact local mental health professionals who have expertise in trauma. Contact your family physician, pediatrician, or state mental health associations for referrals to such experts.
Updated Information @ 12/17/2012 – 10:18am
American Psychological Association
APA Blog pulling together various resources about helping children cope
- Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event [PDF]
- Disaster Distress Helpline
- Helpful Hints for School Emergency Management: Psychological First Aid (PFA) for Students and Teachers: Listen, Protect, Connect – Model & Teach [PDF]
- Ready.gov: Listen, Protect, Connect – Model and Teach Psychological First Aid for Teacher and Students
After a Loved One Dies – how children grieve and how parents and other adults can support them
Resources For Reporting Accurately on Mental Illness
Resources developed by the University of Washington on how journalists can and should best cover mental illness
- This is a printable PDF version: http://www.dshs.wa.
- This is an HTML version: http://depts.
Updated 12/18/2012 – 6:14 AM
- Zero To Three
Cope After Exposure to a Traumatic EventLittle Listeners: Helping Young Children Cope after Exposure to a Traumatic Event
- The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has been especially distressing to families with young children. This resource is designed to help parents navigate this very challenging time.The primary role of parents is to protect children. One important way to do this is to prevent their exposure to information they cannot handle. Young children do not need to be told about traumatic events that they have no way of understanding. So it is best to:
- Turn off TV and radio news reports; don’t leave newspapers lying around.
- Ask friends and family not to discuss the scary event around your child.
- Maintain your child’s regular routine.
- Read More…
*The Parent Child Center provides these link and resources as a community service, yet is not ultimately responsible for content on sites outside of our own.