When children hear about other children their age being shot in their schools and neighborhoods, children are typically highly affected, and sometimes are quietly terrified as a result. In the aftermath of the heinous mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, we are all overwhelmed with sadness and despair at the fact that we are once again in this position.
As a parent, I also wonder, “What should we teach our children?” What can we do to rekindle the flames of hope in ourselves and our loved ones?
We’ve put together resources, as well as extra helpful hints and tools. They will assist you in navigating this unfathomable path with your own children or those in your classroom, after-school program, or community.
How To Talk To Children
Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or educator, you may not always choose the proper words. That’s alright. Start by following these guidelines to establish a safe environment for children:
Meet the Child Where They are. It is reasonable to suppose that your child’s response to tragedy will vary from your own. Be upfront and honest, consider age-appropriateness, and above all…
Listen. What do they understand about the tragedy? They may have several questions, but allow them to choose the tempo and tone of the dialogue.
Be Careful with Your Answer. Your path to healing and processing is individually unique, but remember that your children look to you as a role model. This is an opportunity to educate. Be receptive, sympathetic, composed, and age-appropriate in your conversation with them. Embracing and using this energy will help them deal with both tragedy and other challenges in the future.
Nurture Their Expression. Tell them that it is totally normal and good for them to feel unhappy, afraid, scared, and anxious. If they like drawing or writing, have them do so about their emotions (or anything that feels good to them).
Maintain Structure and Consistency. Structure and regularity may help children manage their emotions during times of uncertainty. Prioritizing comfortable activities and routines promotes emotions of security.
Be Their Comfortable and Confident Space. Children crave a sense of safety and security. Assure them that in the case of an emergency, they will be able to rely on you and particular other trustworthy people in their life.
Allow Them Their Separate Space. Children may need extra care, but if they exhibit indicators (or express a desire for) solitude, provide it freely. They will benefit from returning to a normal schedule (eating, playing, sleeping), but be careful of this special period of adjustment.
Follow in Their Steps. Children often utilize body language signals or subject changes to indicate that they need a break. It is OK if they do not want to discuss it or need time to process it.
Processing Your Feelings and Caring for Yourself
While attempting to help children comprehend something so unfathomable, you are also dealing with complex emotions. Keep the following in mind when you construct a purpose for the future:
Take Media Breaks. You may have a natural desire to be informed, but the 24-hour news cycle may be detrimental to our mental health. Images and narratives may be stressful, therefore it is vital to take pauses and engage in things that uplift you.
Communicate with Trusted Adults. You are not alone. We are all tied in community, whether we are parents, caregivers, teachers, or neighbors. Sharing your emotions and relying on one another for assistance on dealing and communicating with children may significantly enhance your attitude.
Empowerment Through Participation. Horrific occurrences might leave you with a feeling of helplessness or powerlessness. By taking action, you and maybe your older children can recover your autonomy. Restoring your confidence in effecting good change may be accomplished by writing a letter to the editor or a lawmaker, sponsoring a community dialogue, or taking a position.
Resources provided by Sandy Hook Promise Gun Violence Prevention
One of the goals that we, as communities and as families, face in the aftermath of gun violence is action through empowerment. How do we find support and commit to ending the cycle of gun violence in our schools? Whether it’s directly talking to your school administrators or how to work toward action with others in your schools and communities, learn about our research-backed programs to get you started:
Start with Hello (Grades K-12): This elementary through high school program teaches students empathy and empowers them to end social isolation in three easy steps.
Say Something (Grades 4-12): Students learn to recognize the warning signs of someone at-risk of hurting themselves or others and how to get help, including through an anonymous reporting system via our app, hotline, and dedicated website.
SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) Promise Clubs: These student-led organizations encourage and empower youth to keep their friends, schools, and communities safe.
Explore this Digital Library for more Elementary School Resources.
Additional Resources for How to Help Children Cope with a Gun Violence Tragedy
The following organizations can offer more information and networks of support. Together we can help ourselves and our children process, heal, and find hope after acts of gun violence in our schools and communities:
Save the Children: Ways Parents Can Help Children Cope with School Violence
Save the Children (Spanish Edition)
Child Mind Institute: How to Talk to Kids About School Shootings
(Spanish and English resources available)
Child Mind Institute: Helping Kids Cope with Frightening News
(Spanish and English resources available)
CommonSense Media: How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War
Mayo Clinic: Tips for Talking About Tragedy
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (school shooting and mass violence resources)