How to Talk to Children About School Shooting
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Clarify for them whether there are any misconceptions about what is read online, Brymer says.
Q: What strategies should parents avoid?
A: Try not to dismiss children's feelings, Garrard says. "Saying to kids, 'It will be OK, forget about it' -- I think parents say that a lot and think it will be helpful. They want the kids to forget and move on. It is not helpful because it does not validate a child's feelings."
"It goes back to letting children express their feeling whatever way they want -- drawing, crying, in whatever way. Expressing how they feel is extremely important."
Q: How to handle the return to school?
A: "Safety concerns are common right now, whether you are in the impacted area or around the country," Brymer says. "It's important to know about safety issues. Schools have emergency plans. Do you, as a parent, know what those are, or what the evacuation sites might be?''
Checking the school web site is wise, she says. "They are going to update information [after an emergency]."
"Have your own family emergency plan in order to communicate," Brymer says. "We know in times of crisis texting or updating your status on Facebook is sometimes more reliable than calling on the phone."
If your child is anxious about returning to school, talk through what should be done in an emergency, Brymer says. Tell them: If you are in a room and the danger is outside the door, lock the door. If there is a way to exit the danger area, exit.
Talking through a plan with your child may give them a better sense of control.
Q: What else can parents expect the school to do?
A: Usually schools will have group sessions to talk if the kids are frightened. Parents can always reach out to a [school] counselor if they are frightened or if their kids are frightened.
This is a process, and it may be very difficult for some children to go back to school. It takes time.
Q: When should a parent seek professional help for their child?
A: ''If the reaction lasts longer than a month or [is] so significant it is impacting their daily functioning, I think it is important to reach out to a professional,'' Garrard says. Brymer agrees.
That professional can be a psychologist, a mental health therapist, a school guidance counselor, or a pediatrician, Garrard says.
Q: Any other advice?
A: Reach out to people of any age who are struggling with the news, Brymer says. It can be comforting for everyone. She knows firsthand. "I just got a text from my niece in Connecticut. It said, 'I love you, Auntie.'''