In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, we wanted to speak with an expert on school violence and response to violence in schools on how to handle speaking with children about the tragic event.
1. Should we ask our kids what they know about the recent shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, CT, or let them ask us? If we think our child may be worried about something, it’s usually best to ask them. They may be shy or even afraid to bring up the topic with you. However, it’s important not to dwell on the subject or provide more details than is developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Children want to know that you are there for them and that they can come to you with any concerns or questions, so opening the door and letting them walk through is a good way to proceed.
2. Should we allow them to watch/listen to TV/radio coverage about the recent violence? Watching TV or other media coverage about the violence will not be helpful to your children. It will only bring more fears, questions, and worries for them. Broaching the subject, talking openly with them, and reassuring them as best you can will be much more helpful than exposing them to media coverage.
3. How should we address their fears of going to school/other places and worrying that this may happen again? Schools across the country have crisis plans that help prevent and manage crises that may occur on school grounds. In light of the tragic violence at Sandy Hook, many schools are likely reviewing these procedures with students. It may be helpful for you to acquaint yourself with these procedures and review them with your child. The purpose of this conversation is not to increase your child’s anxiety through too many details about events they can’t control, but rather to simply reassure your child that safety precautions and procedures are in place to protect students and to help your child know what he or she can do if any crisis were to happen at school.
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