Resources for Parents in the Aftermath of the Shooting
In the aftermath of the devastating shooting in Connecticut, you may be struggling with your own feelings of shock, sorrow, anger, confusion, numbness, or fear while you’re also thinking about the best way to talk with your child or handle their questions and feelings. First, know that it is normal for you and your child to have a range of emotions. Be there as a source of support and comfort for your child to give hugs, answer their questions, let them know it is okay to talk to you about their feelings, and offer as much predictability in their routine as possible. Encourage them to communicate their feelings however they might want to express them, through talking, writing, stories, or art.
Talk to your child about what happened so that they can have an open conversation with you and you can help clear up any misconceptions they may have and try to help soothe their fears. Encourage them to ask questions and answer them honestly, in language that they can understand. Remember that, as adults, we are role models to our children in how to handle our feelings. It is okay to show them your true feelings, but also show them healthy ways to cope with their feelings through talking and through your example.
Give both yourself and your children a break from the media coverage, as watching the coverage can add to stress and grief. When they do watch the media, watch it with them and talk about it. Often children look as if they are engrossed in play or their own activities, but they are aware of adult conversations or what is being played on the television. Monitor what they are exposed to and be there to answer questions.
Let your children know that you are there to protect them and love them. Let them know that what happened is rare, it was wrong, that the person who did it wasn’t well and made bad choices. Also help them to focus on healing and coming together of people. Talk with them about the heroics, bravery, and compassion of the first responders and the community. If they would like, engage in activities with them such as making cards for the families of the victims or for the first responders and support personal.
Be patient with your children as they resume normalcy after trauma such as this. Be on the lookout for signs that they are having difficulty adjusting such as increased clinginess, difficulty separating from loved ones, difficulty sleeping, an increase in physical complaints such as headaches and stomachaches, or an increase in anger or acting out behaviors. With older children and teenagers, also be on the lookout for isolation, acting out behaviors, or using drugs or alcohol to cope. If you notice these difficulties, or if you feel overwhelmed or stuck, a licensed mental health professional can help.
Below are some additional resources for parents during this difficult time.
An article by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) about talking with your child about the shooting.
An article by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) with tips for talking with children of different ages after a traumatic event.
An article by the American Psychological Association (APA) about helping your child manage distress in the aftermath of the shooting.
An article by the American Psychological Association (APA) about managing your distress in the aftermath of the shooting.
An article by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) about tips for parents regarding media coverage.
An article by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) about tips for parents with children who were directly affected by the shooting.
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