Talking with Children about Tragedy

With the tragic, unthinkable, and unbearable mass shooting in Connecticut on Friday, the world is reeling. This massacre didn’t just happen in Sandy Hook. It happened everywhere because Sandy Hook Elementary is every school.

One of the (many!) sequelae is how to help children through this trauma. The fact that we even have to help children through something so catastrophic is unimaginable because, really, who on earth could possibly have imagined something so evil?

Here are some suggestions for helping children:

  • Encourage ongoing dialogue. Keep the lines of communication open at all time.
  • Listen and reassure.
  • Turn OFF the television.
  • Encourage feedback.
  • Normalize feelings, whatever they may be whenever they may present.
  • Use the conversation as an opportunity for learning.
  • Maintain a consistent routine because children equate a routine with stability and security.

The important thing to know is that children take their coping cues from us, the trusted adults in their lives.  This isn’t to say that we should cover our pain. Not at all.  Rather, we need to model healthy coping mechanisms for our children. Some examples include:

  • Talking
  • Moderating news intake
  • Self care (eating, sleeping, bathing)
  • Express our feelings

Each child will react in his or her own way. Children are able to hold only so much pain. During periods of intense grief and confusion, a child’s inherent need to play and laugh and show joy will come through. Please allow this to happen. It is normal.

This weekend I hope that you will hold the children in your life tightly and love every minute that you have with them. As we have learned so tragically, every moment is indeed a gift.

Here are some excellent resources that offer additional support and guidance.

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