The horrific, devastating (words cannot describe) tragedy that took place in Connecticut this week has me left both as a parent and as a Psychotherapist and Family Therapist with an aching heart. This trauma, this shooting could have happened to any one of us. All of our lives are now forever touched, each affected – some more profoundly than others. Many parents are left with the question of how to speak with their children about this shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, what to say and what not to say to their children. Yesterday afternoon while on 96.9 Boston Talks- The Joe Ligotti Show, I shared 5 of my 10 tips for parents- how to talk to your kids about this massacre. I wish to assure parents are fully informed and have all 10. Thus, this blog I have written hopes to help those parents looking for many tools to have in their tool box. You will find this parenting expert’s 10 tips below.
- Answer any and all questions your children have. Nothing is off the table. If you don’t have the answer be honest and tell them you will research the answer and get back to them.
- Be verbally attentive, physically affectionate, and nurturing in tone during your talk.
- Talk with not at your children.
- Discuss and educate them about mental illness.
- Reassure the low likelihood of this type of tragedy happening to them while balancing validation of the reality that it did and does happen.
- Ask them what they need to feel safe, and what you can do to help them to feel safe.
- Balance the worry and pain kids feel with a discussion of what they can do to help those who have been affected, and continue to be supportive of activities they enjoy doing so their entire mind is not on the tragedy 24/7. The balance of living life while mourning is just that- a balance, and yet it is important for children and parents to continue to live knowing that does not disrespect the honor of those who are no longer living among us.
- Some kids are more chatty than others. Don’t assume because there are no questions your children are fine, nor assume because they are talking about it they are not fine. No assumptions parents. Rather meet your kids on their terms, on their level, and continue to keep the line of communication open. What your children do not wish to discuss one moment in the day they may wish to at a different moment. Check in on them.
- Normalize what they are feeling, re-assure them their thoughts and feelings are normal.
- Display strength and calm, and remember, how you act is a role model for them. How you react affects how they feel and thus act.
If your child is struggling with processing this tragedy and you as a parent are struggling with how to help them cope with their sadness, their anxiety, their worry, and/or their anger – do seek out help to help you as parents to help your children. Helpful resources to find family therapists, child experts, and therapists who provide individual and parental guidance include:
- Ask your children’s pediatrician for who they recommend.
- Contact your insurance company who carries your mental/behavior health benefits for who is in your network.
- Websites such as The American Association For Marriage And Family Therapy as well as Psychology Today offer therapists names, specialties, locations, and their bios for you to have to choose from.
- Ask your children’s school’s guidance counselor and/or school therapist for a name.