Helping Children Cope with the Tragedy in Connecticut

We are all reeling from the scenes of the horrendous school shooting in Connecticut yesterday.  The footage of parents running to the school to look for their children, children being led from the school in single file while being escorted by officers carrying huge weapons.  It is horrific even for adults to watch, but for children who do not have the coping skills and the maturity to put it in any kind of perspective, it can be overwhelming.  This kind of flooding of their coping skills can lead to increased anxiety in many children. Here are a few ways we can minimize the effects this kind of experience can have on our kids:

  • Cut off the television when young children are present.  The 24 hour news coverage is simply more than a young child can deal with.
  • Don’t talk about the event in front of very young children.  There is no need for them to know about it if at all possible.
  • If they hear others talk about it, answer their questions using minimal  and  age appropriate details.
  • Reassure your children that they are safe.  If they ask about safety issues at their own school, remind them of the measures their school takes for safety.
  • Keep their normal routines.
  • For older children, listen to their worries and fears and allow them to ask questions.
  • Monitor how you are dealing with the tragedy yourself.  Your kids are watching you to see how they should be handling it.
  • Incorporate your family’s spiritual beliefs into your discussion where appropriate.

If your young child begins to get anxious, you may see symptoms such as, fear of sleeping alone, increased clinginess or whining, increased nightmares, bedwetting, or school refusal.  If you begin to see these symptoms,  pay attention to what they are being exposed to and increase your reassurance while keeping their normal routines.  These symptoms will likely dissipate  shortly.  If they do not, consult your pediatrician or a counselor who specializes in working with children.

About Gretchen Derda (Woosley), MSW, LCSW

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in a private psychotherapy practice where I specialize in work with families and children. My focus is to help families improve their functioning so that each member of the family can reach their full potential, becoming the persons they were meant to be.
This entry was posted in child mental health, mental health, parenting, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Helping Children Cope with the Tragedy in Connecticut

  1. Dianne says:

    Gretchen you are so wise. What a horrible event to have to witness. It will be in their memories forever. Your coping tips were perfect!

  2. Pamela says:

    Thank you Gretchen. Your perspective and advice helps and I will give this link to parents/grandparents I know.

  3. Emily says:

    It’s been really hard for our community this past week. A boy at the middle school committed suicide, and then this shooting. My heart has been heavy. I have to say, our school leaders have been so comforting and well spoken, but I still wish they had you on their team!

    • Gretchen D. Woosley, MSW, LCSW says:

      Thank you Emily. What a tragedy your community has had to deal with this week! Suicide is dreadfully difficult for a family and friends to handle. My heart goes out to that family.

  4. catie says:

    i am really struggling with this.
    i am supposed to kiss my child goodbye and send him to school tomorrow??

    • Gretchen D. Woosley, MSW, LCSW says:

      Catie, It is so hard to move forward as if everything is okay, isn’t it? What else can you do? We can not always be with them and protect them, even though we would like to. We have to remind ourselves that even though this experience was utterly horrific, it is, thankfully, rare.
      How did you do today?

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