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Advice to Help Kids Cope with Two More Mass Shootings

Monday, August 05, 2019

Help kids cope with the latest mass shootings.

It’s hard for adults to fathom what drives a human being to commit mass murder. So how can parents help children make sense of  back-to-back mass shootings that claimed at least 30 lives and wounded dozens more over the weekend? Fortunately, there are actions parents can take to help children cope with the horrors that occurred in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. 

“The first thing parents should do to help children cope is assure them that they will keep them safe,” said Mary Vineis, NewBridge Services Director of Community Response and Education, who also serves as coordinator of the Morris County Traumatic Loss Coalition. “Children who feel loved and cared for are amazingly resilient.”

Parents shouldn’t ignore the situation. There’s a high likelihood children will know about the attacks through news accounts and social media, from overhearing adults’ discussions, or hearing about them from friends, Vineis said. She urges parents to process what happened before bringing it up with their kids so they can role-model coping skills. NewBridge offers the following advice to minimize fear and anxiety and help children cope:

Keep it Simple

It’s best to start a conversation by asking a child what he’s heard. “Encourage them to ask questions, listen for their fears and concerns, and gently correct any misinformation they have,” Vineis said. Keep the explanation simple, especially for little children. More specifics can be provided to older children, but it will take them time to process the information, and may lead to follow-up questions. 

Limit Media Exposure

Parents should limit their children’s media exposure; television news often shows graphic images repeatedly, which can be very disturbing, according to NewBridge Chief Operating Officer Michelle Borden, a licensed clinical social worker Borden suggested parents screen news accounts first, whether they’re on television, in print or online.

“Let your children know it is normal to feel upset about what happened,” Borden said. Expressing empathy for the people affected and talking about the heroes, including first-responders, who helped save lives, helps too, she said.

Take Action

Parents should reassure their children that they are safe and the risk of such events happening to the family is very low, Borden said. It can help kids cope when the family takes actions such as donating money to a cause or volunteering, or participating in a community vigil.

Be Patient

Expect that children may very well show signs of stress. They may be irritable, have trouble sleeping, and change their eating habits, but those reactions should subside within two or three weeks. “Give your children extra patience, care and love,” Borden said.

If those behaviors don’t subside or if they appear weeks after the event, parents should seek professional help. NewBridge can help kids cope. Call 973-366-9333 or visit NewBridge.org.

The Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth at Rutgers University shared these links to additianal resources for parents:

https://www.nctsn.org/resources/parent-guidelines-helping-youth-after-recent-shooting

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Talking-To-Children-About-Tragedies-and-Other-News-Events.aspx

https://news.rutgers.edu/qa/how-talk-kids-about-traumatic-events/20160921#.XUgYkxkpA0M

 

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